Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Canadian Experience Class – Boon or Bane?

Filipiniana News
14 August 2008

Citizenship and Immigration Canada recently announced details on the much touted Canadian Experience Class (CEC) within the current immigration system.  When the idea was first introduced a year or so ago, it was promoted as a solution to the problems relating to the unemployment or underemployment of immigrants whose credentials are not recognized in the Canadian system.

In a nutshell, the CEC is a class of individuals who are eligible to apply for permanent resident status from within Canada provided certain criteria are satisfied.  Those who are deemed eligible to apply under this class are holders of study and work permits who have valid temporary resident status when the permanent resident application is submitted. 

For study permit holders, they must have obtained a degree or diploma from an accredited Canadian educational institution after two years of full time study and must have obtained full time work experience within NOC level O, A or B after obtaining the Canadian degree or diploma. 

For work permit holders, they must have obtained at least two years of full time work experience in NOC level O, A or B within the three years prior to submitting the permanent resident application.

The jobs which are generally deemed to fall under the National Occupational Classification (NOC) level O are management occupations; level A are the professional occupations and level B are the technical occupations or skilled trades.

In addition to valid temporary resident status, full time work and/or study in Canada, the applicants must meet a certain level of language proficiency in English or French preferably through an official language testing centre.  A moderate degree of proficiency is required for those falling under NOC level O and A, while a basic degree of proficiency will be required for those falling under NOC level B.

While I can only agree that this is a step in the right direction, it has yet to prove its worth in terms of effectively addressing the many issues raised by the current immigration system.  Even prior to its actual implementation, a number of issues can already be foreseen as being potentially controversial, some of which are as follows:

Inland or Overseas Processing?

While it is claimed to be an inland application, submission packages are to be sent to the Canadian Consulate in Buffalo, New York for processing.   When the permanent resident visa is issued, the applicant can land at a port of entry or at a CIC office.  If an interview will be required however prior to the issuance of the visa, the person would still have to travel to the USA or the file may be transferred to the home country if a U.S. visa cannot be obtained.

One wonders how this new system could be any better than the current one.  At present,  a study or work permit holder in Canada who has been granted temporary resident status for at least a year is nonetheless qualified to send in a permanent resident application to the Canadian Consulate in Buffalo.  With the CEC class, the applicant has to satisfy at least two years of full time work experience in Canada before even becoming qualified to apply.   Why should one wait to meet the two-year requirement when one is already qualified to send in a PR application to Buffalo upon being granted one one-year work or study permit?

Hopefully, the difference that the CEC can make will be in terms of expediting applications and facilitating a more systematic processing of applications which meet the criteria laid out by this new class.

English Language Requirement – A Redundancy?

The wisdom of requiring English language testing for those who have already been admitted to (and presumably passed the school’s language requirements), and studied full time at accredited Canadian educational institutions, has been questioned by many.   The same is true for those who have received genuine job offers by Canadian companies, worked full time for at least two years in jobs classified under NOC skill level O, A or B.  Why require further English language testing for these people when they have proven their language ability through their years of integration into the Canadian system?

Even stronger protests have come from native English or French language speakers who are likewise required to undergo similar language testing to prove something they have acquired since birth.      

While the recent guidelines suggest that other written proof of language skills may be accepted, it is “only recommended for native English and French speakers”.   Therefore, the fact that this requirement exists still raises issues of necessity, on top of the additional expense it entails on the applicants. 

Gaps in Health Insurance Coverage

By its very nature, the CEC includes individuals who have lived and worked in Canada for at least two years and have thus integrated into the Canadian system, including possession of health insurance coverage.  If they were student permit holders, they would have been required to purchase the University Health Insurance Program (UHIP) while the LMO-based work permit holders would have qualified for OHIP (if based in Ontario).   However, as had been the experience of current open work permit holders under the post-graduation work permit program, they suddenly find themselves without health coverage because the provincial health law excludes them from coverage.   This is also true for live-in caregivers who have qualified to apply for permanent residence from within Canada and obtained open work permits in the interim.   After years of being covered by OHIP, they suddenly find themselves without public health insurance.  Whether this was due to lack of coordination between, or careless oversight by, our federal and provincial legislators, it is clear that this is a matter that needs to be corrected as soon as possible.

Let us hope that the implementation of the CEC will include thoughtful consideration of these and other related concerns for the true benefit of immigrants, rather than to simply gain their precious votes. 

The author is an immigration lawyer in Toronto and may be reached at mdsantos@osgoode.yorku.ca.