Only 10 per cent of invitations to immigrate to Canada now go to those with a job offer, down from 40 per cent before changes were made in November 2016.
Canada’s rebooted economic immigration selection system has created a bigger pool of eligible candidates by making it easier to apply without a job offer.
With the tweaking of criteria by the federal government more than a year ago, applicants with backgrounds in industrial, electrical and construction trades have become less competitive while international students are getting a boost because their Canadian education is now worth more.
According to the latest immigration data, a total of 101,107 eligible applicants were entered into the candidate pool from January to November, 2016, when Ottawa changed its selection system that ranks them and invites those who make the cut-off in each draw to apply for immigration under the economic class. Draws are held multiple times each year.
In the six months after the introduction of changes that included drastically reducing the bonus points awarded to candidates with job offers, 77,207 were entered into the pool. Although the 2017 total of candidates is not yet available, it’s bound to surpass the total from the year before.
Before the changes, almost 40 per cent of those invited to apply for immigration had a job offer. Now, only one in 10 applies with a job already lined up.
The changes to the system place a greater emphasis on so-called human capital — personal attributes such as age, education and language proficiency — and have won the praise of immigration experts, who have argued those qualities are more important for newcomers to succeed in Canada in the long run.
“It is difficult to predict an economy’s long-term needs. A skill shortage now may not be a skill shortage five years from now,” said Kareem El-Assal, senior research associate specializing in immigration policy at the Conference Board of Canada.
“But we know someone who is young, educated and fluent in our official languages is going to adapt to any economic condition.”
The former Conservative government launched what’s known as the Express Entry system that favoured immigrants with job offers to meet employers’ immediate short-term labour market needs, so newcomers could hit the ground running upon arrival.
However, due to the emphasis on job offers, the system ended up bringing in more food service supervisors and cooks than any other professionals, calling into question its goal to attract the world’s best and brightest.
“The system downplayed human capital. It excluded many international students who had little job experience, and brought in cooks, restaurant workers and retail workers,” said El-Assal.
“There’s nothing wrong with that, but we need to think long term when selecting our immigrants to make sure they succeed in the long term in a variety of occupations.”
Toronto immigration lawyer Mario Bellissimo said the new system still gives an edge to applicants with job offers as it continues to give extra points to candidates who already have jobs here.
“However, sometimes it may take them a few rounds before they are selected, where as prior it almost guaranteed,” said Bellissimo. “We also see a lot of younger, well-educated professionals from abroad receiving the invitations to apply, given the lower (threshold) scores.”
Under the revamped system, more emphasis is placed on applicants with Canadian education credentials, hence the number of people with study experience in Canada selected as immigrants increased dramatically to 21,433, or 40 per cent of the total immigration invitations in the first six months after the changes were made. By comparison from January to November 2016, only 8,592 or 30 per cent of those invited to immigrate had Canadian educational credentials.
Meanwhile, those with backgrounds in trades also dropped significantly from 1,827 or 6 per cent before the changes to only 900 or 2 per cent because these candidates don’t have that much of an edge with their job offers and tend to score poorly with lower formal education.
Immigration Canada spokesperson Faith St. John said the department is pleased with the initial impact of the changes made to the system.
“Express Entry is Canada’s flagship application management system for key economic immigration programs. Programs managed through the system attract high skilled foreign workers who want to live in Canada permanently and whose in-demand skills are needed by employers across the country,” she said.
“As a result, newcomers are able to more quickly put their skills to use and help strengthen and grow Canada’s economy.”
The conference board’s El-Assal said the revamped system strikes the right balance between Canada’s long- and short-term economic needs, but Ottawa must streamline the labour market impact assessment process to allow employers to prove no Canadian can fill and position and quickly issue a job offer to a prospective immigrant candidate.
He said officials must also tweak the ranking system further to give an edge to Francophone immigration applicants, especially those destined outside of Quebec, who only make up 1,153 or just 2.2 per cent of the number of people invited to immigrate to Canada under Express Entry — to make the distribution of Francophone Canadians more even geographically.
Candidates from India have accounted for the largest share among those selected for immigration, with their share jumping to 22,760 or 43 per cent of the total from January to May in 2017 from 8,901 or 31 per cent in 2016.
Both China and Nigeria have also seen their numbers up exponentially. The former more than doubled to 5,231 from 2,055 while the latter almost quadrupled to 2,900 from 815. China and India are the two leading source countries of foreign students in Canada.
However, the number of Filipino candidates selected for immigration has dropped by more than half to 813 from 1,661 under the revamped system.