On June 1, 2012, Citizenship and Immigration in Canada announced a freeze to the Foreign Skilled Worker (FSW) program in Canada. This came as a surprise to many, including immigration lawyers. We are told that the program will re-open on January 1, 2013 with changes. What should be expected?

“Our government has a plan for a faster, more flexible, responsive, and secure immigration system that will better meet Canada’s economic needs while continuing to uphold our humanitarian commitments,” explained Immigration Minister Jason Kenney. “With our changes, immigrants will see their lives improve, and Canadians will see the economy grow”.

The former FSW program allowed a person to immigrate to Canada if they had the minimum required years of experience in one of 39 professional occupations. It did not require that the immigrant have a job offer from a Canadian employer (unlike another skilled worker program which uses Arranged Employment). The Minister explains that the changes to the FSW program were formulated to benefit both immigrants and the Canadian economy. Changes were apparently needed after a review of 2010 which uncovered that many newly settled immigrants under the program were dissatisfied with their success in Canada. This may have been predictable if the immigrants were coming without a job offer awaiting them. Sounds like a case of “grass is greener on the other side.” I often tell clients that they would fair much better with a job awaiting them then not. My clients sometimes respond that they are not worried, that something will “come up” employment-wise when they settle down, but that their focus now is to move to Canada with their family. The 2010 review done by CIC confirms by fear that coming to a new country with new customs, cultures, language and expectations can make finding a job a real challenge.

Here is a summary of the changes to come:

– Language requirements: All applicants will need to demonstrate a proficiency in either French or English to enable them to apply. The rationale here is that knowledge of one of the two languages in Canada helps a new immigrant adapt and find a job more easily.

– Age: New emphasis will be on younger workers through the points system. In other words, we expect that younger applicants will score much higher than older applicants. Is this age discrimination? Perhaps. But the rationale here is that younger applicants are more attractive to Canada because they will work many more years before retirement and therefore contribute much more to the Canadian economy.

Please stay tuned to our Ezine as we await pronouncements about the new Foreign Skilled Worker Class.