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Politics Ottawa to ease path to permanent residency for skilled workers, students

Immigration Minister John McCallum says attracting foreign talent to immigrate to Canada is key to strengthening the economy.

Matthew Usherwood/The Canadian Press Images

The federal government is changing its electronic immigration-selection system to improve the chances of international students and some high-skilled foreign workers to become permanent residents.

The changes to the Express Entry system, which scores and ranks applicants based on factors such as age, language ability, education and work experience and then matches them with Canadian employers, will take effect on Nov. 19. The changes announced in a news release on Monday will make it easier for some highly skilled workers already in the country and international students who completed their postsecondary education in Canada to get an invitation to apply for permanent residence.

"This is a re-balancing of the points for permanent residency," said Danielle Lovell, a Vancouver-based immigration consultant. "I think the re-balancing … is an effort to continue to have Express Entry be about high-skilled workers."

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Under the Express Entry system introduced by the previous Conservative government, employers who offer jobs to foreigners must get government approval through a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA), which requires them to prove they could not find a Canadian to do the job. While the LMIA was meant to target abusers of the low-skill temporary foreign worker program, Canadian tech firms had to go through the same time-consuming process even when the only people with the required skills were outside Canada.

The upcoming changes to Express Entry reduce the importance of obtaining an LMIA for high-skilled workers. Some workers already in Canada on a temporary LMIA-exempt work permit and who want to stay permanently will no longer need a LMIA to get job-offer points in the Express Entry system. This includes people working in Canada under the terms of the North American free-trade agreement and workers in Canada temporarily under an intra-company transfer. Applicants must have been working in Canada for at least a year to apply.

These workers will also be in a better position to compete against Express Entry applicants who are still required to obtain an LMIA, as the number of points given for the assessment will be reduced. Previously, job offers supported by an LMIA were worth 600 points; as of Nov. 19, the same offers will be worth either 200 points for senior manager positions or 50 points for all other jobs.

The changes are aimed at making it easier for highly skilled foreign workers to become permanent residents.

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"We have committed to doing more to attract highly skilled immigrants to come to Canada and become permanent residents, because this is important to build our economy and strengthen our society. I am confident that the changes to Express Entry will be one of the many positive outcomes of the changes we will be bringing to our immigration system," Immigration Minister John McCallum said in the news release on Monday.

The Canadian tech sector has pressed Mr. McCallum to help it obtain much-needed foreign talent. Allen Lau, CEO and co-founder of the online publishing platform Wattpad, said that while the sector is investing in and training local talent, the demand outpaces the Canadian supply.

"Canada's innovation economy competes on a global scale for top talent. [The] announcement by Minister McCallum makes it easier for high-growth companies like Wattpad to attract skilled workers and remain competitive," Mr. Lau said. "Minister McCallum heard our concerns and took action."

Major changes are also on the way for international students hoping to become permanent residents through the Express Entry system. Applicants who obtained a postsecondary degree, diploma or certificate in Canada will be awarded up to 30 additional points. Under the previous system, no points were awarded for this.

"In a competitive system, 30 points can be the difference between being selected and not," said Noah Turner, a Montreal-based legal adviser.

Finally, applicants will have 90 days to complete their permanent-residence application if they get an invitation from the government, up from 60 days under the previous requirements.

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With a report from Sean Silcoff

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