Crackdown planned for foreign worker program

Posted by admin on May 24th, 2009

May 24, 2009, Nicholas Keung. Toronto Star

Ottawa is planning to restrict job offers to foreign workers in an attempt to discourage fraud and clamp down on those who try to bypass the rigorous immigrant selection system introduced last year, the Star has learned. The federal government specifically wants to target small and medium-sized employers, who allegedly are more likely to make fraudulent job offers – which can help foreign nationals enter Canada on work permits or immigrant visas – in return for kickbacks.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada has refused to reveal details of the plan, but two sources familiar with the proposed changes told the Star they could hurt legitimate employers – and eliminate the advantages of having a job lined up for prospective migrants.

These changes, sources say, could also hurt prospective landed immigrants with needed labour and trades backgrounds who, under the strict point system, may need the extra points of a job offer to make up for a shortfall in education.

Applicants in the skilled immigrant category receive 15 extra points toward the passing mark of 67 if they can secure job offers from genuine employers, who often use the lure of permanent residence to attract such workers from abroad.

Such applications are processed even if an applicant doesn’t qualify under the 38 government-stipulated occupations introduced last year.

Currently, a candidate’s immigration application can proceed only after Service Canada has assessed a Canadian employer to verify its labour needs. An employer with even one employee may qualify.

The sources said Ottawa wants to limit the program to employers that have at least five employees and $2.5 million in annual revenues and have been five years in business.

Immigration and Service Canada officials “are working to improve the program, including the establishment of monitoring and compliance measures to increase protections for workers and help ensure employers meet their obligations under the program,” said Immigration spokesperson Danielle Norris.

Phil Mooney, president of the Canadian Association of Professional Immigration Consultants, said the government’s move is prompted by concerns that people could enter Canada via fraudulent job offers.

Under the current system, there’s little follow-up to ensure an offered job materializes upon an individual’s arrival, Mooney said. It’s believed a larger company would provide more checks and balances to ensure a job offer is legitimate, he said.

Toronto immigration lawyer Shoshana Green said there’s “just no other way” to get some immigrants into Canada unless they get job offers.

Both the Conference Board of Canada and Toronto Board of Trade refused to comment because no formal announcement has been made about the changes.

Government statistics show more than 3,900 job offers to prospective immigrants were assessed last year. Eighty per cent of them approved, up from 2,038 offers and a 56 per cent approval rating the year before.

In the first quarter of this year alone, 1,117 applications were processed and 75 per cent of them were approved. It is not known how many came from small employers.



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