I am a full-time Canadian Immigration lawyer that processes applications, litigates refusals, teaches immigration law – and collaborates with the brightest immigration-minds in the country on a regular basis. As professionals, many of us have concurred that we are facing the harsh reality that Canada’s pathways to Permanent Residence (“PR”) are narrowing for people / foreign nationals (“FNs” / “Applicants”) that have played by the rules. We are walking into a world of “temporary residence” in Canada, and it is not a good thing.
THE REALITIES OF OBTAINING PR IN CANADA
For those who don’t know – this is how PR works for a lot of FNs: they arrive in Canada as students, improve their English and / or French, obtain good grades and complete courses on a full-time basis. They next apply for a Post-Graduate Work Permit (“PGWP”), which can be valid for a maximum of three (3) years. During this time, Applicants take their official language tests, and normally obtain at least one (1) full year of full-time and skilled work experience to qualify for a PR stream [programs differ]. Previously – Applicants with this disposition would almost surely be selected for PR – either through Canada’s federal Express Entry (“EE”) program or being nominated through a Provincial Nominee Program (“PNP”).
In the alternative, a business can sponsor a FN on an employer-specific work permit, and the Applicant can then earn “PR “points” through their job offer (potentially), past achievements and Canadian work experience. There are also PNP-overseas workers streams [allowing for a pathway to PR], which are out of reach for most Applicants and employers. Finally, there are family sponsorship / PR applications, which do not apply to the scope of this article, as it is about economic immigration.
EE and the PNP are all based on merit, and points are assigned to factors including: a potential job offer, education, skilled work experience, language results, etc. The scores have become so high since COVID-19, that regular Applicants that followed these pathways are oftentimes unable to be “drawn” [based on points] to apply for PR. There are also new “targeted draws” for specific occupations – such that other Applicants that followed the rules in good faith – and do not fit into a designated occupation – could be out of luck when it comes to PR options.
THE IMPACT OF NOT OBTAINING PR
The above-captioned comments mean that Applicants often have to find employers that issue employer-specific job offers and work permits – and they [Applicants] can only work for the one employer. While there are rules and regulations in place to ensure that FNs are treated and paid fairly – these rules are regularly breached.
It is common-knowledge that employers and questionable immigration professionals collaborate to “sell” job offers that allow FNs to remain in Canada and to continue obtaining points for PR based on the job offers and skilled-work experience. This is a criminal offence, but people regularly participate in it because of the desperate nature of FNs / skilled workers in Canada – and the allure of additional funds for employers and certain immigration professionals. We see [Applicants’] Canadian immigration dreams shattered on a regular basis as a result of FNs engaging this process, and then being terminated from work upon receipt of their funds by the employer and immigration professional.
The impact of all of this this is heartbreaking. Our clients used to be happy and hopeful. Now many of them are glum and anxious – and we regularly deal with issues involving overstay, unauthorized work and study [resulting in CBSA interviews, hearings and removals], family abuse back home for failing to secure PR / domestic disputes, depression, drug / alcohol abuse, and suicide / suicidal ideations.
CANADIANS DO NOT UNDERSTAND
Until a Canadian is put into the shoes of a FN in Canada, one cannot understand the emotional journey and uncertainty that comes with having Canadian “status” issues – and the humiliation that FNs face if / when they return to their home country because the Canadian dream does not pan out. This dynamic also pushes foreign nationals to consider marriage fraud – and to apply for Humanitarian and Compassionate / PR Applications and Temporary Residence Permit Applications that are normally out of reach. If and when the FN goes out of status and does not leave the country – the matter then evokes the intervention of Canada Border Services Agency, which enforces removal and is already backlogged.
A land of a land of temporary residence means that employers must recycle FN / employees every few years – because after enough repeated work permit applications, it can be determined by Immigration Canada that the Applicant is no longer likely to return to their home country, because they have been in Canada for so long [without securing PR]. This requires the employers to re-train new employees – rather than focusing on long-term, sustainable, and trusted growth). It also prevents families from remaining in Canada together, after spending years enshrined in the culture, education, workforce and language.
I do not have the solutions to these problems, as I am too busy on a day-to-day basis fielding frantic calls and emails from clients and prospective clients about these issues. I can only state that as immigration professionals, we now have a duty to advise FNs that there is no reasonable certainty in Canada for PR through economic immigration – even if they follow the rules and do everything correctly.
As immigration professionals, we also have a duty to speak up for the bulk of our clients, who are prudent and ordinary people that deserve to understand the realities of their immigration journey to Canada. I often joke around that I leave the “policy-talk” to my friend, learned colleague and immigration influencer, Steven Meurrens. However, as immigration professionals, we take on difficult matters for a living, and I submit that we all must participate in advocacy over this matter – in the spirit of representing our passion for our clients and our chosen field.