B.C. hits pause button on skilled worker immigration program

posted on March 31, 2015

By Tara Carman, Vancouver Sun | Link to Article

By Tara Carman, Vancouver Sun | Link to Article

The B.C. government is putting a 90-day pause on its provincial nominee immigration program, citing a glut of recent applications from temporary foreign workers, some of whom will be forced to leave Canada starting Wednesday.

Immigration to B.C. is mostly controlled by Ottawa, but the provincial government selects 5,500 skilled workers each year based on local labour market demands.

Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training Minister Shirley Bond pushed the hold button on the program Tuesday, saying the application backlog is already longer than the number of spaces available for the entire year.

“We think it is essential that we take some time to rebalance the program, to make sure that we are dealing with the applications that are currently in the processing lineup,” Bond said Tuesday. “We’ve seen a significant increase in the number of applications. We noticed the trend specifically after the changes were made to the temporary foreign worker program (and) a number of other changes made at the federal level.”

Federal changes introduced last year to the temporary foreign worker program placed stringent limits on the number of people employers could bring in amid allegations the program was being used to displace Canadian workers. Those changes also place a four-year limit on how long temporary foreign workers can stay in Canada. Starting Wednesday, those who have stayed more than four years and do not have a preliminary positive decision on a permanent residence application must leave the country and wait another four years before reapplying to the program. If the workers do not leave, they have no legal status in Canada and are subject to removal.

These changes do not apply to the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program and are unlikely to affect live-in caregivers.

The provincial nominee program, which provides a path to permanent residence, has become overwhelmed by applications from temporary foreign workers, Bond said.

The timing of the province’s announcement is likely not an accident, said Vancouver immigration lawyer Richard Kurland.

“No surprise to see the very day that the four-year max rule comes into effect for tens of thousands of foreign workers, B.C. closes its doors to PNP. And that should help encourage the foreign workers to understand that their time in Canada is up.”

The B.C. system also needs time to adjust to Ottawa’s Jan. 1 introduction of Express Entry, a new selection system that chooses immigrants on the basis of job market suitability rather than order of application, Bond said.

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