Skilled workers with job offers will jump the queue under Quebec immigration reform

Immigration Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette outlined a new process for skilled worker applications Thursday, explaining that people already in Quebec and those willing to live and work outside major cities will be given priority.

Immigration Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette outlines 3-step process, makes no mention of values test

Quebec Minister of Immigration Simon Jolin-Barrette laid out the province's new process for selecting skilled workers Thursday, promising a response to cut the waiting time for a decision from an average of three years to six months. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)

Immigration Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette outlined how the government will process applications for skilled workers Thursday, explaining that people already in Quebec and those willing to live and work outside major cities will be given priority to settle here.

Jolin-Barrette made no mention of the values test that the Coalition Avenir Québec had proposed as part of its electoral platform.

The province needs the go-ahead from the federal government to impose such a test, and neither the Liberal government nor the opposition Conservatives appear keen to co-operate.

How it works

The online application system is now open for applicants to submit an "expression of interest" form, which is free of charge.

Once that form is in the system, the government will invite certain skilled workers to submit a permanent selection application, along with the associated fee, within 60 days of receiving that invitation.

Once that official application is submitted, the government will respond with a decision within a maximum of six months.

Jolin-Barrette said deciding who to invite to apply for permanent selection will be based on the current needs of the Quebec labour market.

Official applications will then be evaluated based on a selection grid, with points awarded based on criteria such as age, training and work experience, knowledge of French and English, history of stays in Quebec and whether the applicant has a valid employment offer.

Quebec's National Assembly passed the legislation tabled as Bill 9 in early June, cancelling roughly 16,000 immigration applications — some from people who have already waited years for their cases to be processed under the old system.

When the CAQ government first announced its intention to start from scratch, there were about 18,000 outstanding applications. Since then, roughly 2,000 have been processed.

Of the 16,000 cases being voided, Jolin-Barrette said 3,700 applicants would be invited to apply again through the new system, as they are from people currently living and working in Quebec.

Jolin-Barrette said Thursday that the new process, using an online management system called Arrima which was launched by the former Liberal government last year, will reduce applicants' waiting time from an average of 36 months to six months.

Calling the three-year wait "an unreasonable delay," he said Quebec will work with the federal government to further reduce wait times once a successful applicant is granted a certificate of selection.

The government is also setting up a portal that connects employers with potential workers, due to be online by February 2020.

Jolin-Barrette said that people who have a job offer from an employer will jump to the top of the consideration list.

Business groups applaud new system

The Conseil du patronat du Québec (CPQ), a major employers' group that promotes business interests in the province, said in a statement it welcomes the plan.

"The launching of this new Arrima selection system, which privileges training and work experience of Quebec immigration candidates, will permit employers in the province to more rapidly access skilled workers in line with their needs," said CPQ President Yves-Thomas Dorval.

The news release went on to applaud the priority status given to applicants with work experience in Quebec or those who have been educated in Quebec.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) also applauded the reforms.

​"It's a world of possibility that's opening for employers," said Simon Gaudreault, CFIB's director of national research, in a statement. "We believe that this will have a positive impact on recruiting talent."

The CFIB said the reforms will go a long way toward solving Quebec's labour shortage, which it says stood at 120,000 vacant positions at the beginning of the year.

With files from CBC's Steve Rukavina


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