Recent changes shrouding the federal immigration system are entangled in a web of confusion, foremost for the hundreds of thousands of immigrants who are struggling to demystify the process. The intentions of the Canadian government should be made clear, as improvements to immigration policy must be coupled with hard sacrifices.
A principle aim of Minister Jason Kenney is that Canada’s immigration system departs from the first-come first-served dogma of the past. CIC has set out to make the process more responsive by imposing various limitations on the volume of applications that can be processed and received each year. Enforcing quotas on the index of programs available to prospective migrants vying for temporary or permanent resident permits in Canada has hastened waiting times from five years to less than one. The backlog for applications to the Federal Skilled Worker category was projected to have mounted to a total of 850 000 by the end of this year before CIC legislated to cease processing all those received prior to 2008. Bottlenecks in the program also spelled a dismal fate for skilled workers whose qualifications were relevant at the time that they applied for a work permit but are now no longer suitable to meet Canadian employers’ contemporary needs.
Next, the government is also embarking to make the system more selective, harmonising skilled workers’ credentials with the demands of the national labour market. Language proficiency in either English or French is what Kenney firmly asserts will address the unemployment and low incomes encountered by newcomers to Canada.
While the Federal Skilled Worker program reached its threshold in early May and other categories are fast-approaching their own quotas, the government is in the meantime working to modify its immigration criteria in favour of a younger demographic to replenish the gaps created by Canada’s aging workforce. To facilitate their economic integration, CIC will streamline the process for those on temporary work permits or study permits wishing to become permanent residents of the country.
Family re-unification still endures as a pillar of the Canadian immigration system; however Kenney aims to reduce instances of fraudulent ‘green-card marriages’ by enforcing a five-year marriage minimum before spouses are able to sponsor their partners through the Family Sponsorship program. Further, a 10-year ‘super-visa’ was initiated last November, which allows both parents and grandparents to visit their families established in Canada for as long as two years per trip.
Immigrants account for almost two-thirds of Canada’s population growth and their numbers will contribute to the country’s strength as a multicultural and internationally-competitive society. But as the CIC’s reforms gear themselves towards efficiency over inclusion, Canada has yet to see whether this sacrifice will attract more immigrants or polarize them.