Celebrating Our First Year and the New Year
From all of us at Ackah Business Immigration Law, we hope that you had an enjoyable holiday season and that 2012 has begun on a positive note. We also wish to thank each and every one of you for being a part of our first year. For those who were able to join us in Calgary on January 19, thank you very much for helping us to celebrate our success. It was a wonderful opportunity for all of us to gather together. We are also very much thankful that our colleagues from British Columbia were able to join us. For those of you who were not able to join us, you were missed and we hope to gather again in the future to celebrate many more successes, both our own and yours.
IMMIGRATION IN THE MEDIA
Canada at the World Economic Forum in Davos
Prime Minister Stephen Harper spoke at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on January 26, 2012. In what is being seen as a major speech positioning Canada for growth, Mr. Harper has vowed transformative action on several key policy areas, one of which is immigration. While continuing to reiterate Canada's commitment to its humanitarian and family-reunification objectives, the Prime Minister has again reiterated that immigration policy will continue to be geared toward the needs of the economy and the labour force. Although no further details were revealed in the speech at Davos, we can be certain that a comprehensive review of current programs is under way. As the government continues its attempt to strike a balance between protecting Canadian jobs and encouraging the labour mobility necessary for economic success, we can expect further added layers of complexity for employers with respect to obtaining work authorization for foreign nationals.
Review of Federal – Provincial Immigration Programs
Also on January 26, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney tabled a report on the provincial nominee programs which select foreign nationals for permanent residence based on the specific economic and labour needs of individual provinces. The program has been lauded for spreading immigrants across the whole of Canada, for filling labour shortages, contributing to population growth, and attracting investment. However, the report has highlighted two areas of concern that may impact future applications under the various nominee programs. Firstly, it has identified low retention rates in certain provinces whereby permanent residents relocate to other provinces within their first year after landing. Alberta and British Columbia, however, have been found to have retention rates above 95%. Mr. Kenney has stated that there is a need to combat low retention and we may see changes in certain components of the program to address this deficiency. Secondly, the report has identified serious allegations of fraud, particularly in the nominee programs in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. As the government seeks to combat this fraud, applications may face greater scrutiny. Clearly, the nominee programs are a success and we expect them to continue to be critical for companies and provinces to meet labour needs. In a further speech in Calgary on January 27, Mr. Kenney has indicated that the federal government may add mandatory provisions requiring proficiency in English or French, previously not required for the nominee programs. In addition, there are indications that the current cap of 5000 nominees to Alberta per year may be increased. With these changes may come increases in processing time and additional documentary requirements. However, the nominee programs continue to offer the speed and flexibility companies need in today's mobile labour market.
UPDATES IN IMMIGRATION LAW
Medical Examinations and the Canadian High Commission in India
The Canadian High Commission in New Delhi and consulate in Chandigarh in addition to their associated Visa Processing Centres across India have announced a significant streamlining of the application process with respect to medical examinations. Previously, applicants seeking entry to Canada for greater than six months and who had resided in India for at least six months of the previous year were subject to medical examinations. However, the necessary instructions for these examinations were not provided to the applicants for delivery to medical staff until several weeks into the application process, often causing delays in processing times. To address this, as of January 9, 2012, applicants requesting authorization to enter and remain in Canada for greater than six months may now undergo medical examinations prior to submitting their applications for processing. Applicants may now visit a Designated Medical Practitioner and inform them of the need for a medical. Upon completion of the exam, they may submit their application to Canadian officials. While the full effect of this new regulation remains to be seen, we are hopeful that it will reduce processing times at the Canadian visa posts in India by several weeks. Given the complexity and lengthy processing times of consular applications, this new efficiency should be greatly welcomed by companies that leverage workers from India, Nepal, and Bhutan.
Information Technology Workers in British Columbia
As mentioned in our December newsletter, the simplified process for employers to hire skilled IT professionals without the need for a Labour Market Opinion has ended in British Columbia, although it is still in effect for Québec. It has been replaced with a special Digital Media LMO process in recognition of the key role which the IT industry and more specifically video game design and visual effects companies play in British Columbia. Going forward, companies wishing to hire foreign nationals for specialized IT roles are required to submit an application for an LMO to Service Canada. However, due to the highly specialized skills and unique talents of digital media workers and other IT professionals, employers will not need to demonstrate that they have attempted to recruit Canadian citizens or permanent residents. Rather, it should be sufficient to demonstrate that the proposed job fits the duties, educational background, and prevailing wages of the Digital Artist or Digital Entertainment Software Engineer categories. In other good news for the video gaming and digital animation / visual effects industries in British Columbia, Service Canada has committed to processing LMO applications for any occupation within these industries in five days if a case for urgency can be made. The previous program for IT professionals performed adequately for many years and had the advantage that foreign nationals could have their applications processed immediately at the port-of-entry or a Canadian consulate without need for an LMO confirmation first. However, the list of required technology expertise and salary ranges had grown quite dated, thereby causing problems for recently graduated applicants who had no knowledge of the defunct technologies. On balance, the flexibility offered by this revised IT-focused program should compensate for any additional processing time with Service Canada.
Excessive Demand Cost Threshold for 2012
Due to the publicly funded nature of the Canadian healthcare system, immigration officials are required to assess the medical admissibility of individuals seeking to enter Canada. As such, individuals with conditions which may be "reasonably expected to cause excessive demand on health or social services" may be excluded from Canada. Because of the wide degree of discretion that immigration officers have in adjudicating applications and the rather vague wording, this legislation has the potential to increase processing times and may even derail individual applications. To address this, the Health Branch of Citizenship & Immigration Canada has released a new formula to be used in determining the excessive demand cost threshold. Accordingly, as of December 1, 2011 and in effect at least through to the end of 2012, individuals will be inadmissible to Canada if a Health Branch Officer determines that the individual will cost in excess of $6,141.00 per year for a period of at least five years, unless alternative private coverage can be found. While situations such as these are always unfortunate, this added clarity from the government is greatly appreciated and will help us to assist your employees, should it be required.
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 in 2012. Should you wish to discuss further the impact of any of these changes, we encourage you to contact any of our offices in Alberta and British Columbia.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.