Canada announces new migration rules


By Shani Hanwella
After much anticipation regarding the fate of Professional Skilled Worker Applications for migration (permanent residence) to Canada filed since February 2008, Canada's new migration rules were announced on November 29, 2008 by the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, the Honourable Jason Kenny. The new rules focus on facilitating and fast-tracking qualified applicants whose jobs are currently in demand in Canada. Previously, anyone who earned a pass mark, irrespective of the demand for his/her specific job in Canada, could apply to migrate as a Skilled Worker.

A list of 38 occupations currently in demand in Canada was announced as part of the new rules (doctors, accountants, senior financial and IT managers, university professors and other post-secondary teachers, certain medical and hotel staff top the list). Under the new regime, a potential applicant must now have some work experience in an occupation on the demand list in order to be eligible to file a new application, with the exceptions of having arranged employment in Canada or having one year of previous work or study experience in Canada. It is also worthy to note that the demand list is not static; the Minister can add or delete occupations from the demand list from time to time depending upon labor market requirements in Canada. Thus, it is wise to file an Application when one's job is on the demand list, as it may not be there for long.

Faster Processing Times
The Minister expects that Applications filed under the new rules will be able to receive a decision within six to twelve months. The Application filing process has also been retooled. Any new Application under the subject category must now be filed at a Centralized Intake office in Canada, as opposed to visa offices abroad, as was done in the past.

Retroactive Effect
The new rules will apply retroactively to all Skilled Worker category Applications filed since February 27, 2008 and the ones that will be filed in the future. Applications filed before February 27, 2008 will not be affected by the new rules and will continue to be assessed under the previous set of rules.

Large number of Sri Lankans
Canada is home to the largest Sri Lankan community outside of Sri Lanka in the world. Many Sri Lankans have applied for and received permanent residence as Professional Skilled Workers in Canada. A successful applicant receives visas for his or her immediate family members, including dependent children if the family wishes to accompany. Residency obligations for a permanent resident ("PR") are quite flexible in Canada. In order to maintain one's PR status, an individual must be physically in Canada for only two years out of every five years. If a PR is physically in Canada for three out of four years, he or she is eligible for Canadian citizenship. PR holders and Citizens are also allowed to sponsor their parents and minor siblings for migration under the Family Class program, if they meet the income test.

Political Situation
At present, Canada is experiencing significant political turmoil. In December 2008, the ruling Conservative Prime Minister sought permission from the Governor General to suspend Parliament in order to avoid a vote of non-confidence by an opposition coalition which would have brought down the government. The opposition, which was against the legislation that brought about the recent immigration rule changes, has now strengthened its leadership and is currently preparing to challenge the government when Parliament resume in January, 2008.

It has yet to be seen which party will govern Canada in the New Year and the resultant effect on the country's immigration policy, if at all.

Shani Hanwella is a former Immigration Officer of the Canadian High Commission, Colombo and now a Certified Immigration Consultant with the law office of Otis & Korman, Canadian Immigration Lawyers, Toronto, Canada.

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