Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Canada’s Weird and Less then Wonderful Immigration System

Canada’s immigration system is a mess. The country allows in too many refugees, and the rules that guide who one can sponsor outside of one’s immediate family are puzzling to say the least. For example, one can sponsor one’s parents or absurdly grandparents but a not an adult sibling or adult child. All in all, the ability to sponsor older adults is far too easy.

The skilled worker category is equally puzzling. It is weighted, accidently I am sure, in such a way as to favor older applicants over younger ones. A premium is placed on experience, being married is advantageous and age is not penalized much at all. For example, a 49 year old is given the same number of points for age as a 21 year old. All this is completely at odds with the stated aim of using immigration to mediate some of the stresses of having a low birth rate, a shrinking supply of labour and a graying population. Canada needs immigrants and probably needs more than we are already letting in. However, the average age of immigrant to Canada is 37; this is the same age of the average native born Canadian resident.

Now, in order to get at appreciation for some of the short comings of the current points system consider this. Under the current formula, a single 28 year old who has just completed a PHD in Canada, and who speaks perfect English, but who lacks relevant work experience and is not proficient in French would likely not qualify. Indeed, assuming no family ties and no relevant work experience, they would score 56 out of 100. In other words, if they were not able to quickly secure a job in one of the relevant fields, they would be heading back to their country of origin in short order. Even, if that same applicant spoke perfect French and English they would still not qualify. They would score 64 out of 100.

By contrast a 49 year old who has never set foot in the country and speaks no French but has a BA, 3 years experience, moderate English skills a spouse with a 1 year diploma, and a cousin in distant Canadian city would score 67! This is absurd.

That is why I say that instead of offering just 5 points for completing a graduate degree in Canada an applicant should be given 16 points. Taking a graduate degree in Canada should place a foreigner on the road to becoming a Canadian citizen.


Abdul-Rahim said...

The major differential for most immigrants is the experience category however I don't see how that it is crazy to make that the major decider. A skilled worker is someone who has the training and experience necessary. If you have no experience then you are not a skilled worker, your a graduate. I think the real absurdity is the requirement that the experience be full time. And as for Canadian graduates they should start a different stream for them like Scotland's ''Fresh Talent'' scheme: http://www.workingintheuk.gov.uk/working_in_the_uk/en/homepage/schemes_and_programmes/fresh_talent__working.html?

Anonymous said...

Careful Koby.

You are feeding the Con trolls with this post.

Under the Cons, both Solberg and Finley have set relatively liberal immigration targets. 285,000 for 2008, not including refugees which Canada takes into consideration due to humanitarian grounds. This is 100,000 more than the targets Chretien set when Preston Manning is in opposition.

Possible wedge issue for Dion and the Grits to exploit. Like the marijuana issue, it may force Harper to become more hard right.

Koby said...

I do not disagree with the emphasis placed on experience. What I have a problem with is that someone in their twenties is given the same credit for age as a 49 year old. There are huge numbers of very well educated young people with perfect command of one or both of Canada’s official languages, who have lived and worked here, and would love to immigrate here, but can not make the grade.

My PHD example was meant to demonstrate the scope of the problem. However, this is not an entirely hypothetical example. I plugged in my ex’s credentials and she would not have made it own her own merits a year or ago. The only thing that was different was the she is did not do her graduate work here, but rather in Brazil. Only now that she has started teaching at a university in Rio would she be able to successfully apply as a skilled immigrant. The ability to extract graduate students is key to countries' economic success. Just look at the States in the 1990s. Half of all graduate students in the States are from abroad --- at least they were until Bush took over. It is key for Canada attract and keep such students. Giving such students that study here citizenship is the least we should be doing.

Koby said...

I forgot to mention what a god awful mess are embassies are in. They are ridiculously understaffed and this is made all the worse by the small number of Canadian consulates.

Anonymous said...


The example you use for foreign graduate students is a good one. However, most Canadian graduate students are dependent on government funding, scholarships etc. In a perfect world, these people deserve to have the first crack of the postdoctoral opportunities.

Academia is a global enterprise. National immigration policies do not matter. Universities look for the best scholars everywhere. It is bureaucracy that stifles cross border exchange.

There is of course, another dilemma that Canadian immigration officials need to consider. The best scholars may leave for better postings in the States. The 49 year old individual will more likely settle here, send their kids to school, buy a home, and their children will become Canadian. None of these "citizens of the world" stuff you hear from my fellow academics while sitting in my garden patch.