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Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, Jason Kenney, announces the government's new policies to help prevent marriage fraud at the Delta Meadowvale Hotel and Conference Centre in Mississauga on March 2, 2012. (Della Rollins for The Globe and Mail/Della Rollins for The Globe and Mail)
Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, Jason Kenney, announces the government's new policies to help prevent marriage fraud at the Delta Meadowvale Hotel and Conference Centre in Mississauga on March 2, 2012. (Della Rollins for The Globe and Mail/Della Rollins for The Globe and Mail)

Government forces thousands of hopeful immigrants to reapply Add to ...

The Harper government is hitting the reset button on a lengthy queue of foreigners who’ve been waiting for half a decade to be accepted as skilled immigrants.

Thursday’s federal budget announced about 284,000 non-Canadians seeking to be received as residents will be told they’ve lost their place in line and have to apply again. The figure includes applicants as well as their spouses and dependents.

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Ottawa is refunding the $130-million in fees these people paid to apply under the Federal Skilled Worker Program.

The catch is that in 2008 the federal government changed the criteria it used to select immigrants under this program. In 2008, it designated 19 occupations as priorities for immigration and beefed up language proficiency requirements for applicants.

So not all of those who’ve lost their place in line may be eligible or desired by Canada under the new rules established in 2008.

The change will leave a working queue of 160,000 people who’ve applied since 2008 under the new rules, most of whom can expect their applications to be judged within six to 12 months.

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