By: Levon Sevunts
Facing a manpower shortage due the COVID-19 pandemic and a long-term demographic decline, the federal government is opening a new pathway to residency in Canada for over 90,000 essential temporary workers and international graduates.
The new policy will allow foreign nationals working in Canada in essential jobs such as personal support and health services and recent international graduates to convert their temporary status to permanent status, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada said in a news release Wednesday.
“The pandemic has shone a bright light on the incredible contributions of newcomers,” Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino said in a statement.
“These new policies will help those with a temporary status to plan their future in Canada, play a key role in our economic recovery and help us build back better. Our message to them is simple: your status may be temporary, but your contributions are lasting—and we want you to stay.”
- Immigration: benefit of burden? (special report)
- Ottawa relaxes work permit rules for international students
To be eligible, workers must have at least one year of Canadian work experience in a health-care profession or another pre-approved essential occupation. International graduates must have completed an eligible Canadian post-secondary program within the last four years, and no earlier than January 2017, the statement said.
IRCC will begin application as of May 6 in three streams:
- 20,000 applications for temporary workers in 40 health-care occupations
- 30,000 applications for temporary workers in 95 other selected essential occupations
- 40,000 applications for international students who graduated from a Canadian institution
The streams will remain open until Nov. 5, 2021, or until they have reached their limit.
To promote Canada’s official languages, three additional streams with no intake caps have also been launched for French-speaking or bilingual candidates, IRCC officials said.
The Liberal government hopes the new measures will help it meet its target of attracting 401,000 immigrants to Canada in 2021.
But advocates for the rights of migrants cautioned the policy change will help only a small portion of the people who live and work in Canada and don’t have permanent immigration status.
Many still left out, advocates say
Syed Hussan, executive director of Migrant’s Rights Network, called the new pathway a “time-limited and partial program” that will help only a small number of migrants with temporary status.
“Each year, hundreds of thousands of people come to the country on temporary permits, many of whom cannot get permanent residency. While they are temporary, they are unable to assert basic labour rights, access health care, often get education, get income support — even in the public health pandemic — or be able to reunite with their families,” Hussan told CBC News.
“Today’s announcement keeps that entire structure still in place.”
Hussan said many will find the program hard to access because of the language requirements. He said the program also excludes about half a million undocumented people who live and work in Canada but don’t have any immigration status.
Canada faces serious demographic challenges. According to IRCC statistics, in 1971, there were 6.6 people of working age for each senior. Today, there are three —and by 2035 there will be only two.
“Without newcomers, future generations will end up paying more to sustain the public services we rely on,” IRCC statement said.
According to Statistics Canada, immigrants who previously held a work permit often report higher wages one year after becoming permanent residents.
With files from Ryan Patrick Jones of CBC News