A Summary of Recent Changes to Canadian Immigration April, 2012 Recent months have seen profound changes to Canadian immigration programs. For those who follow these changes, or whose applications may be affected by them, keeping track of when and how decisions are made and implemented is of the utmost importance. For this reason, CIC News has created a comprehensive list of the large-scale changes that have been made to Canadian immigration programs since January 1, 2012 (with one important addition from December 2011). While some of changes have already been implemented, many are still in the planning phases and will be put into practice later this year. These changes are presented below in chronological order. Creation of Parent and Grandparent Super Visa – 1 December 2011 IMPLEMENTED Beginning in December 2011, parents and grandparents of Canadian citizens and permanent residents may apply for a new ‘super’ visitor visa. This visa allows parents and grandparents to stay in Canada for up to 2 years at a time, and can be renewed for a period of up to 10 years. Only parents and grandparents, and their spouses, are eligible to receive this visa. In addition to standard temporary resident visa application materials, they must secure approved health insurance for the time period they will stay in Canada. Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act – 16 February NOT YET IMPLEMENTED In an effort to maintain the integrity of Canada’s asylum system, Prime Minister Stephen Harper introduced the Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act, which acts as an amendment to the 2010 Balanced Refugee Reform Act. Through this act, refugee claimants from countries that do not traditionally produce refugees will be processed within 45 days. It is hoped that this shortened processing time will more quickly address unfounded claims, and thus save money housing and processing these claimants. Additional measures have been added to tighten rules regarding human trafficking and helping the victims of trafficking operations who end up in Canada. Finally, the Act will make mandatory the provision of biometric data for all Temporary Resident Visa applications. This is already mandated by many countries such as the US, Australia, and the EU, and will help to further minimize fraudulent applications. Temporary Residence Permit Rules Loosened – 27 February IMPLEMENTED Canadian law dictates that people who wish to enter Canada but have a past criminal conviction must be either considered rehabilitated or must acquire a Temporary Residence Permit (TRP) before they can enter the country. However, many individuals are not aware of this requirement, often resulting in confusion and frustration at the border. Effective March 1, individuals who arrive at a Canadian Port of Entry and who require but do not have a TRP may have one issued at the border, with the standard $200 processing fees waived. Applicants must fulfill the following: • They have only one misdemeanor/summary conviction on their records; and • They were not imprisoned for their offense The ultimate decision regarding the issuance of a TRP at the Canadian Port of Entry lies with Canadian Border Services Agency officers. A TRP will be issued in this way only once, and those requiring a TRP who wish to return to Canada at a later date must complete the standard application process and payment of fees. For a more detailed explanation of this option, please see the article in this month’s edition of CIC News. Limiting Marriage Fraud in Family Class Sponsorship – 2 March IMPLEMENTED Individuals who have come to Canada as the spouse of a Canadian citizen or Permanent Resident must now wait 5 years from the time they are granted Permanent Residency status before they can in turn sponsor a different spouse to come to Canada. In addition to this new restriction, talks have been held discussing other possible measurements that can be taken to eliminate marriage fraud. Quebec Skilled Worker Program Overhaul – 20 March IMPLEMENTED In December 2011, the Government of Quebec announced that standardized French language tests must be included in all QSW applications. This was the first step in an initiative to overhaul the Quebec Skilled Worker (QSW) program in 2012. Beginning officially on 20 March, applicants to the QSW program were divided into 3 groups. Group 1, which encompasses seven types of applicant, includes people such as temporary foreign workers residing in Quebec and applicants with areas of training (fields of study) that score 12 or 16 on the Quebec Selection Grid. There are no limits to this type of application. Group 2 consists of people with areas of training (fields of study) in targeted professions that score 6 points on the Quebec Selection Grid, as well as those pursuing a degree in Quebec or its equivalent outside of the province. This group is limited to 14,300 applicants. Applicants who do not fall into Groups 1 or 2 are not eligible to apply for Quebec immigration at this time. These changes are effective from 20 March 2012 to 3 March 2013. For a more detailed summary, please see our CIC news article on the subject. Standardizing the Assessment of Foreign Education Credentials – 28 March NOT YET IMPLEMENTED A new requirement has been proposed that will require Federal Skilled Worker applicants to have their education credentials assessed and verified by designated organizations prior to submitting their applications. In this way, it is believed that the number of unqualified applications will be reduced, and those who are accepted to Canada will be able to more easily find jobs in their fields. To assist in the credential assessment process, on 16 January Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) launched the International Qualification Network (IQN) website. According to CIC, the website will serve “as a virtual space for employers, regulatory bodies, governments and organization s serving immigrants to capitalize on promising qualification assessment and recognition practices”. Elimination of Federal Skilled Worker Backlog – 30 March NOT YET IMPLEMENTED Many Canadian visa offices have been slowed down due to a severe backlog of applications. To address this, on 30 March the Canadian Citizenship and Immigration Minister, Jason Kenney, announced that all files submitted to the Federal Skilled Worker (FSW) Program before 27 February 2008 will be returned without assessment. This will result in the return of approximately 300,000 applications and government processing fees. Creation of Skilled Trades Category – 10 April NOT YET IMPLEMENTED In an effort to better target professionals in much needed skilled trades such as construction and resources management, the government intends to create a new Skilled Trades category within the larger FSW program. Further information on this can be found in this month’s edition of CIC News. Mandatory Language Testing for Some Provincial Nominees – 11 April IMPLEMENTED Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs) are semi-autonomous immigration programs through which individual provinces are able to select the immigrants they wish to come live and work in their jurisdiction. However, some PNP regulations are still mandated by the Federal government. Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney stated that moving forward, PNP nominees in semi- and low-skilled occupations will have to undergo mandatory language testing of their English (or French) skills. They will have to meet minimum language standards set by the Federal government if they wish to secure their Provincial Nomination Certificates. Kenney stated that “as a result, immigrants coming to Canada […] will arrive with much better language skills and will be selected for the impact they can have on Canada’s economy”. Work Requirements Relaxed for Canadian Experience Class – 16 April NOT YET IMPLEMENTED Skilled foreign workers seeking Permanent Residency through the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) may have to fulfill less stringent work restrictions to become eligible to apply. Currently, applicants to CEC’s temporary foreign worker stream must have completed 24 months of full-time work experience within the past 36 months. Regulatory changes have been proposed that will decrease this time requirement to 12 months. Creation of New Entrepreneur “Start-Up” Visa – 18 April NOT YET IMPLEMENTED Minister Kenney announced that the government has begun consultations to discuss the possible creation of a new program for immigrant entrepreneurs who wish to establish new companies in Canada. This new program is envisioned with a component that would link newcomers with private-sector organizations that can then assist the newcomers in navigating the world of Canadian business. It will be small-scale, with about 2,750 applications received per year, and lasting no more than five years. It is one of many possible changes to Canada’s business class of immigration. Accelerated LMO Processing Times – 25 April IMPLEMENTED Employers who have already received a positive Labour Market Opinion (LMO) for an employee within the past two years may have their future LMO applications expedited. The new program will allow qualified applicants to receive an Opinion within 10 business days of applying. Employers will still have to fulfill recruitment and hiring requirements in line with traditional LMO applications for the position being offered. Currently, applications in Quebec do not offer the accelerated option. Please read Attorney David Cohen’s blog in this month’s newsletter to learn his views on this new program.