In a major announcement that’s likely to impact about 300,000 visa applicants, the immigration department of Canada is planning to return nearly all applications submitted before 27 February 2008.
The proposed drastic measure will “create a fast immigration system that creates jobs and promotes Canada’s long term prosperity. The move will eliminate the backlog in the main federal economic immigration programme.
“The Federal Skilled Worker Program backlog is a major roadblock to Canada’s ability to respond to rapidly changing labour market needs,” said Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney. “Having to process applications that are as many as eight years out of date reduces our ability to focus on new applicants with skills and talents that our economy needs today.”
As announced in Economic Action Plan 2012, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) is planning to refund fees and return stale applications.
CIC is transforming its suite of economic immigration programs to create a just-in-time system that recruits people with the right skills to meet Canada’s labour market needs, fast tracks their immigration, and gets them working in a period of months, not years, says an official statement.
“Eliminating the longstanding backlog of Federal Skilled Workers (FSW) applications will allow the Department to focus resources on facilitating the arrival of skilled immigrants who apply under the current eligibility criteria,” the statement said.
Under proposed legislation, CIC will close the files of FSW applicants who applied before February 27, 2008, and for whom an immigration officer has not made a decision based on selection criteria by 29 March 2012.
This is expected to affect around 280,000 applicants, including their dependants. CIC will begin the process of returning the full amount of fees paid to the Department – projected to be C$130 million.
For those who have passed the selection criteria stage – approximately 20,000 people – CIC will continue processing their applications until they are approved for entry into Canada or not.
“Over the last decade, the number of FSW applications received has greatly exceeded the space available within the Immigration Levels Plan each year, resulting in long processing times and an increasing inventory,” CIC said.
“Under the 2008 Action Plan for Faster Immigration, CIC began to limit intake to priority occupations. The Department added caps to the number of new applications in 2010.
“As a result of these efforts, CIC has reduced the pre-2008 backlog by more than 50 percent, and the overall FSW inventory by over 25 percent.
“However, without further action, some FSW applicants might have to wait until 2017 for a decision.
“It’s unreasonable to keep applicants waiting for another five years,” said Minister Kenney. “It’s also a far cry from the nimble and responsive immigration system Canada needs to remain a destination of choice.”
The decision has attracted criticism from immigration consultants. “While it is a good news that the old applicants don’t have to wait for a long period to know the outcome of their applications, this problem should have been addressed much sooner,” said a consultant, who did not wish to reveal their name.
However, another consultant was more critical. “These people have had the rug pulled out from underneath them,” Montreal-based lawyer David Chalk told CBC News.
“The government of Canada invited people who had certain qualifications to apply, these people invested time energy and hope.”