Vancouver-based immigrant-settlement organization S.U.C.C.E.S.S. will be opening a new centre in Beijing, China, to help newcomers with the transition to Canada. This makes it the first non-profit to have an overseas pre-arrival centre in a major immigrant source country.
According to a news release, the Active Engagement and Integration Project (AEIP) service centre will provide pre-arrival services such as information on Canadian history, culture, healthcare, transportation, employment, foreign credential recognition and the education system.
The organization has had pre-landing services at overseas offices in South Korea and Taiwan since 2008. This centre will be its first in China and is funded by Citizenship and Immigration Canada for the next two years.
Four stages of support
Johnny Cheng, director of AEIP, said services are provided in four components and the end goal for each section is to plan and prepare people for integration.
“For the immigrants from South Korea and Taiwan, they couldn’t tell what Canada is like. To them, there was no difference between B.C. and Ontario.” – Johnny Cheng, director of AEIP
The first part is an assessment of the challenges each newcomer would face, which allows an action plan to be developed.
“Every immigrant has their own reason for coming to Canada,” Cheng said. “Some may not need a lot of support. Some need information on education because they want to bring their kids to Canada. Others want another career.”
The second part is providing accurate information about a settlement location, its culture and laws.
The director said most people in other countries only understand it’s a free country and it’s why they do as they wish when they arrive.
“For the immigrants from South Korea and Taiwan, they couldn’t tell what Canada is like. To them, there was no difference between B.C. and Ontario.”
The third section is an appointment to go over academic and professional credentials.
Professionals can prepare their paperwork – including translation if necessary – ahead of time and submit them to corresponding trade associations. The organization helps clients put together a resume and provides training on how to do interviews.
Cheng said they also have a program to connect immigrants with potential employers to understand business expectations and facilitate online interviews.
“Many prospective employers don’t give international work experience the same weight as local work experience.” – Vancouver Immigration Partnership
A Vancouver Immigration Partnership document titled “Immigration Matters in Vancouver” said immigrants with specialized professional skills and high educational credentials often have trouble landing jobs in the city.
It said it could be due to lack of information about business practices or credential recognition in Canada.
“Being an immigrant can also mean they lack local Canadian work experience,” the document said. “Many prospective employers don’t give international work experience the same weight as local work experience.”
The work relationship goes both ways as it also said many regulatory organizations struggle to evaluate foreign credentials and work experience.
The final component aims to connect immigrants to community resources. “We link them to the school board, community centres, city government and libraries,” said Cheng. “We also connect with cities to arrange tours for new immigrants to learn more about the city.”
Cheng said a survey on the organization’s services in South Korea and Taiwan showed more than 90 per cent of the immigrants were able to successfully settle down in their selected Canadian neighbourhood within one month of arrival. “They were able to participate in the community and enrol their kids immediately.”
Increasing pre-arrival settlement beneficial for Canada
Over the 40 years the organization has been helping immigrants, Cheng said many people have arrived saying they wanted to find a job and didn’t know they needed specific accreditation, certificates or to obtain a certain level of language proficiency.
“It’s best to do it all before coming to Canada. If they understand the language requirement, some can practise for several months – maybe even a year – before arriving.” – Johnny Cheng, director of AEIP
“It’s best to do it all before coming to Canada,” he said. “If they understand the language requirement, some can practise for several months – maybe even a year – before arriving.”
This will help them find work faster and become a taxpayer sooner, the director explained, which is a benefit to Canada.
Beijing was selected for a pre-landing centre because it’s the capital city with easy access from neighbouring provinces.
Based on B.C. Stats immigrant landings data obtained by journalist Ian Young, the number one immigrant source country from 2005 to 2013 was China, consistently followed by India (second) and the Philippines (third) during those eight years.
Citizenship and Immigration Canada said out of 258,953 permanent residents in 2013, about 34,000 of them were from China. Again, the data shows the same ranking order between China, India and the Philippines.
Cheng said it’s not easy to have an office in China, especially for a non-profit organization. When applying, the organization had to be clear its objective was to help Chinese people plan for immigration – ones who were already approved – and not recruit people to move to Canada.
Despite this, another AEIP centre is scheduled to open in Shanghai later this year.
After expanding in China, Cheng said the organization would look to expand pre-landing services in Japan, India, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam and Australia.
The grand opening of the Beijing centre is scheduled for September 2.
Deanna Cheng is a freelance journalist who has been published in various publications such as Vancouver Courier and Asian Pacific Post. She often covers culture, intersectionality and Vancouver.