Express entry, not foreign workers, should be top choice for business: McCallum
VANCOUVER — Canada’s immigration minister wants to make a federal program that fast-tracks permanent residency for skilled workers the top choice for businesses seeking employees from overseas.
John McCallum told a group of immigration lawyers in Vancouver that he wants to hear their input as the government continues a review of its express entry program.
He told the Canadian Bar Association’s Immigration Law Conference that he recently met with businesspeople through the Ontario Chamber of Commerce who ranked the different streams they could use to bring in immigrants.
The minister said temporary foreign workers topped the list, while provincial nominees were in the middle and express entry was at the bottom — an order McCallum says he’d like to see reversed.
Express entry was launched by the previous Conservative government to meet Canada’s labour needs by securing permanent residency for highly skilled foreigners in six months or less.
McCallum previously announced that the new Liberal government is launching a review of the program and hopes to make it easier for international students to become permanent residents after they have graduated from Canadian post-secondary institutions.
“The challenge with me is to improve express entry to make it more flexible, more fluid, more accessible, more desirable for those businesses wanting to bring immigrants to this country,” McCallum said on Friday.
He said the government is looking at a number of options, including giving more points to students under the express entry program, which currently prioritizes immigrants who are skilled workers.
“I think the best source of immigrants for Canada is international students … because they know French and English, because they know Canada, because they’re educated, because they’re young,” McCallum said. “We should court them. We should encourage them to come here.”
McCallum said the government is also considering limiting or eliminating the use of labour market impact assessments under express entry. The assessments are documents employers can apply for to show there is no Canadian who can do a specific job. The assessments are worth a high number of points under the program.
The suggestion drew loud applause from the crowd, but McCallum stressed over the clapping that he was not committing to the idea.
However, he said changes to the way international students are assessed under the program were almost certainly going to happen and the minister said he hoped to move quickly.
“There is some urgency in this matter,” he said. “Stage one, which I hope would be soon, would be to give more points to the students, and stage two, further down the road after more study, would be to do other things to improve express entry.”
Stephane Duval, Canadian Bar Association national immigration section chair, said after the event that he was very encouraged by McCallum’s focus on reforming express entry for international students, who lost a clear path to residency after the Conservatives introduced the program.
“We see better communications with the actual minister, with the actual government, than what we are used to since the last 10 years or so,” he said. “So we’re very happy and looking forward to more discussion with the minister.”