May 2013 Newsletter

15 May 2013

Hello from all of us at Ackah Business Immigration Law! 

Last week, the lawyers of Ackah Business Immigration Law had the privilege of attending the annual Canadian Bar Association Immigration Law Conference which was held in Montreal, Quebec.  The conference provided us with the opportunity to learn about more dramatic changes in immigration law and policy.  The conference was critical to our understanding of the recent changes in immigration law as we had the opportunity to speak directly with CIC and CBSA representatives in attendance allowing us to better serve our clients. 

As a result, this month’s newsletter will provide details on important changes that have come into effect or will be coming into effect shortly. 

UPDATES IN IMMIGRATION LAW

Action Plan for Faster Family Reunification 

CIC has recently implemented an action plan to reduce application backlogs and to allow for faster reunification of family members to come to Canada.  In particular, CIC has announced the following changes regarding the sponsorship of parents and grandparents.

Super Visa will become a permanent program

The Super Visa allows for a 10-year multiple entry visa which permits parents and grandparents to remain in Canada for up to two years at a time.  Super Visas have been quite popular since being launched as a pilot program with over 1,000 Super Visas issued each month and approval rates at a high of 86 percent. 

New financial criteria  

CIC has implemented new financial requirements to ensure that sponsors have the financial means to support parents and grandparents, thereby reducing potential costs to the Canadian health care and social programs.  The changes are as follows:

  • CIC has increased the minimum necessary income for sponsoring parents and grandparents by 30 percent.  This will ensure that sponsors have the financial capabilities to meet the needs of their sponsored parents or grandparents.    
  • The period for demonstrating the minimum necessary income will be extended from one year to three years.  Therefore, those wishing to sponsor their parents or grandparents must demonstrate that they meet the new income threshold for three consecutive tax years prior to submitting their sponsorship application. 
  • Evidence of income will be confined to documents issued by the Canada Revenue Agency.  As CIC officials spend less time reviewing and verifying financial documents, the processing times are expected to be reduced.       
  • The sponsorship undertaking period will be extended from 10 years to 20 years.  Sponsors will be responsible for repaying any provincial social assistance benefits paid to the parents or grandparent for a period of 20 years. 
  • The most dramatic change to be implemented is that the maximum age of dependents will now be set at 18 years of age.  This change is to take effect under all immigration programs.  Therefore, those over 18 years of age must apply to visit or immigrate to Canada independently.  There will be an exception for individuals, regardless of age, who are financially dependent on their parents due to mental or physical disability.  However, full-time university students will no longer be considered as accompanying dependents.    

Accepting 5,000 applications in 2014

Lastly, the government will be accepting 5,000 applications in 2014.  Opening the program to an unlimited number of applications, which was done in the past, was seen as a major contribution to the backlog. 

For more information regarding the Action Plan for Faster Family Reunification see:  http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/department/media/releases/2013/2013-05-10.asp

Suspension of Accelerated Labour Market Opinion (“A-LMO”) 

On April 29, 2013 CIC and HRSDC announced the suspension of the A-LMO for an indefinite period.  There is no official indication as to when the A-LMO program will be reopened.  The A-LMO was valuable for employers as it allowed for the faster processing of labour market opinions.  As a result of the change, employers will now have to apply for the regular LMO, which could take up to three months to process. 

Employers will also be required to include a plan with their LMO application detailing how the foreign worker(s) in which they plan to hire will train Canadians or permanent residents.  The goal of CIC is to encourage employers to transition their work force from foreign workers to Canadians or permanent residents over time.    

The advertising requirements for companies submitting LMO applications will also be much more demanding.  Employers will now be required to use employment websites and/or the National Job Bank to advertise the position for at least two weeks within the three month period preceding their LMO application.  Another significant change is the removal of wage flexibility.  Employers will no longer be allowed to pay their foreign workers 15 percent less than Canadians or permanent residents for higher skilled occupations and 5 percent below the prevailing wage for lower skilled occupations.  However, differences in salary may still be based on differences in the level of experience.  

The LMO questionnaire will also now contain questions to ensure that no Canadian or permanent residents have been displaced by the hiring of foreign workers and that no Canadian positions are being outsourced.  In regards to language requirements, employers may only list English or French.  Exceptions will only be given in specialized cases such as when the foreign language is essential to the job requirement, such as tour guides or translators.  The onus will be on the employer to demonstrate why the foreign language is a requirement of the job. 

Fees for the processing of each LMO application will also be introduced so that tax payers are no longer subsidizing the costs.  The proposed fee per each LMO application is expected to be $250.  However, the exact amount is still being determined.  Finally, the government will be granted increased authority to suspend and even revoke work permits based on positive labour market opinions if it is discovered the program is being misused. 

It is important to remember that Canada is experiencing significant skill shortages in many sectors and regions, especially in Alberta.  The purpose of the temporary foreign worker program is to help fill genuine labour shortages.  Small and medium Canadian businesses may be negatively impacted by the recent changes announced by CIC and HRSDC thereby affecting our economy and communities.  By making the LMO application process more costly and time consuming, the government is making it much more difficult for small and medium businesses to fill labour shortages.  At the minimum, the government should consider reversing the changes made to the temporary foreign worker program or perhaps focusing on those companies that have abused the system.  A limit should also be placed on application fees as to avoid excessive financial burden on small to medium sized businesses.     

If you are concerned about the recent changes made to the LMO application process or the entire Temporary Foreign Workers Program, we suggest you contact your local member of parliament to express your concerns, especially in Alberta. 

Opening of New Federal Skilled Worker Program  

On May 4, 2013 CIC began accepting applications to the new and improved Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP).  Jason Kenney, Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister, stated “our changes ensure not only that Canada can select the immigrants most needed by our economy, but that they are best positioned for success.” 

In order to prevent backlogs and extensive wait times, the government has created a list of 24 eligible occupations, which can be found at:

http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/department/media/backgrounders/2013/2013-04-18.asp#list   

The eligible occupations will have an overall cap of 5,000 new applications and sub-caps of 300 applications in each of the 24 occupations on the list.  Previously, the application backlog for FSWP had a wait time of 15 years with 1.5 million applicants waiting.  As a result of the new Action Plan for Faster Immigration and Economic Action Plan 2012, the backlog for FSWP was nearly eliminated. 

Requirements

  • At least one year of continuous work experience in one of the 24 eligible occupations;
  • Qualifying offer of arranged employment; or
  • Eligibility to apply through the PhD stream.  

Minimum language requirements

Prospective applicants should determine whether they meet the new minimum language threshold. An FSWP applicant must score at least 4L on the Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program (CELPIP) in each of the four skills to meet the minimum language threshold. An FSWP applicant must score at least 6.0 on the International English Language Testing System in each of the four skills to meet the minimum language threshold of CLB 7.

Arranged Employment

Previously, employers could apply for Arranged Employment Opinions (AEO) from HRSDC to support their application to hire a foreign national on a permanent and full-time basis. As of May 4, 2013 CIC no longer accepted AEO’s from HRSDC. Instead, most offers of arranged employment will require a Labour Market Opinion.

Educational Credential Assessment (ECA)

The ECA process helps to determine if an applicant’s foreign educational credential is authentic and equivalent to a completed credential in Canada. As of April 17, 2013 four organizations have been created by the Minister to provide ECA reports for the purpose of immigrating to Canada under the FSWP. The organizations are as follows:

Applicants are told to contact the respective organizations directly regarding documentation requirements, processing times and fees.  An ECA report will be valid for immigration purposes for 5 years from the date it was issued.          

For more information regarding Canada’s new Federal Skilled Worker Program see:http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/department/media/releases/2013/2013-05-03.asp

For information on the Temporary Foreign Worker Program see: 

http://www.hrsdc.gc.ca/eng/jobs/foreign_workers/index.shtml

Improving Passport Services for Canadian 

On May 8, 2013 CIC announced plans to expand passport services and make them more convenient.  On July 2, 2013 primary responsibility for Passport Canada will move from the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade to CIC as this is thought to be in line with the duties already performed by CIC such as determining Canadian citizenship. 

Canadians will not experience any interruption of services and will continue to be able to access passport services through the same service locations currently available in Canada.  Over time, services will expand to more Service Canada Centres and eventually online applications will be accepted. 

However, Canadians travelling aboard will continue to be able to access consular services if they need to replace lost passports or renew their passports.  This will continue to be supported through the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.   

New Online CIC Portal 

The CIC Portal allows authorized paid representatives to complete and submit online applications on behalf of their clients.  An authorized representative is an individual who is a member, in good standing, of a provincial or territorial law society.  The processing times for online applications are significantly faster compared to paper applications.  For example, for work permit extensions, the online processing time is only 39 days as opposed to paper processing which is currently 93 days.  However, digital photos are now required for work permit extensions submitted online.  

FROM ALL OF US AT ACKAH BUSINESS IMMIGRATION LAW…

We hope that you have found this both helpful and informative.  Please let us know how we may be of assistance and how you can leverage our expertise in helping meet your business needs.  Should you wish to discuss further the impact of any of these changes, we encourage you to contact our office in Alberta. 

*Please note that this immigration alert has been created for informational purposes only and cannot be relied upon as legal advice.

Our address:

CALGARY OFFICE

Ackah Business Immigration Law
1105, 550 11 Avenue SW
Calgary, AB T2R 1M7


Contact us:

Email:
   contact@ackahlaw.com

Phone:
   Calgary: (403) 452‑9515
   Vancouver: (604) 985‑9512
   Toronto: (416) 643‑7177

   North America: 1 (800) 932‑1190


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