Three years ago, Preeti Jain and Amit Khanna first applied for immigration to Canada, but they didn’t quite make it to the quota of 400 worldwide applicants. The husband-wife duo, who post-graduated in computer animation from Sheridan College in Oakville, Canada, in 2004, applied once again in 2013; this time there were only 300 openings. “But we were well prepared with our documents,” says Jain. “Although we have got our permanent resident status in just about a year, it has been a long process for us.”
Come January 2015, armed with degrees, qualifications and skills won’t have to wait as long as Jain and Khanna to step onto Canadian shores thanks to a new ‘express entry’ skilled immigration system that’s set to come into force. On the lines of Australia’s SkillSelect and New Zealand’s pointbased system, the new programme, says Canada’s immigration minister Chris Alexander, is a shift from “passive processing to active recruitment”. “Under the new system, some of the skilled successful applicants in the economic and business immigrant categories could get their papers processed in as little time as six months,” Alexander, who was in Delhi recently, told ET Magazine. He called it a gamechanger, with the potential to “revolutionize the way we attract skilled immigrants and get them working in Canada faster”.
Under the new express entry system, applicants will be able to submit an ‘expression of interest’ to the Canadian government; their resume and details will be entered into a database. Employers seeking foreign skilled workers will have access to such information on the database, allowing them to select suitable candidates.
If a Canadian employer cannot find Canadians to do the job after a labour market impact assessment, they can go online to the Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) database of applicants and look for the likes of welders, project managers etc in India or anywhere in the world and make a job offer. “Those with job offers will get priority when it comes to invitation to apply for permanent residence in Canada,” the minister explained.
In 2013, over 33,000 Indians immigrated to Canada, of whom 55% were in the economic and business categories; the rest were in the family reunification category (which allows other members to join the family that already has citizenship).
Immigration experts for their part are waiting for more clarity and for the moment are unsure about how the new system will play out. “One of the positives under the system is shorter processing time. What is uncertain, however, is how applicants will be selected and if they remove the ‘firstcome, first-served’ approach completely; I forecast backlogs and many applicants waiting in the pool with uncertainty,” says Divya Bakshi Arya, an immigration lawyer with offices in Vancouver and Delhi.
But for Indian applicants holding senior management positions, with several years of experience in various fields and international exposure, immigration to Canada may just be getting faster. “Of course, these applicants will have to be highly proficient in English and/or French language and younger applicants will be given preference as evident in the past selection grid for economic immigration,” adds Arya.
Not everyone, though, is happy about the changeover since, once the new system kicks in, those candidates who are not chosen after their profiles have been on the database for some time will be removed from the database. The idea behind the scheme, according to CIC, is to “allow the government to select the best candidates who are most likely to succeed in Canada rather than those who happen to be first in line”.
“The expression of interest concept could be misused to screen out certain ethnic/religious groups. It is not yet clear how CIC intends to operate this concept. For employers in Canada, the fact that potential immigrants have no Canadian experience is likely to be a problem when giving them job offers,” says Tim Leahy, a Toronto-based lawyer. He adds that if CIC officials were to make the selection of candidates, the system would be flawed because they don’t have the HR skills required to assess skills and knowledge of the potential immigrants.
Back home, the Canadian Immigrant Integration Program (CIIP) is all geared up to provide pre-departure support once the new system kicks in. “Our services will continue to be vital,” says Michel Doiron, field manager of CIIP in Delhi. “Principal applicants with jobs will continue to require details on current and reliable labour-market, jobretention and job-search. Besides, information on cultural competency, cultural adaptation, workplace soft-skills and labour-rights are also important.” CIIP also connects immigrants with its partner organizations in various provinces, pre-departure, to help them with specific settlement needs.
Jain and Khanna, who will reach Canada in October 2014, have benefited from their interaction with CIIP. “We are going back after a long time, so we had a lot of questions about the current job and economic conditions in Canada. CIIP was a great help,” says Jain. Post-October, the task is clear-cut: to find jobs. “We are confident we will manage to get something when we land,” adds Jain. In 2015, will there be many more wannabe immigrants sharing that optimism?