Evaluation of the Canadian Experience Class

3 Relevance

This section addresses the need for the Canadian Experience Class, its alignment with departmental and government-wide objectives and priorities, and its consistency with federal roles and responsibilities. Additional information is available in the evaluation’s Extended Report.

3.1 Continued Need for the CEC

Finding: The CEC responds to a need for a simple and quick pathway to permanent residence for skilled workers, and capitalizes on the opportunity to retain those who have already demonstrated an ability to integrate economically in Canada.

3.1.1 Need for a Simple and Quick Pathway to Permanent Residence for Skilled Workers

Advantage Canada (2006) recognized Canada’s changing demographics and labour shortages and the need to more closely align the country’s immigration policies with its labour market needs, and made a policy commitment to examine "ways to make it easier for Canadian educated foreign students and temporary foreign workers to stay in Canada and become Canadian citizens."Footnote 7 Building on the priorities of Advantage Canada, the CEC was announced in Budget 2007 and highlighted in Budget 2008 as one of the measures to "ensure that the labour needs of employers in all provinces and territories [were] met in a more timely fashion."Footnote 8

It was cited in the 2009 Auditor General Report that: "Canada has an ongoing need for permanent and temporary workers with various skills and must compete with other countries to attract them. It is therefore critical that the government’s programs to facilitate the entry of these workers to Canada be designed in such a way that the right people are available at the right time to meet the needs of the Canadian labour market."Footnote 9 Budget 2008 positioned the CEC as a key component of the modernization agenda for Canada’s immigration system. It recognized the need for Canada to "maintain the ability to compete globally for the best and the brightest by creating the optimal conditions to attract immigrants who can contribute fully to Canada’s prosperity."Footnote 10

The CEC was expected to help address the challenges that were associated with the FSW program at the time (notably, long wait times), offering a quicker and more responsive pathway to permanent residence for individuals with Canadian work and study experience.Footnote 11 Several key distinguishing features of the CEC were highlighted in the interviews, including its simpler eligibility criteria and application process, its focus on Canadian work experience (as opposed to a job offer), and the allowance of in-Canada applications. In the years leading up to the introduction of the CEC, FSW applications were taking as long as five years to process in some missions. Processing times for CEC applications ranged from 8 to 15 months for 80% of the cases during the reporting period for the evaluation - well below processing times for FSW applications during the same timeframe (37 to 47 months for 80% of cases).

Interview findings reflected roughly half of interviewees believing there to be a broad need for an increased supply of skilled workers in Canada, with the other half believing there only to be specific regional or occupational shortages. Yet, most educational institutions and employers surveyed indicated that there was a strong need for an increased supply of skilled workers, and most educational institutions surveyed indicated that the CEC program was important to attract international students to Canada. Most educational institutions and employers surveyed also indicated a need for a fast and easy pathway to permanent residence.

3.1.2 Opportunity to Retain Skilled Workers with Canadian Work Experience

The CEC was one of several initiatives proposed to help increase Canada’s labour market responsiveness, encompassing both the temporary and permanent streams of immigration.Footnote 12 According to departmental documentation, the CEC was expected to contribute to this objective "by facilitating the retention of temporary workers and [international] students with in-demand skills,"Footnote 13 as certain temporary workers and international students, once experienced and trained in Canada, were seen as "a key talent pool" for this purpose.Footnote 14

The program was intended for individuals who had already established themselves as skilled workers in Canada, thereby demonstrating that they have a "capacity to integrate successfully and contribute to the Canadian economy."Footnote 15 Evidence underlying CEC program developmentFootnote 16 showed that skilled workers with Canadian work or Canadian work and study experience had better economic outcomes than those without this experience.Footnote 17 Further consideration of the literature also found evidence of higher returns to Canadian qualifications in the labour market.Footnote 18 The 2009 Auditor General Report referred to studies ordered by CIC looking at the outcomes of skilled workers with Canadian experience, and concluded that, as a result of this work, CIC believed there to be "a need for an effective bridge between temporary and permanent resident status."Footnote 19

3.2 Alignment with Departmental and Government of Canada Objectives

Finding: The CEC is aligned with CIC and Government of Canada objectives to foster Canada’s economic growth, bridging temporary and permanent immigration objectives.

3.2.1 Alignment with CIC Objectives and Programs

The CEC is aligned with CIC’s Strategic Outcome 1: Migration of Permanent and Temporary Residents that Strengthen Canada’s Economy, as evidenced in departmental planning and strategic documents.Footnote 20 In the interviews with CIC representatives, economic immigration was identified as a priority of CIC, and the CEC was generally described as a small but significant program within the cluster of economic programs. It was also suggested in the interviews that there was value in providing multiple pathways to permanent residence, and that if the CEC did not exist, some potential immigrants might not qualify under the other economic immigration streams.

The CEC was compared and contrasted to the FSW program and Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) in the interviews, and was generally portrayed as complementary to CIC’s other economic programs. The CEC plays a unique role within CIC’s economic immigration programming, given its relationship to the temporary resident programs, and its objective to attract and retain TFWs and international students. CIC also has the PGWPP, which falls under the broader IMP. It allows international graduates to obtain Canadian work experience, which if skilled, can be used to help them qualify for permanent residence in Canada through the CEC.

While interviewees generally believed the CEC to be aligned with the temporary resident programs, some limitations were mentioned. In particular, the CEC was noted to focus on higher skilled workers, and it was suggested that it may align more closely with the International Student Program (ISP) rather than the TFW program. However, views were mixed as to its degree of alignment with the ISPFootnote 21, particularly in light of program changes implemented in 2013 which harmonized the two streams. Under these changes, having Canadian work experience is more central, while having a Canadian education credential, though an asset, is no longer a requirement.

3.2.2 Alignment with Government of Canada Objectives and Priorities

Overall, the CEC is aligned with Government of Canada (GoC) objectives and priorities related to immigration reform, as articulated, most notably, in the federal budgets, beginning in 2006 with Advantage Canada. The 2012 Economic Action Plan renewed this commitment, indicating the GoC’s intention to "provide further incentives to retain educated and experienced talent through the Canadian Experience Class".Footnote 22 The CEC was intended to support Canada’s ability to compete internationally for skilled workers, and international studentsFootnote 23, and is consistent with the GoC’s International Education Strategy, which describes international students as a future source of skilled labour and well-positioned to immigrate to Canada through programs like the CEC.Footnote 24

In addition, a possible link between the objectives of the CEC and the GoC’s Putting Canadians First initiative was highlighted in the interviews. Under this initiative, the GoC is reforming the TFW program to ensure that Canadian workers come first, as well as the IMP to ensure that the exemptions under these programs continue to promote Canada’s economic and labour market interests. Statistics presented in Overhauling the TFW Program: Putting Canadians First showed significant growth in the number of foreign nationals entering Canada under the IMPs between 2004 and 2013. By 2013, the number of entrants under the IMPs reached 137,533, representing 62% of the foreign nationals entering Canada to work that year.Footnote 25 A corresponding analysis of administrative data for the present evaluation found that 67.0% of the CEC PAs intending to work in skilled occupations had obtained work permits as temporary residents through the IMPs, while 26.2% had done so through the restructured TFW program (see section 4.3). For CEC PAs under the student stream, work permits through the IMPs were likely issued under the PGWPP, given that 93.7% of those surveyed for the evaluation had at least one previous post-graduate work permit.Footnote 26 Together, these findings illustrate how the work programs for temporary residents are connected to Canada’s economic immigration objectives through the CEC.

3.3 Consistency with Federal Roles and Responsibilities

Finding: The CEC is consistent with federal roles and responsibilities in relation to economic immigration, providing a complementary pathway to permanent residence, with a focus on highly skilled workers.

Immigration is a joint federal/provincial responsibilityFootnote 27, and one priority area identified under the Joint Federal-Provincial-Territorial Vision for Immigration is economic immigration, with the strategic objective to create a fast, flexible economic immigration system focused primarily on meeting labour market needs across Canada.Footnote 28 As previously noted, the CEC is one of the initiatives that has been identified to help address this objective.Footnote 29

The CEC and some streams under the PN programs have similar objectives; however, these objectives are generally more complementary than duplicative. The PNP is tailored to the specific needs of each province, and may have various program objectives, including economic objectives. The CEC has a federal perspective and national scope, addressing Canada’s economic objectives throughout the country. While the PNP expects that immigrants will stay and establish in the sponsoring province, the CEC is more flexible, permitting TFWs or international students to move to a place of employment where there is a labour market shortage.

Similarly, the Evaluation of the Provincial Nominee Program (2011) found that while some objectives of the federal economic programs were very similar to those of the PNP, they did not necessarily overlap, as the applicants they were meant to attract differed.Footnote 30 The PNP evaluation highlighted the absence of a pathway for semi-skilled (or low-skilled, National Occupational Classification (NOC) C and D) workers in the federal programs. Given that the CEC focuses on highly skilled workers (NOC 0, A, B), its introduction may have opened up space in the PNP to address other regional priorities (e.g. need for low-skilled labour). Correspondingly, the analysis of CIC administrative data for the evaluation revealed that the number of PNs admitted to Canada has continued to grow since the introduction of the CEC (from 11,766 PAs in 2009 to 20,978 PAs in 2014).

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