2012 Budget outlines plans for Canada’s Immigration System

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With much anticipation, the Canadian Government released its 2012 Budget in March, called the Economic Action Plan 2012. The Budget’s focus: key drivers of growth and job creation — innovation, investment, education, skills and communities. While the budget may only be of interest to Canadians following the news, politics or to those with jobs directly affected, foreigners wanting to come to Canada should take note.  Regardless if you are an entrepreneur, business professional, skilled trades worker, student or refugee, the 2012 Budget will affect if and how you come to Canada as a permanent resident.

The Canadian Government’s 2012 Budget plans to:

  • Improve the processing efficiency of the immigration system to meet current labour demands.
  • Realign the Temporary Foreign Worker Program to meet labour market needs, with a strong focus on skilled tradespeople.
  • Support improvements to foreign credential recognition and identify future target occupations.
  • Centralize operations, like scaling down visa processing offices overseas.
  • Work with provinces and territories to create a talent pool of foreign workers.
  • Change the skilled worker point system to favour younger immigrants with Canadian work experience and language skills.
  • Return skilled worker applications and fees to applicants who applied before 2008 and have been waiting for processing to be completed.

The last point, the return of skilled workers applications submitted before 2008 and still in process, took the media spotlight. It is the Government’s solution to clear some of the backlog and is not good news for the thousands hopeful applicants who will have to re-apply under a current permanent residency program. Close to 300,000 applicants can expect their applications to be returned, and a total of $130 million in processing fees will be returned.

Furthermore, while many of the government departments will experience heavy financial cuts, the Immigration department has been spared in comparison. Over 3 years, the department will cut about $179 million, of which close to $23 million will be from the Immigration and Refugee Board to save on overhead costs and operations, such as streamlining processing at visa offices.

In the next few months, we can expect further discussion, debate and development of these plans. There is no doubt the criticisms will continue, but it’s clear the immigration system requires major improvements. Canada needs to attract young adults, skilled professionals and entrepreneurs, but most importantly retain them so that these individuals, their families and the rest of the community can prosper.

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