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Recent Change to the Canadian Experience Class

A Setback for Many Would-Be Immigrants
The recent announcement of the Canadian Minister of Citizenship and Immigration that between November 9, 2013 to October 31, 2014, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) will accept a maximum of 12,000 new applications under the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) is a major setback for many immigrants who were relying on that program as their means to gain permanent residence in Canada. The CEC program was one of the best ways a foreign applicant could immigrate to Canada in that it involved the two-step process of obtaining a one-year temporary job in Canada and then applying under this program to stay permanently. It was particularly popular with college graduates who gained work permits at the end of their Canadian studies that qualified them to apply under the CEC program to stay permanently in Canada.

The Minister’s announcement went on to add that in respect to certain occupations, because of an overrepresentation in immigration applications received to date, they will no longer be eligible for the CEC starting November 9, 2013. These included the following popular occupations:

  • cooks (NOC code 6322)
  • food service supervisors (NOC 6311)
  • administrative officers (NOC 1221)
  • administrative assistants (NOC 1241)
  • accounting technicians and bookkeepers (NOC 1311) and
  • retail sales supervisors (NOC 6211)
In addition, to tighten the screws further, the announcement indicated that CIC will establish sub-caps of 200 applications each for technical and administrative positions or those in the skilled trades identified as National Occupational Classification (NOC) B occupations. While managerial and professional occupations (NOC 0 and A) will not be sub-capped, they will be subject to the overall cap of 12,000 applications.

Finally, the announcement indicated that even though CIC will maintain the same English language test score requirements for applicants they have applied to date, they will now verify them upfront. The current language requirements are Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) 7 for NOC 0 and A occupations, and CLB 5 for NOC B occupations. In my view a CLB 7 score is a fairly challenging requirement that even some Canadians born and raised in Canada cannot meet. But according to the Department, this new measure will ensure that applicants who do not meet the minimum language requirements are screened out earlier so that processing resources can be concentrated on those who are more likely to succeed. I have commented elsewhere about the unwelcome trend of excessively stringent applications of English as a criterion of selection in Canadian immigration programs and the negative implications this trend could have on Canada’s multicultural fabric, and indeed, Canadian unity.

Returning to the more immediate changes that were announced, the obvious question is why restrict a program that apparently worked so well? As one commentator put it, “How long would we really maintain the position that anyone who put in their time as a skilled worker would be recognized as a valuable contributor, deserving of full membership?’ He added the melancholy observation that, “The CEC was too egalitarian to stand in today's Canada.”

There is no doubt that there are many potential applicants whose applications were being prepared but have not been filed who will be very disappointed by these ‘improvements’ to the CEC. Apart from the questions related to the substantive changes, this is also an example of the dangerous anti-democratic shift from regulations to Ministerial Instructions in which the Minister makes fundamental changes to any category of immigration with no notice. Following such practices in the long term will result in the erosion of the rule of law and introduce unpredictability for immigrants in that they will have no assurance that their applications will even be accepted, let alone successful. Whether or not there is room left on the caps on NOC B applications will likely be impossible to predict, as we have seen, for example, with the Ministerial Occupations list in the Federal Skilled Worker program.

One area where these changes will be particularly felt will be in the foreign student area. Colleges and universities have been recruiting foreign students, who have come here, done one to two year degrees in areas like hotel and restaurant management and then got post graduation work permits. Once they have worked as a cook, or restaurant supervisor for an entire year, for example, they counted on being able to apply for permanent residence under the CEC program. Now, they are told sorry, you're out - no notice, no lead in, not even any discussion that these categories are under review. People spent a lot of time and money assuming that they could use the category. Now the CEC program is gone, with no time to even try to get an application in. Such colleges and universities need to be told to watch what they imply in their recruitment in the future because they could be sued by foreign students who are disappointed by what they receive relative to what they are promised. It has happened in Canada before.

Despite all these negative developments, the CEC program still remains a beacon of hope for would-be Canadian immigrants who are looking for a way to come to Canada. It remains one of the top immigration programs Canada has and compares favorably to most other ways to coming to Canada.
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