Canada: Immigrating To Canada: Options For Irish Nationals

Last Updated: March 21 2014
Article by Kate Russell

After months of anticipation, the International Experience Canada (IEC) program opened to Irish nationals without Canadian job offers on March 13, 2014, and in only seven minutes, the first round quota of 3,850 had been filled. 

Mutual interests:  Canada needs workers, Irish youth need work

Irish youth have developed an overwhelming interest in immigrating to Canada, and this has only been spurred by an unusually long wait for the open work permit program to become available to Irish nationals in 2014.

An aggressive campaign to attract Irish tradespeople to fill skilled labour shortages in Canada's western provinces was launched in late 2012, when then-Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Jason Kenney visited Dublin's Working Abroad Expo recruitment fair.  Kenney touted Irish apprenticeship programs as developing exactly the skills that are required in Canada's West.  Participation in the IEC was strongly encouraged, with a promise to grant more work permits to Irish nationals under the program in the coming years.  Calgary Economic Development is now leading the recruitment mission to Ireland, and 20 delegates from six companies will be travelling to the Expo from March 22 to 30, 2014, to attract the skilled labour that will fuel Canada's continued economic growth.

Though the IEC will make another 3,850 open work permits available to Irish applicants in the near future, the demand that was demonstrated in the first round has made it clear that there just aren't enough spaces in the program to go around.

This year's IEC program made a further 2,500 work permits available to Irish Young Professionals who have already secured job offers in Canada, and 500 more to those who will be completing co-op programs as part of their post-secondary studies.  It is anticipated that these allocations will not be exhausted as quickly as those available to Irish youth who have yet to arrange employment in Canada. 

While the Young Professionals stream is available, employers need only make a job offer to the right Irish candidate before an application can be filed.  Routine applications are generally processed within eight weeks of submission.

What else can be done to bring Irish skills to Canada?

There are a number of other ways that employers can be authorized to hire skilled Irish labour, without the IEC.  Some require a job offer and recruitment process, while others require only the right set of skills.

Labour Market Opinions

Labour Market Opinions (LMOs) are issued by Service Canada to confirm that there are no Canadians available for a particular role in Canada, and that the employer must hire a temporary foreign worker (TFW) in order to satisfy business needs.  LMOs have become notoriously difficult to obtain in the past year, as a result of a number of substantial changes to the TFW program in 2013.

Dale & Lessmann LLP can assist employers to ensure that their recruitment processes are in line with the requirements of the TFW program so that they are ready to apply for an LMO should they find that there are no qualified Canadians available for the role in Canada.  Sound recruitment is the cornerstone of the TFW program, and Service Canada seems to have a no-tolerance policy towards any variation from the requirements they have established.

Pilot Projects

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) has developed a number of pilot projects that are intended to address specific labour needs without a long-term commitment from the government.

Alberta and Yukon currently have pilot projects available to those who have job offers in specific trades or industries.  These pilot projects exempt employers from the LMO requirement, and an Irish worker with a job offer and the right skills could obtain a work permit with relative ease and little preparation time.

Our firm has experience in preparing applications under each of these pilot projects, and understands the special requirements CIC has implemented to ensure that these projects do satisfy the economic needs that have inspired their creation.

Provincial Nomination Programs

Canada has also developed Provincial Nomination Programs (PNPs) as a way to grant provinces the opportunity to select immigrants based on their specific economic needs.  The program requirements for each province vary, and several provinces have developed strategies to bring workers to Canada who have yet to obtain a job offer.  Acceptance under a PNP program would not only lead to the issuance of a work permit, but also to permanent residence in Canada for the Irish worker.  This would of course be a fantastic long-term strategy for companies who find themselves at risk of losing Irish employees when IEC work permits expire.

In many cases, PNP programs are a faster and more cost-effective way to bring Irish nationals to work in Canada.  However, the PNP process can be intimidating because it requires multiple processing stages.  Our firm is experienced in preparing applications under the PNP and obtaining work permits for those who have been selected by a Province for permanent residence.

Spouses of Skilled Workers

There is a program available to the spouses of high skilled workers that allows their spouses (including common-law and same-sex relationships) to obtain open work permits without a job offer.  This program is also available in many cases where the high skilled worker obtained a work permit through the IEC program.  The open work permit will normally be valid for the same duration as the one issued for the high-skilled worker.

What does all this mean?

While the federal government continues to work on long-term strategies to ensure that Canada is able to leverage immigration programs to meet economic demands, it is clear that CIC is actively courting Irish citizens for the skills and adaptability they offer.

Many Irish nationals are extremely disappointed not to have been granted a space in the IEC, as they have been anticipating a move to Canada for several months prior to the program's delayed launch in March 2014.  Further, many Canadian employers are worried that their plans to hire Irish workers with the right skills will be jeopardized by the limited number of work permits issued under the program.

Those who did not get a place in the program do have other options.  We can help you determine if there is another way to obtain the work permit that will set Irish nationals on their way to making positive contributions to Canada's economic growth.

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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