With the G20 and it's related rioting, as well as the World Cup, in full swing, it is no wonder that Canada’s immigration minister, Jason Kenney, anticipated some suspicion on Friday about the timing of his announcement of his wide-sweeping changes to our Federal Skilled Workers Program (FSW) and our Immigrant Investor Program (IIP).

As I described here a few weeks ago, Kenny had promised us in November 2008 an “Action Plan for Faster Immigration” aimed at tackling a backlog of almost 997,000 applicants for permanent residence, of which 640,000 were awaiting processing in the FSW program. He boldly promised to reduce waiting times from six years to as little as six months. Skeptics, like myself, said it couldn’t be done. In fact, in 2009 only 2,000 or so families in the FSW were approved in six months and the total number of people awaiting some form of processing for permanent residence continues to be pretty close to one million.

On Friday, Kenney claimed to have whittled down our FSW backlog by an astonishing 40 per cent to a current backlog of only 380,000. What he failed to mention is that in addition to these 380,000 individuals waiting in the “old backlog” there are an additional 160,000 people waiting in the “new backlog,” giving us a current total of 540,000 individuals currently awaiting FSW processing. If you listen carefully, he doesn’t claim to have reduced the backlog by 100,000 people by actually processing their applications. In fact, the vast majority of these applicants simply got fed up with the whole mess and walked away from their Canadian dream.

Perhaps fearing someone might figure this all out, he had to make some pretty dramatic changes, and quickly.

Unprecedented changes have been made to our FSW (i.e. our “points system”) without any form of advance notice. All applications received on or after June 26, 2010 will only be considered if the applicant has “arranged employment” in Canada (i.e. certified by HRSDC) or experience in one of the occupations included in a revised list that has shrunk from 38 occupations to just 29. See these interesting changes here.

Temporary foreign workers and foreign students who have been living in Canada legally for at least one year were eligible for FSW processing if they also had 67 points. No longer.

Now they will need to qualify under the Canadian Experience Class (i.e. two years of qualifying work for foreign workers and one year of post-graduate employment for students) or qualify under the new FSW (i.e. they must have arranged employment or one year of experience in one of the 29 occupations on our new list).

From now on, and without exception, everyone applying under the FSW will have to take an official language test and submit the results at the time of their application. Visa officers will no longer have to bother receiving written “proof” of language ability. Yes, even English professors teaching at Oxford will have to take an English test.

Also, CIC is abandoning its one-year-old and ill-conceived “simplified application process.” Now CIC will be “asking for all the documentation at once,” hoping to save about four months of processing time.

Then there is “the cap.”

CIC will continue to consider all FSW applications received where the applicant has “arranged employment,” However, CIC will only process the first 20,000 FSW applications it receives between June 26, 2010 and June 30, 2011 in which the applicant does not have arranged employment and is relying solely on experience in one of the 29 listed occupations. Any extra applications will be returned to the applicants with a refund of their processing fees. Understandably, CIC is doing so because it is pointless to put more files on the shelf when it already has more than it needs to meet its targets.

As for our prospective investor immigrants, there is more bad news to go around.

Until now, investors have had to demonstrate a minimum net worth of $800,000 and had to give our federal government an interest-free loan of $400,000 for a period of five years in order to get permanent residence here. They also had to wait up to 32 months or more for their papers to immigrate here. Rather than attracting more investors by giving them some sort of priority processing, the minister is proposing to double the net worth they must have and double the amount of the interest-free loan they must give to the feds to $800,000.

Even though Canada only welcomed about 2,800 investors under our federal investor program in 2009, Kenney nonetheless feels that Canada has been “under-pricing itself” and that his proposals will “not reduce” the number of new investors to Canada. However, this is impossible to believe, since by increasing these amounts we can only reduce the number of applicants eligible to apply and be landed here. Furthermore, many such applicants may simply decide that a $1-million investment for a U.S. green card is a better deal than an $800,000 investment for a Canadian PR card. CIC is not accepting any more applications under this program until it has had a chance to publish new regulations and has received some feedback. That isn’t expected until the fall.

It is obvious that the defects in Kenney’s ill-advised action plan of November 2008 will soon be clear to all.

Guidy Mamann practices law in Toronto at Mamann, Sandaluk and is
certified by the Law Society of Upper Canada as an immigration
specialist. For more information, visit www.migrationlaw.com or email metro@migrationlaw.com

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