Record work permits issued in 2007
February 4th, 2008
By Guidy Mamann
In 2007, CIC issued a record number of work permits thereby clearly heeding the call of Canadian employers in “certain regions and in certain sectors [who] are facing critical labour shortages”.
Although the exact total of work permits issued has not yet been finalized, it is expected to be approximately 130,000, give or take 2,000.
This would represent an increase of over 15% from 2006 and a whopping 47% increase from 2003.
Our immigration department is quick to point out that under its Foreign Worker Program prospective employers are expected to demonstrate their efforts to hire Canadian workers and to pay wages similar to Canadians doing the same job. In other words, the program “is not a mechanism to import cheap labour”.
Although this number is clearly groundbreaking, it isn’t unexpected given the unprecedented attention dedicated to this program by the Harper conservatives. Since taking office in January 2006, the conservatives have implemented a number of initiatives including the “Regional Occupations under Pressure List” and the “Expedited Labour Market Opinion” (E-LMO) project. They are now finalizing the terms of the new Canadian Experience Class that will make it easier for foreign students and workers to settle permanently here. Better yet, they have allocated $50.5 million dollars of new money to fund the program and these initiatives.
This is in sharp contrast to what the Republicans are doing, or perhaps not doing, south of the border.
The United States generally employs foreign professionals through its H-1B program. In 1991, Congress introduced an annual cap of 65,000 visas per year under this category. When the demand grew beyond this number, the cap was raised to 115,000 for 1999 and 2000 and then to 195,000 for 2001-2003. In 2004, the cap reverted to 65,000 visas and has remained there ever since. Applicants can apply for these visas on April 1st of each year (i.e. 6 months before the beginning of the American immigration department’s fiscal year). Last year the U.S. received so many applications on the first business day of April that there were no visas left by the end of that day. In fact, they had to resort to a lottery to weed out the excess applicants.
Last summer, Microsoft lobbied heavily in favour of an immigration reform bill pending before the U.S. Senate that might have alleviated this problem. Microsoft lamented the defeat of the bill and, a week later on July 5, 2007, announced the opening of a new software development center in Vancouver.
Why Vancouver? According to Microsoft, it is a global gateway, close to Microsoft’s corporate offices, and it “allows the company to recruit and retain highly skilled people affected by immigration issues in the U.S.”
A point apparently well taken by CIC!