Monday 22 February 2016

Shipping the good apples back

Mike Moffatt writes on the tragedy of Canadian immigration policy for skilled graduates. Some of the world's best go to Canadian universities. After graduation, Canadian Immigration makes it impossible to employ them, so they have to go home.
The issue stems, in part, from year-old changes to Canada’s express entry system which makes it impossible for someone in the PGWPP program to gain express entry without a Labour Market Impact Assessment, as chronicled by Nicholas Keung:
The problem, which the federal government denies, lies in the significance given to a certificate called the Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). It is issued by Ottawa to ensure a candidate’s skills are sufficiently in demand to warrant hiring an immigrant.

Ottawa says applicants for Express Entry, such as international graduates, do not need an LMIA to qualify. But Express Entry acceptance is based on a point system and it’s not possible to earn enough points without an LMIA, immigration experts say.

“The new system is flawed,” said Toronto immigration lawyer Shoshana Green. “We want people who went to school and have work experience in Canada. These people are already fully integrated. And now we are ignoring them. It is just bizarre.”
The process to obtain a LMIA is arduous for smaller growth companies, and navigating it can be difficult, as immigration lawyer Ronalee Carey describes:
Last month I sent a young woman back to Japan. She’d come to Canada as an international student first to finish high school, then to attend Sheridan College in their Animation Program. Her employer consulted me after their Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA), because her position was denied. They had been paying her the median wage for Ontario, as opposed to Ottawa, which was slightly higher. Meanwhile, they had no idea there were median wages specific to Ottawa. They offered her a raise and resubmitted the LMIA application.

But it was too late.

The young woman had been working on a post-graduate work permit. It had expired, and she’d applied for an extension. However, a positive LMIA was required for the extension. Ultimately, her work permit application was denied, because the new LMIA application had not yet been processed.

And so on the plane she went.
These stories are all too common according to the tech firms I have spoken to. In order to obtain an LMIA, one must prove to the federal government that “there is a need for the foreign worker to fill the job you are offering and that there is no Canadian worker available to do the job.” Not only does this place a large burden on growth companies to convince a bureaucrat about the lack of Canadians for the position, it is also completely counterproductive for communities where there is a desperate need for young talent. Furthermore, it may be impossible for these companies to prove this point to the government’s satisfaction. As immigration lawyer Evan Green asked the Globe and Mail, “…how do you prove for someone with [little] work experience that there is no Canadian to do the job?”
New Zealand's system is a bit better. The Study to Work visa lets graduates stay after graduation. But, there's a catch. The graduate can get a one-year post-study work visa while looking for a job. If they then get a job, they can put in for a post-study work visa (employer assisted) which gives another two years.

If you're an employer looking at a likely candidate with six months left on the post-study work visa, you have to weigh up the risk that Immigration might say that the job isn't sufficiently relevant for the qualification the graduate has completed and consequently decline the visa application. It would be more than a bit disappointing to get the employee up to the point where they start being useful, then have them sent away. Probably easy for engineering grads in engineering jobs; maybe not so much for political science grads going on to general office jobs.

The country that moves first in offering permanent residence by default to new grads will have an advantage in attracting great students.

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