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Employers remain optimistic about Canada as an immigration destination

However, Canada will focus on those already here for permanent residency, immigration lawyer says

Employers remain optimistic about Canada as an immigration destination
Marina Sedai recommends government re-examine the visa system for those from visa-required countries.

A global immigration services provider survey shows that immigration and visa sponsorship remain a top priority for employers, especially as hiring rebounds. Canada’s immigration policies are considered more favourable than those of the U.S., with more visas available and better permanent residency processes.

Given that the last Trump administration restricted immigration more, “most companies are not making all of their plans according to who currently is in power in the U.S.,” says Marina Sedai, an immigration lawyer and principal at Sedai Law Office in Vancouver. Based on their experience with the last administration, “they’re going to continue to behave as though a similar administration will or might get back into power.”

Envoy Global’s Sixth Annual Immigration Trends Report, released on Monday, surveyed more than 500 human resources professionals and hiring managers across the United States on their immigration experiences and how they approach inbound and outbound global immigration processes and challenges. The survey found that 55 per cent of employers were considering Canada primarily as part of their talent acquisition strategy, and 57 per cent reported that they were either considering Canada for expansion or already had an office here.

In October, Parliament announced plans to continue welcoming immigrants at a rate of about one per cent of the population of Canada, including 401,000 permanent residents in 2021.

But although “Canada appears to be keeping its doors open, . . . a lot of foreign companies don’t understand that Canada will be focussing on having people already in Canada becoming permanent residents,” says Sedai.

Partly in response to foreign workers’ efforts during the pandemic, the government announced on April 14 that it would be grant permanent status to 90,000 temporary workers and international graduates who are already in Canada. But there was also a “very large pull of the Canadian Experience Class in February,” she says, under which 27,332 invitations for permanent residency were issued, “and that did not discriminate by occupation.”

The Canadian Experience Class is one of three skilled worker classes processed through Canada’s Express Entry system, and Canada issued invitations to almost everyone in the class, says Sedai.

As well, many sponsored spouses and partners living in Canada are likely to be landed as permanent residents quickly.

Sedai doesn’t expect immigration to surge this year. “My sense with most of my clients is that they’re pulling back as much as they can, restricting the number of foreign nationals they bring in.” Although most foreign workers are still needed, employers are “holding off for a safer day.”

As for attracting workers to Canada, Sedai is concerned about the restrictions on visa-required foreign nationals coming to Canada, who are not permitted to bring their immediate families with them, unlike foreign nationals coming from visa-exempt countries.

“The visa system has created a great challenge in that because instead of always strictly judging whether the individual will violate immigration laws, too often they are just assessed by being from a visa-exempt country,” she says. “A lot of valuable workers, such as in the I.T. sector, earning $90,000 a year, don’t fit the profile of someone who will be non-compliant, yet they can’t bring their family here in many cases.”

This challenge is a particular consideration for Canada as it looks to countries such as China and India to fulfill foreign worker needs, she says. “I don’t think it reflects well on Canada.” Ottawa should re-examine the visa system, “to accommodate Canada’s foreign worker needs and attract those foreign companies who want to set up shop here.”

Another COVID-related concern is the current quarantine system. Sedai reports “serious problems” that foreign national clients have had with the private contractor the B.C. government uses for the mandatory quarantine period on arrival to the province. “They are not helping [foreign nationals] take tests, or pick them up [via a courier], or they’re being lost.” Without a negative test result in 10 days, these workers must stay in quarantine for up to 28 days.

As employers — either foreign or Canadian — look for assistance in bringing workers to Canada, Sedai advises them first to determine that lawyers are “heavily involved” in their immigration applications. This request comes as some immigration service providers have lower lawyer participation than others.

“For a higher quality of help, they need to know how much time the lawyer is spending on these applications.”

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