Proposed Canadian Federal Expression of Interest Immigration Program

U.S. and Canadian Immigration Lawyer

Immigration Lawyer
Andy J. Semotiuk

The proposed new federal government expression of interest skilled worker immigration program to be implemented in January 2015 aims to match Canadian employers with foreign employees. According to a January 29th, 2014 CBC report:

Under this new system, which the government has compared to “a dating site,” Ottawa would act as chief matchmaker between immigrants who want to move to Canada for work and Canadian employers looking to fill job vacancies.

“We’re looking for an economic match,” said Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander in an interview with CBC News.

Alexander is currently working to build an “expression of interest” system to manage applications for immigration to Canada.

The report outlined the implementation of the program as follows:

The new system would work in two stages.First, prospective immigrants would apply to express their interest in coming to Canada. In doing so, they would answer a series of questions about their professional skills, their education, languages spoken, etc.

In the second stage, Alexander said, those applicants would see their skills matched with labour needs identified by the provinces and territories, as well as employers.

In my view such a system is hopelessly destined for failure. The government needs to focus more on fast processing and less on matching. Matching is something employers and employees can do on their own, or something the private sector can probably do much better than governments. Take for example the program developed by Toronto patent expert Henry Chang and outlined here. This is but one example of what the private sector can do in this area.

The mere idea of an expression of interest, on the other hand, implies delays in the process. Just go to any government office and apply for anything to get an idea of how fast governments generally will act. Compare that to an employer who needs extra electricians and plumbers right now in the midst of this cold, for example. Is an “expression of interest” system really going to solve such an employer’s needs?

If we need any better proof of why that system will not work consider the experience of anyone who has worked with investors trying to match them with projects – it is very hard to find matches that work. The current federal start up business program trying to match inventors with angels and venture capitalists suffers from this illness – the idea on paper sounds good but few visas have been issued. Matching is a difficult game to play – ask anyone who has had experience with eHarmony or other matching sites.
As for improving processing, there are several steps the government could take. Identifying what key concerns the government has in processing paperwork to begin with, would help to model the system around.  Inviting people to contribute ideas on how to speed things up might help. For example, criminality, health issues and previous immigration infractions would likely be some of the most important. Front loading these concerns at the beginning of the process might involve applicants getting police reports, medical exams and answering a clear, and answering a short and simple questionnaire about their past immigration history would be a start. An interview with a visa officer at a Canadian Consulate could protect against false applications and would relieve our immigration system from the heavy reliance on paper that it now suffers from. Would you ever hired somebody based solely on a resume? Yet that is the way our system is functioning at the moment in work permit applications.
Planning to keep skilled workers in Canada by providing a path to permanent residence would also help by abandoning the current processing canard that a skilled worker coming to Canada must prove he will return home after his term of authorized stay has expired. Modeling the tracking system after the process used by FEDEX and other courier services might be considered. Surely if Canadians were asked how to improve processing times they could come up with good ideas. And this is where the effort of the federal government should be focused instead of erecting a lonely-hearts-club-type matching program.
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