Immigration Categories

New Category: Foreign Students and Workers
Canadian Experience Class (CEC)

Regulations Amending the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (Canadian Experience Class)
Source: Canada Gazette website.

Issue: Canada's immigration program supports the Government's economic agenda by contributing to labour force growth and bringing in the skilled workers needed by employers and communities. Consequently, the Government is creating the new Canadian Experience Class (CEC) aimed at building a more responsive and attractive immigration system.

Description: The Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (IRPR) will be amended to create this new class and to describe the requirements for selection under this class. The CEC aims to facilitate the transition from temporary to permanent residence for certain temporary foreign workers and foreign students, thus helping to attract and retain qualified workers. Selection will be based on a pass/fail system and not a points system, as under the Federal Skilled Worker Program.

Cost-benefit statement: This new class will contribute to overall labour force growth by bringing in the talent that Canadian employers and communities need. Several positive qualitative and quantitative impacts are expected, particularly in terms of improved business competitiveness, reduced immigrant integration and settlement costs, and streamlined case processing and client service. Over a five-year period, it has been estimated that the Government of Canada will incur total costs of approximately $83 million, while about $25 million will be recovered through application fees. Funding for screening and security was provided in Budget 2007.

Business and consumer impacts: CEC will be accommodated within the overall immigration levels planned for the current year so the number of permanent immigrants admitted will remain the same. However, the profile of these immigrants will differ. More economic immigrants will have valuable Canadian experience and will be able to better integrate into the Canadian labour market. Better alignment of immigrants with employer needs will have a positive impact on business.

Domestic and international coordination and cooperation: As this initiative is aimed at eliminating barriers to the granting of permanent resident status, there is no discernible impact on Canada's current international obligations or agreements. However, global competition has intensified as many countries develop immigration policies aimed at attracting and retaining skilled workers. By facilitating the transition from temporary to permanent residence, Canada will become a more attractive destination and therefore more competitive in attracting talent from around the world.

Issue: While an enhanced flow of skilled workers can help build Canada's economy, a lack of skilled workers to fill positions can act as a bottleneck. With nearly full employment, an aging population and skill shortages, there is an immediate need to ensure Canadian employers can access the skills they need. Immigration contributes to labour force growth and brings in the talent that employers and communities need. At the same time, global competition for skilled workers is intensifying; as a result, Canada's immigration program must evolve to ensure that Canada remains a destination of choice.

Currently, the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP) is the main avenue for economic immigrants to Canada. The FSWP is facing challenges that are hampering our labour market responsiveness and our ability to compete internationally for skilled workers. Those who applied prior to Bill C-50 changes (i.e. prior to February 27, 2008) will experience long wait times due to the backlog, which is frustrating to both applicants and employers. Furthermore, the FSWP's emphasis on formal education limits its responsiveness to labour market demand for skilled tradespersons such as construction workers. Moreover, successful applicants are not fully meeting the labour market needs of communities outside the three major metropolitan areas, due to highly concentrated settlement patterns.

As a result, employers are increasingly turning to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) to meet their human resource needs. Although the TFWP aims to address temporary labour shortages, temporary foreign workers are now staying in Canada longer, suggesting that employers are using this foreign workforce to meet longer-term needs.

Consequently, in response to the challenges and pressures described above, the Government plans to implement the proposed new CEC to contribute to a more responsive and attractive immigration system.

Objectives: The CEC has been designed to Attract more temporary foreign workers and foreign students to Canada and retain them as permanent residents, thereby enhancing Canada's ability to compete against countries like Australia that have similar programs.

Encourage more dispersed settlement patterns, thereby better meeting regional labour market needs, as foreign students and TFWs are more geographically dispersed than FSWP immigrants.

Improve immigrant outcomes by selecting those best positioned for successful labour market integration. Evidence shows that immigrants with Canadian study and/or work experience and who have good language skills integrate into the Canadian labour market more successfully than immigrants without such characteristics. The Government understands the issues around foreign credential recognition and the CEC is not intended to circumvent these challenges.

Eligibility - The CEC will be limited to Skill Type 0 Management Occupations, Skill Level A (professional occupations), or Skill Level B (technical occupations and skilled trades) of the National Occupation Classifications (NOC). Lower-skilled occupations (NOC skill levels C and D) will not be eligible, as they are more vulnerable in economic downturns. Consequently, caution should be taken prior to increasing the pool of lower-skilled workers.

All applicants must have come to Canada to work or study, have been lawfully admitted to Canada, and have temporary resident status in Canada at the time of application for the CEC. Foreign nationals who are already in the process of receiving their permanent resident status through other avenues do not qualify under the CEC. Also, recipients of select Government of Canada awards for foreign students will not qualify for the CEC as one of the primary objectives of those programs is that these students return to their own countries to apply the experience that they acquired in Canada.

Selection - The CEC will select on a pass/fail model, and not a points system, as under the FSWP. The selection criteria to qualify for the class will be tied to determinants of successful labour market integration: possession of a Canadian credential (only in the case of foreign graduates), Canadian skilled work experience, and official language proficiency.

The proposed Regulations create two distinct streams with different thresholds for each selection criterion, one for recent foreign graduates, and the other for temporary foreign workers. Foreign graduates will need to obtain 12 months of legal work experience within a 24-month period prior to making a CEC application, obtain a Canadian credential by studying in Canada full-time for at least two academic years, and meet the language benchmark for their occupation skill level. Temporary foreign workers will need to obtain 24 months of legal work experience in Canada within a 36-month period prior to making a CEC application and meet the language benchmark for their occupation skill level.

With regards to language thresholds, applicants with qualifying Canadian work experience at NOC 0 or A will need to demonstrate moderate proficiency in French or English. Applicants with qualifying Canadian work experience at NOC B will need to demonstrate basic proficiency in French or English.