Canada: Immigration Update @ Gowlings - December 2008

Last Updated: December 16 2008

Edited by Bill MacGregor and Lesley Love


  • About Immigration Update @ Gowlings
  • New Three Year Duration for U.S. NAFTA TN Visas
  • Canada Changes Federal Skilled Worker Program
  • Expedited Temporary Foreign Worker Applications to CPC Vegreville
  • Canada Announces Immigration Levels for 2009
  • Update on Documentation Required to Enter the U.S. by Land
  • E-Passport Requirements for Citizens of Poland and Lithuania
  • Worker Memorandum signed between Alberta and the Philippines
  • U.S. Visa Waiver Program Expands
  • H-1B Cap for 2010

About Immigration Update @ Gowlings

The ability to move personnel across borders and to recruit skilled workers from abroad is of increasing importance to many business operations. It is essential that companies and their personnel recognize and comply with applicable immigration laws. Immigration Update @ Gowlings, prepared by Gowlings' Immigration Practice Group, provides information on corporate immigration matters, including new developments and changes that may affect your ability to move personnel across borders. Gowlings' Immigration Practice Group offers a full range of immigration services and strategic solutions to clients. For example, we assist with executive transfers, and with obtaining business visitor status, work permits, temporary resident visas, permanent resident status and citizenship.

New Three Year Duration for U.S. NAFTA TN Visas

TN (Trade NAFTA) status is a special non-immigrant status which allows Canadian and Mexican citizens the opportunity to work in the United States in certain professional occupations. Up until October 16, 2008 TN work visas were granted to Canadians and Mexicans in one-year increments. The new rule allows an individual to obtain a TN work visa for up to three years. TN status may be renewed indefinitely in three-year increments.

It remains to be seen if Canada will amend its NAFTA rules and follow the U.S. lead on providing three year work permits under this category. As of December 2008, Americans or Mexicans seeking NAFTA Professional/TN work visas to work in Canada are still limited to obtaining one year work permits.

USCIS Update on New Rule
Detailed Final Rule Regarding TN Work Visa Duration

Canada Changes Federal Skilled Worker Program

On November 28 the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration issued instructions for the Federal Skilled Worker program which identifies applications which will be given priority processing and sets out a list of occupations which are considered to be currently in demand in Canada. The instructions alter Canada's Federal Skilled Worker Program and make it an occupations based system.

In order for an application to be processed, it must qualify under one of the following sub-categories:

  • Applications submitted with an offer of arranged employment; or
  • Applications submitted by foreign nationals who have been residing legally in Canada for at least one year as temporary foreign workers or international students; or
  • Applications from skilled workers with evidence of one year of work experience under one of the 38 occupations set out in the Ministerial Instructions' Occupations List.

The changes are intended to decrease the backlog of permanent resident applications, and to allow for faster processing times for new applications. The government will be able to issue new Ministerial Instructions from time to time to change the listed occupations as the Canadian labour market changes

News Release
Ministerial Instructions - Backgrounder

Expedited Temporary Foreign Worker Applications to CPC Vegreville

In an attempt to reduce processing delays on work permit applications at the Case Processing Centre in Vegreville, Alberta, a decision has been made to divide applications into "new employer" versus "existing employer" streams. With this new procedure, temporary foreign workers who are seeking to work for a new employer will benefit from faster processing times.

Applicants with new employers will be given priority. A "new employer" is any employer with whom the foreign national does not have a valid work permit. Since foreign workers must wait for a new work permit to be issued prior to starting with a new employer, this procedural change will allow for quicker transitions.

Applications for work permit extensions with the same employer will continue to be dealt with in the order that they are received by CPC Vegreville. Such workers can have implied status to continue working while their applications are being processed, and therefore priority processing is not seen as being required.

The change became effective on November 14, 2008. In order to take advantage of the new procedure, eligible work permit applications need to be sent to the proper processing Unit at CPC Vegreville.

Operational Bulletin re new Vegreville Work Permit Application Procedures

Canada Announces Immigration Levels for 2009

Jason Kenney, Canada's Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, announced on November 28, 2008 that Canada will welcome between 240,000 and 265,000 new permanent residents. This is consistent with 2008 immigration levels. He said that the numbers reflect a continued commitment to an immigration program that balances Canadian economic, humanitarian and family reunification goals.

According to the 2009 plan, Canada will take in up to 156,600 immigrants in the economic category; 71,000 immigrants in the family category; and 37,400 immigrants in the humanitarian category.

News Release

Update on Documentation Required to Enter the U.S. by Land

Up until May 31, 2009, Canadian citizens entering the United States by land or water may use a government-issued photo ID, such as a driver's licence, and a birth certificate or a Canadian citizenship card.

Starting June 1, 2009 the U.S. will introduce tighter rules for Canadian and U.S. citizens traveling by land into the U.S. As of that date, Canadians must ensure that they have acceptable documentation to enter the U.S. by land. Passports or NEXUS cards are acceptable. In addition, for entry by land or water (but not by air) the U.S. Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) allows Canadians to use an enhanced driver's licence, which Canadian provinces have been, or will be, introducing. Non-compliant driver's licences will not be acceptable as of June 1.

Canadian citizens who are 15 years of age or under will only require proof of citizenship, such as an original or a copy of a birth certificate, or a Canadian citizenship card, to be able to enter the U.S. by land.

We recommend that any Canadians needing to travel to the U.S. for business purposes, including those entering by land only, should obtain a passport well in advance of any entry.

U.S. Entry Requirements for Canadians
Accepted Documents for U.S. Entry

E-Passport Requirements for Citizens of Poland and Lithuania

Beginning on January 1, 2009 Citizens of Poland and Lithuania will be required to obtain an e-passport for travel to Canada without a temporary resident visa (TRV). An e-passport contains additional security features compared to a regular passport and have been issued by Poland and Lithuania since August 28, 2006. Only citizens with an e-passport will be able to travel to Canada without a TRV. Citizens who do not hold an e-passport will be required to apply for and obtain a TRV prior to their travel to Canada.

Notice Regarding E-Passport Requirements

Worker Memorandum signed between Alberta and the Philippines

A Memorandum of Understanding has been signed between the province of Alberta and the Philippines in an effort to ease labour shortages and improve the flow of Filipino workers into the province. The agreement will explore shared priorities, such as meeting occupational standards, improving recruitment and employment practices, and promoting employment opportunities in Alberta.

The agreement contains information on:

  • fees charged by employment agencies;
  • the sharing of labour market information;
  • exploring potential partnerships to deliver Alberta-recognized nursing and related education programs in the Philippines;
  • how Alberta and the Philippines will approach the comparability of credentials and qualifications in the skilled trades; and
  • ongoing cooperation.

Last year, nearly 6,000 temporary foreign workers from the Philippines entered Alberta.

News Release from Alberta

U.S. Visa Waiver Program Expands

The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) enables eligible citizens of certain countries to travel to the United States for tourism or business for stays of 90 days or less without first having to obtain a visa.

Seven countries have been added to the list: the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, the Republic of Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, and Slovakia.

In our last newsletter we commented on changes to the VWP and the introduction of a new Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). Beginning January 12, 2009, eligible citizens or nationals from VWP countries must obtain approval through the ESTA prior to traveling to the United States under the VWP.

U.S. Changes to VWP
General Information on VWP
ESTA Information and Application Process

H-1B Cap for 2010

It is time to start thinking about filing your H-1B applications for 2010. As the fiscal year for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) starts on October 1st each year, October 1, 2009 is the start date for new (2010) H-1B work visas. A cap-subject H-1B can be filed no earlier than April 1, 2009, with a requested start date for the H-1B petition no earlier than October 1, 2009.

The H-1B limit, or "cap," is the number of H-1B cases that can be approved each year as "new" H-1B filings. The annual limit on H-1B cap-subject approvals is 65,000, with a separate allocation of 20,000 cap exemptions for beneficiaries who hold U.S. masters' degrees or higher. The cap is a concern for persons seeking to enter the U.S. for the first time on an H-1B.

Last year the cap was reached on the first day of filing, and new H-1B work visas were issued based on a lottery. It is therefore imperative that new H-1B applications be prepared in advance so that they are submitted on April 1, 2009.

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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