Ottawa’s decision to simplify an immigration program which allows international students with work experience to apply to become permanent residents is a sensible reform.
Canada must compete with Australia, the U.S. and other countries for highly skilled workers, and this program is an effective way to retain them.
The Canada Experience Class used to require applicants already in Canada to have two years of work experience to qualify, but the government is proposing this be changed to one year to facilitate a quicker path to residency.
Immigration Minister Jason Kenney announced yesterday that Canada just welcomed the 20,000th immigrant, an Indian who completed a Masters degree in Business Administration from the University of Toronto, to enter through this stream.
“The program acts as a graduated license that rewards those who have spent time and money studying and working in Canada,” notes Sergio Karas, an immigration lawyer. One year of work experience should be a high enough bar.
And yet, even as the government works to woo these highly qualified newcomers, it should be mindful of the impact of brain drain on developing countries, including the Philippines and Mexico. If too many people who get an education abroad abandon their homelands, then how will emerging economies ever progress, and benefit from the expertise and technical capacity of their overseas workers? Programs facilitating an exchange of knowledge between the north and the south, and even allowing immigrants to temporarily return home as leaders, are ideas worth considering.
Another area of concern is the quality of education offered by some community colleges operating in Canada, which aim to take advantage of the higher tuition fees international students pay.
But notwithstanding these potentially troublesome areas, the Canada Experience Class is still an efficient and innovative way to ensure easy entry for highly skilled immigrants. It does not make sense to send such applicants to the back of the line.