Canada: The Ontario Chamber Of Commerce Publishes Recommendations On The New Expression Of Interest System

In consultation with employers throughout Ontario, in January 2014, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) released a report entitled "Think Fast, Ontario Employer Perspective on Immigration Reform and the Expression of Interest System" in which the OCC makes 13 recommendations to the Federal government in reference to the new the Expression of Interest (EOI) System. Set to launch in early 2015, the new EOI system will replace the first-come, first-in-the door selection process for economic immigrants.

The new EOI system involves a two-stage process. At stage one, the prospective immigrant fills out an online form which signals their interest in becoming a Permanent Resident of Canada. If the Applicant meets the minimum requirements (which include language proficiency and work experience), he or she will be placed in a pool of qualified candidates. Once a pool of qualified candidates is established, in step two, a candidate may be selected by the federal or provincial government or by an employer with a verified job offer. Once a candidate is selected, they are issued an Invitation to Apply (ITA) and only then may they apply for Permanent residence. Applicants who are not selected will be removed from the pool after a designated period of time.

Many aspects of the new EOI system will be completely automated and available on-line, which is said to enhance the flexibility, responsiveness, and speed of economic immigration to Canada and Ontario. It is projected that processing times will be cut down to 6 months from 12 to 18 months under the current system.

The OCC acknowledges that the new EOI system is a huge opportunity for the province of Ontario, but believes that the program should reflect the needs of employers in Ontario in order to enhance the economic competitiveness of Canada and Ontario. In order to improve the EOI system, the OCC makes the following 13 recommendations:

  1. Processing times for applications should be benchmarked against similar systems around the world.       
    • The OCC believes that faster processing times is the single most important factor in determining whether employers will participate in the EOI system. Therefore, in order to improve Canada's position and reputation in the global race for talent, faster and more streamlined immigrant processing is required. Canada should be looking to Australia and New Zealand, who average a 58 day processing period.
  2. Labour Market Opinions (LMO) should not slow down the EOI process.
    • In order to expedite the EOI process, LMO's should be processed concurrently with employer's searches for candidates. The OCC recommends that accelerated LMO's be used for trusted employers or employers who are looking for employees in occupations that are facing labour shortages.
  3. Employers should have access to candidate pools.
    • The federal government has indicated that under the new EOI system, employers will not have access to candidate pools but instead will be automatically matched with candidates through the use of various algorithms. The OCC anticipates issues with this restriction, such as a failure to capture the nomenclatures that vary across languages, occupations and countries. As such, access to the pool of candidates will allow employers more access to the candidates they really want.
  4. Consultants should be able to assist employers navigate the EOI system.
    • Consultants allow employers to more easily navigate pre-screening and vetting procedures which can be very time consuming for an employer.
  5. Employers and Applicants should be treated as customers.
    • The entire online EOI process must be designed around the priorities of employers and applicants. Therefore, it should be user friendly, accessible and track user behaviour.
  6. A balance between integrity and usability.
    • While integrity of the EOI system should be upheld, employers will be less likely to use the EOI system if onerous paperwork is involved. The OCC recommends keeping paperwork more streamlined and to a minimum, where possible.
  7.  Clear pathway to recognition of foreign credentials.
    • Many immigrants in regulated occupations have difficulty finding occupations that accurately reflect their foreign credentials. To avoid this issue, the OCC suggests that recognition of foreign credentials under the EOI system must be transparent and streamlined.
  8.  Employers should be permitted to screen EOI candidates using their usual screening methods and tools.
    • The OCC recommends that employers should be permitted to continue to hold multi-stage interviews, assess competencies through questionnaires and aptitude tests and if necessary verify foreign credentials using third parties.
  9.   Employers should be permitted to use the EOI system to hire individuals that they have already identified through their own recruitment efforts.
    • Employers should be allowed to seek Permanent Residence for Temporary Foreign Workers who have proven their ability to perform in Canada's labour market. The OCC suggests that specific candidates should be assigned identifying codes so as to allow employers to identify candidates from the general pool.
  10.   Allow Applicant's to select where they want to live and assign provincial quotas based on labour market needs.
    • The feedback from Ontario employers suggests that the allocation of skilled workers should reflect actual labour market needs and thus provincial quotas should not be implemented.
    • Applicant's should also not be tied to a particular employer and should have the flexibility to move around Canada as they desire.
  11. The introduction of the new EOI system should be supported by an international marketing strategy aimed at attracting top-tier talent.
    • Canada, and in particular Ontario, should differentiate itself from its global competitors as the world's best place to work, live and do business.
  12. Publish data from employer searches and skills profiles of newcomers entering Canada through the EOI system.
    • The OCC recommends that the federal government use data generated through the EOI system as a window into national and provincial skills shortages.
  13. The EOI system should accommodate employers with lower and semi-skilled labour needs.
    • The federal government should be mindful of the fact that many sectors are having difficulty filling positions that require lower or semi-skilled workers. Advanced skill-sets and positions should not be the only focus of the EOI system.

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.

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