A coalition of food, retail and tourism industry groups is calling on the government to give entry-level temporary foreign workers the same quick access that skilled immigrants will get under a new system known as express entry.
Starting Jan. 1, the Canadian government will fast track permanent residency for skilled immigrants who will be matched with jobs that can't be filled by Canadians.
- Express entry immigration points system revealed before Jan. 1 launch
- Click here for CBC's coverage of express entry
"Give all employers — including employers of lower-skilled occupations — access to the new express entry system for permanent immigration," four groups say in a joint letter to Employment Minister Jason Kenney and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander made public earlier this week.
The four groups — The Canadian Federation of Independent Business, Restaurants Canada, The Retail Council of Canada, and the Tourism Industry Association of Canada — said this would be one way to address labour shortages in rural or remote parts of the country where employers can't find Canadians workers.
While employers, lawyers and groups representing immigrants have raised many questions about the new system, MPs had some questions of their own for senior officials who appeared before a Commons committee last week.
Here are five things we learned:
1. Temporary foreign workers
The government said high-skilled temporary foreign workers will be able to apply for permanent residency through express entry.
If an employer wants to offer a temporary foreign worker a permanent job, a foreign worker could apply through express entry, said David Manicom, the acting associate assistant deputy minister, during a House of Commons committee last week.
Employers will have to apply for a labour market impact assessment, to prove they made every effort to hire a Canadian worker for the job.
2. Hiring younger
The new points system used to fast track permanent residency for skilled immigrants under express entry will favour younger newcomers over older ones.
"The comprehensive ranking system will give applicants up to a maximum of 1,200 points. Basically, 600 points are given based on their human capital, on their work experience, on their education, on their language skills, on their age, with a heavy weight in favour of younger immigrants," Manicom said.
Under express entry, those aged 20 to 29 will receive 110 points in this category, while those 17 and under, or 45 and over will obtain zero points.
3. Permanent residency 'draw'
Immigration Minister Chris Alexander has said individuals with a job offer or a provincial nomination will be "picked first" and that the first "invitations to apply" for permanent residency will be sent out by the last week of January.
Manicom told MPs during the Commons committee that there will be a "draw" every two weeks.
The senior official said applicants will be able to see how they are ranked against each other in the pool. "We are very highly transparent," he said.
Once a skilled immigrant has received an offer to apply for permanent residency, he or she would have 60 days to accept or decline the offer.
If the applicant doesn't receive an offer of permanent residency after 12 months, he or she will have to start the process again.
4. Applications received before Jan. 1
Come the new year, the government says it will still process applications submitted under the old system as well as applications submitted on Jan.1 or after.
Applications will be processed "on a parallel track," said Robert Orr, the assistant deputy minister of operations, during that same Commons committee last week.
The "vast majority" of the backlogs in the Federal Skilled Worker Program will be "sorted out" in 2015.
"It will not be entirely complete though, I don't think, during that time," Orr said.
5. Ad campaign
Anita Biguzs, the deputy minister for citizenship and immigration, said the government has budgeted $32.5 million in total funding for express entry.
Of that, $6.9 million has been allotted so the department can align its IT system in preparation for the launch of the new system.
Manicom told MPs to expect a "very aggressive" ad campaign in 2015.
He was not asked how much the ad buy would cost taxpayers.