Canada has announced that the Federal skilled Worker Program (FSWP) is to reopen in May 2013. The FSWP is Canada's main skilled migration programme and enables applicants to apply for permanent resident status if they have adequate skills and experience.
Speaking at an Ottawa press conference on 19th December 2012, Jason Kenney, the Canadian minister with responsibility for immigration policy, told journalists that the FSWP would re-open to applicants on 4th May 2013 using a revised points-based selection system. He also revealed the new selection criteria that will be in place when the system goes live.
Mr Kenney closed the FSWP to new applicants who did not already have a Canadian job offer from 1st July 2012. When he announced the closure, Mr Kenney said that his department would draw up a new set of criteria for selection which would ensure that successful applicants under the FSWP would be more likely to succeed when they arrived. Mr Kenney said in June that the changes would enable successful applicants to 'hit the ground running' when they arrived in Canada.
Higher minimum language thresholdMr Kenney told journalists on 18th December that the new FSWP assessment criteria will include the following
• A higher minimum threshold of skill in either English or French (Canada's two official languages) than before. Applicants will now have to demonstrate by way of a test that they meet level 7 of the Canadian Language Benchmark.
• A greater number of points will be granted to younger applicants than under the old system.
• A new 'Educational Credential Assessment (ECA) scheme to allow the Canadian government to compare foreign educational qualifications with Canadian ones so that their worth can be better assessed
• A reform of the 'Arranged Employment' rules so that those with an offer of employment can be hired more quickly
• Additional points granted to FSWP applicants if their spouse has ability in English or French and if he/she has work experience in Canada
Mr Kenney said 'the new FSWP criteria will ensure Canada is selecting the skilled immigrants our economy needs, who are the most likely to succeed and fully realise their potential in Canada.'
From May 2013 onwards, in order to demonstrate that they have an adequate standard of English, or French, applicants will have to be assessed by an approved agency. A list of these agencies can be found on the Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), website. CIC is Mr Kenney's department in the Canadian government.
They will also have to have educational qualifications received from non-Canadian educational establishments assessed by an approved Canadian organisation. This comparison must be performed before the applicant arrives in Canada. This will enable an applicant to assess whether their qualifications are adequate and if necessary to undertake further training, before leaving home, a CIC statement said.
Arranged Employment is a system whereby those with a job offer in Canada before they apply to the FSWP can score an extra 10 points on the FSWP 'points grid'. The Canadian employer must be approved by Service Canada, which is an agency created in the Canadian Department of Human Resources and Skills Development.
Arranged Employment OpinionAt present, once a Canadian employer has offered a foreign national a job, the employer must make an Arranged Employment request to Service Canada. If the request is approved, Service Canada will then send an Arranged Employment Opinion (AEO), to CIC giving details of the job in question, the pay and the employer's history. The AEO will also state that the job is genuine and permanent and will ask CIC to expedite the applicant's request. However, it remains to be seen what the rules will be after the changes are made.
After Mr Kenney announced the proposed changes to the system in August, Ratna Omidvar, who is president of the Canadian charity the Maytree Foundation and board chair of the Toronto Region Immigrant and Employment Council, said that the change in focus may mean that Canada misses out on talent. He called for 'a little less rigidity' in the new system. Other critics have said that the focus on language ability might, in effect, discriminate against non-European applicants. Mr Kenney has dismissed these worries.
CIC says there is 'a large body of research which has consistently shown that language proficiency and youth are two of the most important factors in the economic success of immigrants'.
The new regime will not apply to anyone with an existing Canadian job offer or a PhD who applies before May 4th 2013. CIC has announced that it expects that, when the FSWP reopens to new applicants, it will take about three months for applications to be processed.
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