Immigration rules eased for foreign students, workers: Skilled workers will be able to apply for permanent resident status from within Canada

OTTAWA - Temporary foreign workers and international students with recognized skills will be able to apply for permanent residency from within Canada under a new immigration class announced yesterday.

Immigration Minister Diane Finley said the new program will be implemented in October and is part of the government's efforts to make Canada more attractive to skilled foreign workers.

"We want to take advantage of those credentials, of their demonstrated ability to integrate into the Canadian society by giving them the opportunity to stay here on a permanent basis without having to leave," Finley told The Canadian Press.

But critics panned the program, predicting it will create two classes of foreign workers -- the elite who are eligible for the faster residency process and the many temporary foreign workers, such as blue-collar labourers, factory workers, chefs and farmers, who will be excluded from the program.

Under the Canadian Experience Class program, qualified applicants will be allowed to seek permanent residency while continuing to work or study in Canada.

Under the old rules, they would have to leave the country and apply to immigrate.

"If they go back to their home country...quite often they can choose never to come back because it can take up to six years to get their application processed," said Finley.

The number of temporary foreign workers in Canada last year totalled 165,200, while 74,000 foreign students attended Canadians academic institutions.

For those seeking permanent residence, experience already acquired in Canada will be considered a bonus on their application.

Qualified applicants will also require at least two years of Canadian work experience and moderate or basic language skills.

The Conservatives first introduced this initiative back in 2007 and it is expected to affect approximately 25,000 skilled workers and students. Critics call the program unfair because it excludes many temporary foreign workers. Jason Foster, director of policy analysis for the Alberta Federation of Labour, said he's worried it will create a "class" issue.

The workers included in the changes are classified by Citizenship and Immigration Canada as A- and B-level workers, which is dependant on skill level.

So-called unskilled foreign workers are in the 'C' and 'D' categories.

"It's a bit of a joke really because the biggest expansion, especially here in Alberta, has not been the A's and B's, it's been the C's and the D's." "They are giving the break to the workers that don't need it as much . . . and leaving the C's and the D's out in the cold."

Times & Script, Wed Aug 13 2008

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