Twenty percent of the residents of Canada are foreign born, much higher than the United States’ 13 percent.142 In a given year, Canada admits twice as many immigrants as a percentage of its population than does the United States.143
Canada’s points-based system has been largely unimportant to most employers, who typically first hire individuals on temporary visas and then sponsor them for permanent residence. Sometimes individuals use employer sponsorship to gain quicker permanent residence via the points system. However, overall, the points-based system has taken on less importance over the years as employer sponsorship and the Provincial Nominee Programs have become more vital to retaining valued workers. The major flaw in Canada’s points-based system has been the “Ph.D. taxi driver” syndrome, whereby people have good paper credentials, but Canadian employers are not interested in hiring them.
One goal of Canada’s new Express Entry program is to correct the flaws in its points-based system. Express Entry would act as a “filter,” said attorney David Crawford, by accepting people employers wish to sponsor and, in effect, give them priority over others without work experience in Canada.144 The Canadian government would then use that “expression of interest” in immigrating and “invite” people to apply, with an emphasis on those with employer sponsors.
Express Entry remains new, and attorneys are concerned the new process is likely to take much longer than the six months from the date of filing advertised by the Canadian government. Moreover, there is concern the process could adversely affect Canada’s retention of international students.
If there is an area of Canadian immigration law most worth emulating for the United States, it is the Provincial Nominee Programs. The Provincial Nominee Programs allow regions to attract foreign workers based on each province’s unique economic needs. (All Canadian provinces and two of its territories operate a program.) High-skilled workers are prized as engines of economic growth, but in Manitoba, for example, employers can hire someone at a meat packing plant on a temporary visa, and he or she (and his or her family) can receive permanent residence within six months under the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program, noted immigration attorney Peter Rekai.145
The Provincial Nominee Programs have become the second largest source of economic immigrants in Canada, increasing six-fold from 2004 to 2011.146 Canadian attorneys reported that it remains far from perfect for employers. Alberta, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island have “streams” for semi-skilled workers but only in specific industries and occupations, while some provinces, such as Ontario, do not have a pathway for lower-skilled workers.147
While over the past year Canada has tightened rules on temporary visas, particularly the labor market testing process, the Express Entry program shows that the government wants to continue to attract immigrants to Canada with a focus on individuals that companies want to employ. But Canadian immigration law gives the type of leeway to bureaucratic officials that the U.S. Congress would hesitate to permit, including setting annual quotas. That is one reason why immigration policies in Canada change much more frequently than in America.
U.S. policymakers should take note of Canada’s eagerness to attract immigrants. When a foreign-born engineer or scientist in Michigan finds he or she must wait 10 years to attain permanent residence in the United States, but the process could take one year or less across the Ambassador Bridge in Canada, then the choice may become obvious.
142. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2012 data.
144. Interview with David Crawford.
145. Interview with Peter Rekai. The Provincial Nominee Programs will generally continue outside of the new Express Entry program. However, Rekai noted that it is likely any province that successfully negotiates a higher quota with the federal government will have those additional numbers go through the Express Entry program.
146. Library of Congress (February 28, 2014), Points-Based Immigration Systems: Canada.
147. Interview with Audrea Golding.