Canada is overhauling its immigration program, cutting backlogs, tweaking existing programs and introducing new ones. Critics have said some of the changes are heavy-handed and too focused on jobs, but the Conservatives – who expect Canada to welcome 250,000 new permanent residents this year – call it a legacy of the government. "I think by the next election, we are going to be talking about a modernized system that is without compare in the world today," Immigration Minister Chris Alexander said. Here are just some of the many programs.
Temporary Foreign Worker
It allows employers to bring in a temporary worker if they can't find one in Canada, and workers face a cap on how long they can stay. But the program has been abused by some companies. The Conservatives are trying to rein it in, saying TFWs should only be a last resort. Reforms were introduced last year and new ones are due in months.
Expression of Interest
Largely a new conduit to implement current programs, Mr. Alexander bills it as a "revolution." EOI is set to kick in next year and will allow would-be immigrants to be matched with jobs that need to be filled, and then processed within six months, much more quickly than immigration cases take now. Done right, he says, it "will ensure that we rely more than ever on immigration to meet the economic needs that can't be met by the domestic labour force."
In late 2012, the government introduced changes to cut down on what it calls "bogus" cases, and now turns away most claims from 37 countries it considers safe. Last year, Canada welcomed what it called a "historic low" of refugee claimants. It has also cut case waiting times.
Provinces get a quota of people to nominate for permanent residency. About 45,000 such new nominees are expected in 2014, but provinces have long asked for a higher quota. Mr. Alexander gave no signal they'd get it. "We want the new growth, starting in January, 2015, to happen under EOI. And we want the provinces to be our partner," he said.
Canadian Experience Class
This is a program for students or workers who've lived in Canada before. Introduced in 2008, Ottawa says this is its fastest-growing immigration stream.