Ottawa, Aug.13 : The Canadian Government is creating a new fast-track immigration route for skilled foreign workers and students who've already proved employable in Canada.
According to a Globe and Mail report, this is an effort to prevent an erosion of talent as global competition heats up for higher-value labour.
Unlike existing programs, the Canadian Experience Class immigration stream will make work experience in this country a key criterion for vetting applicants. It will also allow temporary foreign workers and students living here to apply from within Canada rather than having to leave first.
It's expected to grant permanent resident status to 12,000 to 18,000 economic immigrants in the first year, a figure that's forecast to rise to 25,000 annually over time. But it's not expected to increase the number of economic immigrants, which last year totalled 50,000.
The goal is to improve the quality of immigrants and retain the most valuable workers and educated students.
"If we're going to compete internationally for the best and for the brightest, we need to improve the way that we attract and retain those who want to work in their fields and contribute to Canadian society," federal Immigration Minister Diane Finley explained at a Waterloo, Ontario, news conference.
Immigrants granted permanent resident status can eventually apply for citizenship.
Canada is revamping its approach because rival destinations such as Australia and the United Kingdom already have similar programs, Citizenship and Immigration spokeswoman Danielle Norris said.
"We're stepping up to the plate," she said. "We're becoming as competitive as other countries."
Canada is suffering from a major immigration approval backlog and the new program is part of Ottawa's solution. The concern is that skilled foreign workers and highly educated students who've been trained and educated in Canada will leave permanently if more effort isn't made to keep them.
To be eligible, foreign workers must have two years of legal work experience in Canada. Foreign students must have completed a program of study lasting at least two years at a Canadian university or college and have one year of work experience.
NDP immigration critic Olivia Chow said the new program is elitist and unfair to unskilled or lower-skilled labourers who comprise the vast bulk of foreigners in Canada on temporary work permits.