Cherry-picking the best and the brightest for Canada

by Pamela George for New Canadian Media

The 15th National Conference of Metropolis, held in Ottawa from March 14 to 16, saw a large gathering of individuals involved with immigration, including academics, policy-makers, researchers, and immigrant-settlement workers. Over the three days, the discussions centred are the dramatic changes that are happening to Canadian immigration.

The federal government has made significant changes to the Federal Skilled Worker Program and these will take effect from May 2013.  Some of the changes that will be enforced shortly include a greater weightage to the knowledge of one of Canada’s official languages. Applicants will get additional points for their spouse’s adaptability and extra points for Canadian work experience.

Youth will be given greater preference, compared to older immigrants. Immigrant applicants are also required to get their credentials assessed prior to immigration. Those applicants who can demonstrate arranged employment will, of course, find themselves at the head of the queue.

While these changes have been made to streamline immigration and to “choose” the right kind of economic immigrants that the Canadian job market is looking for, there are significant implications for potential immigrants.

The increased emphasis given to official language skills will ensure that immigrants from countries that do not use English or French, like China, or the Latin American countries, for example, will find it harder to get into Canada.

Credentials: a huge shift

The other requirement asking immigrants to validate their credentials against the Canadian education system prior to immigration is also a very significant change. Currently, when an applicant produced their credentials, it was accepted at face value by Canadian immigration. Now, applicants will have to get their credentials accessed by a Canadian-government designated credential assessment agency in their home countries.

How will this change affect applicants from several countries that have a different system of education from Canada?  For example, many countries that are top source countries of immigration currently, have a different system of education, under which a student can graduate after three years of post-secondary education. This change will ensure that future immigration applicants are once again those with very advanced university degrees.

Will immigrants who had their credentials assessed in their home countries have to get it reviewed once again after they land in Canada? Most universities and professional regulatory bodies in Canada insist on doing their own credential assessment. If future immigrants have to go through multiple credential assessments both before and after landing in Canada, it can prove to be both nerve-racking and a very cumbersome financial burden.

All of this, of course, could mean bonanza time for Canadian universities and colleges. They will see enrollment sky-rocket, especially from those who see it as an easy entry point into Canada. In 2011, Canada issued 98, 383 visas for students. These numbers will go up significantly in the coming years as universities vie to get their share of immigrant students on their campuses. Universities even in areas that are not traditionally immigrant havens are rolling out the proverbial red carpet to get more international students – who also incidentally pay higher tuition fees.

So, this is how the future Canadian immigrant will look like: He or she will be in their twenties, highly educated with degrees from international and Canadian universities. They will be extremely fluent in English or French. They will have highly-educated spouses who will also be vying for jobs.

The question is, Will Canada be able to retain them? Currently, only five per cent of international students studying in Canada transition to Permanent Residency. It will be interesting to note if this number will change in the future. – New Canadian Media

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