Evaluation of the Federal Skilled Worker program
3. Evaluation findings
This chapter summarizes the evaluation findings related to program need and relevance, economic outcomes of FSWs, selection of skilled immigrants, processing of federal skilled worker applications, and unintended impacts of the new selection system under IRPA.
3.1 Program need and relevance
The major findings of the evaluation regarding program need and relevance are as follows:
A. Stakeholders recognize a strong, continuing need for the FSWP, according to key informant interviews. Although Provincial representatives also see a need for the FSWP, they expressed reservations about its ability to respond to their immediate regional needs.
When asked to rate the need for the Program on a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 is no need at all, and 5 is major need, average ratings ranged from 3.0 amongst Provincial Representatives to 4.6 amongst HRSDC representatives.
Figure 3-1: Need for the program
|Current Employers (n=110)||4.1|
Source: Key informant interviews
Interviewees attributed the strong need for the program to the importance of skilled workers for the Canadian economy, the presence of skill shortages resulting from economic growth and increasing rates of retirement associated with the aging population (although economic data would not support this perception). The high perceived need for the Program also reflects its effectiveness in increasing the diversity of the Canadian social and economic fabric and selecting immigrants who will successfully establish in Canada. In addition, the majority (71%) of CIC Managers and Directors, CSIC and CBA participants (75%) and all HRSDC representatives believe that the nature of the need for the Federal Skilled Worker Program has changed over the past few years. Participants said that the program has adapted to the needs of the labour market and that the need for the program had increased.
The primary focus of most provincial representatives who provided input is on addressing the immediate labour market needs in their province. While they see a need for the FSWP, they are less likely to perceive a strong need because:
- Provincial representatives expressed the view that the FSWP has primarily on addressing the need for highly skilled workers rather than the need for lower skilled immigrants. While they acknowledge that FSWs with AEOs are linked to immediate needs, the provincial representatives noted that AEOs account for a relatively small percentage of the total number of FSWs. Furthermore, there are many (often lower skilled) occupations for which shortages cannot be addressed through AEOs as they might not meet the selection pass mark or meet the requirements for receiving AEO points. In order to obtain points for an AEO, the job offered needs to be in the 0, A or B categories of the National Occupational Classification (NOC)14.
- The FSWP is viewed as being less responsive to changes in immediate needs than the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP). Labour market needs vary over time due to factors such as general economic cycles, rates of growth in particular sectors, and demographics within particular occupations. The FSWP is viewed as being less responsive to such changes than the PNP because of the longer processing times from application to issuance of the permanent visa for FSWs. PNP applicants receive priority processing while FSW applicants do not, with the exception of those with AEOs. The PNP was also perceived as meeting a r range of labour market needs. When asked to rate how successful the FSWP is in responding to changing needs on a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 is not at all successful and 5 is very successful, the average rating varied from 1.5 among provincial representatives to 3.0 among HRSDC representatives and 3.4 among CIC Managers and Directors.
- Key informants perceived that most FSWs go to major urban centres. As a result, some provincial representatives noted that, from their perspective, the need for the FSWP is not strong because the Program has not been effective in attracting skilled workers to their province and communities.
B. The FSWP is consistent with departmental and Government- priorities, based on the document review and key informant interviews.
Five of 8 CIC Managers and Directors and all HRSDC representatives view the Program as being consistent with Government priorities. The Program benefits the Canadian labour market and economy, mitigates some of the impacts of demographic changes, and helps to maintain a stable workforce. The Program also contributes to the development of adaptable skills and diversity of the work force and creates opportunities to attract highly skilled and desirable workers to Canada. Provincial representatives noted, however, that the FSWP was less able than the PNP to respond to provincial priorities.
The document review highlighted the importance of immigration policies in general, and the skilled workers program in particular, in building a stronger and more competitive Canada. For example:
- Advantage Canada and the Economic Action Plan (2006) recognize that, in a modern global economy, Canada’s immigration policies need to be closely ed with labour market needs. As cited in ‘Advantage Canada’, progress has been made towards creating a more competitive Canada by “Streamlining Canada’s immigration system to better respond to the needs of the Canadian labour market”.
- The 2008 Federal Government Budget15 reiterated the need to continue the efforts to maintain Canada’s 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. A well-managed and efficient immigration system is critical to achieving this objective.”
- Other documents such as ‘Achieving Excellence: Investing in People, Knowledge and Opportunity’16 outline the goals and priorities of the Government of Canada for the past decade, one of which includes developing the most skilled and talented labour force in the world by implementing IRPA and associated regulations, and by helping immigrants to achieve their full potential in the Canadian labour market and society.
- The HRSDC Report on Plans and Priorities (RPP) and the CIC RPP both highlight the importance of skilled workers in building a stronger and more competitive Canada.
C. The FSWP and the PNP focus on different labour market needs, although they compete for a share within the existing levels. As such, they complement rather than duplicate each other.
Key informants, particularly provincial representatives, noted that the PNP and FSWP programs overlap somewhat in their focus on addressing labour market shortages, and are in competition for resources. However, the programs target different types of applicants who fill different labour market needs. The FSWP addresses knowledge-based and longer-term needs for skilled professionals, whereas the PNP tends to focus on shorter-term, occupational and specific labour needs identified by the province. As the PNP has expanded in recent years, the levels for the FSWP have been reduced, to ensure CIC adheres to the annual levels plan.
* Other economic include: entrepreneurs, self-employed, investors, and live-in caregivers
Source: CIC Facts and Figures, 2008
Provincial representatives generally provided support for the FSWP, as a program complementing the PNP. However, some respondents noted that due to the low number of FSWs in their province, they could meet their provincial economic needs with PNP exclusively.
The difference in the type of skilled workers and labour market niche they fill can be illustrated by the difference in income between the two groups. According to IMDB data presented in the following chart, the average income of PNs (Provincial Nominees) is below that of FSWs.
Figure 3-2: Average employment earnings of PNs and FSWs18 who landed in 2004
|FSW - 2004 Cohort||32,600||40,100||47,500|
|PNs - 2004 Cohort||29,900||36,600||41,100|
Source: IMDB. Earnings are in constant dollars. Base: 2006
The recently established CEC is designed to facilitate the transition to permanent residence of foreign workers with Canadian experience and international students with Canadian degrees and work experience. Although these programs have similar goals of selecting professionals who are adaptable, mobile and easily able to integrate into the labour force, they have distinctive selection processes.
3.2 Economic outcomes of federal skilled workers
The major findings regarding economic outcomes of the FSWs arriving under IRPA are as follows:
A. The findings from the IMDB data analysis indicate that IRPA skilled workers are successful in becoming established economically.
Of the total IRPA FSWs filing tax returns19, the percentage of those who reported employment earnings increased from 79% one year after landing to 82% three years after landing. The percentage of those reporting employment and/or self-employed income increased from 84% one year after landing to 89% three years after landing20.
Figure 3-3: Percentage of FSWS who declared employment or self-employment earnings
|Employment and/or Self-Employment Earnings||84%||87%||89%||88%|
The incidence rate for IRPA FSWs (based on the 2004 cohort) who claim employment insurance ranges from about 3.9% in the first year after landing to just under 6.7% two years after the landing year. The percentage that receive social assistance is around 2.6% in the first year after landing, before declining to 1.6% in the second year21.
The IMDB data indicates that average employment earnings for IRPA FSWs increases over time. Of those FSWs who landed between 2002 and 2005, average earnings one year after landing ranged from $34,000 to $40,600, increasing to $46,200 to $53,300 three years after landing.
Figure 3-4: Average employment earnings, IRPA FSWS
Source: IMDB. Earnings are in constant dollars. Base: 2006
B. In the survey of FSWs, 95% of those who arrived between 2002 and 2008 indicated that they have been employed in Canada at some point in time. Of those who have been employed, 45% obtained employment within one month of admission as an FSW.
In addition to the IMDB analysis, a survey of FSWs was conducted to better understand the employment history of FSWs. The following section is based on survey findings. Even though they are complementary, some results from the FSW survey are slightly different than those obtained from the IMDB. Survey results should also be interpreted with caution as the characteristics of FSWs surveyed differ from the ones of the FSW population (the percentage with an English mother tongue and the share from the United Kingdom are both higher in the survey than in the population, while the shares from China and India are lower in the survey). For more details about the profile of FSWs who were surveyed, refer to Appendix A.
Of the 1,499 FSWs who were interviewed, 94.6% have been employed in Canada, including 99.2% of those with an AEO22. In the survey, date information was obtained on the beginning and end months for up to 4 jobs which have been held by FSWs in Canada, including their current job. Based on the information obtained from FSWs surveyed about their admission and employment dates, the percentage of those who are employed during any given month after admission was calculated. According to the date information available23, 45% of the FSWs obtained employment within one month of admission as a FSW.
Figure 3-5: Access to first job
|< 1||1 to 2||2 to 3||3 to 6||6 to 12||12 to 24||> 24|
Source: Survey data
The 1,499 FSWs have resided in Canada with a Permanent Resident Visa for an average of 34 months during which they have held an average of 1.8 jobs. Within this group, those with an AEO have resided in Canada as an FSW for an average of 33 months during which they have held an average of 1.5 jobs.
The survey data also indicates that about 77% of AEOs are employed within the first month after admission. The rate of employment gradually increases over the number of months that an FSW is in Canada.
Figure 3-6: FSWs employed at any time since arrival
Source: Survey data
Of the FSWs who were surveyed, 1,175 have held one or more full-time jobs. Of those, 694 have held one full-time job, 338 have held two full-time jobs, 103 have held three full-time jobs and 40 reported holding four full-time jobs. The annualized earnings associated with these positions was compared. The results indicated that average earnings tend to increase from job to job, suggesting that one of the reasons for moving to a new position is monetary. Those FSWs who have held only one full-time job reported the highest average annualized earnings (it should be noted that workers reported on their current earnings or earnings when leaving the position, which may have increased over time).
Figure 3-7: Average full time earnings of FSWS with multiple jobs
|1st Job||2nd Job||3rd Job||4th Job|
|Four Jobs (n=40)||35,662||40,207||46,622||63,821|
|Three Jobs (n=103)||55,269||56,394||65,396|
|Two Jobs (n=338)||52,393||66,975|
|One Job (n=694)||71,042|
Source: Survey data
About 39% of FSWs left their first job voluntarily, 14% left involuntarily and about 47% still work in their first job. Most of the FSWs who have been employed reported that their first job in Canada was a full-time position (78%) in a small organization with less than 100 employees (64%). The most common occupations for the first job held in Canada were in the professional/scientific/technical fields or in the health care/social assistance services fields (24%).
Of the 85% of FSWs surveyed who were employed at the time of the interview (summer 2009), 81% were employed full time and in positions most commonly related to professional/scientific and technical services (15%); health care and social assistance services (14%); finance, insurance, real estate and leasing services (12%), and education services (11%). Earnings for their current full-time jobs averaged $64,000, while the average income for part-time positions was $23,106. Most of the FSWs believe that their current job suits their field of studies (76%) and education (72%), and provides the income they expected (63%). About 37% said their current job exceeds the expectations they had prior to coming to Canada, 36% said it was consistent with those expectations and 22% said it did not meet their expectations24. Reasons commonly provided by FSWs who said their current jobs did not meet their expectations include: job was not in their desired occupation, foreign education and experience were not recognized, income was less than expected, cultural differences resulted in difficulty adjusting to the new work environment, language barriers, and unfamiliarity with organizational structure and culture.
The strategies most commonly implemented to obtain employment included reviewing job listings in newspapers, internet or other media (56.6%) and making direct contact with employers (28.6%). About one-third (31.3%) of the FSWs said that finding an appropriate job in Canada was very difficult, while 18.9% said it was not at all difficult. About 10% of FSWs who had AEO but were not employed in arranged employment positions at the time of the interview said it was very difficult to find an appropriate job. Some common factors that made it difficult to find a job include a lack of Canadian work experience and credentials, a lack of social network and business connections, the recent economic downturn/recession, cultural barriers and differences in workplace cultures, the competitive job market; and the low availability of jobs in particular fields.
About 15% of respondents were unemployed at the time of the survey. Among this group, 72% were ready to work, while 29% were continuing their education. Unemployment was attributed to a lack of relevant work experience and recognition of foreign credentials, a lack of connections, strong competition for jobs, and the economic slowdown. In the absence of employment earnings, the most common source of funding for living expenses (identified by 40% of unemployed respondents) was their personal savings.
C. Federal Skilled Workers meet the needs of employers who generally had difficulties filling the position for which the FSW was hired. Employers are satisfied with the performance of FSWs, and believe that hiring FSWs is beneficial for their organizations.
Employers indicated that it had been either difficult or very difficult to fill the position for which the FSW was hired (63%). Factors commonly identified as making it difficult to fill these positions include:
- Lack of experience and specific skill sets;
- Shortage of qualified workers in a particular niche;
- Lack of educational and/or certification requirements for the position; and
- Difficulties in finding individuals who fit the job profile.
Employers reported strong satisfaction with FSWs25. About 86% of employers said they were satisfied or very satisfied with hiring a person who came to Canada as a skilled worker and about 95% said that the FSWs job performance met or exceeded their expectations. Some of the perceived benefits of having skilled immigrants in the workplace included increased diversity, particularly of knowledge and ideas (45%), and the introduction of new work styles with improved performance (40%). While most (78%) employers said that the FSWs faced no significant issues in the workplace, about 13% reported issues related to language.
3.3 IRPA, a new approach to the selection of FSWs
With the introduction of the IRPA, the selection system for skilled workers was changed to respond to the dynamic labour market associated with today’s knowledge-based, global economy. Based on an objective and transparent points system, the new FSWP was intended to be more effective at selecting immigrants who will succeed economically. The previous selection system model had an “occupational demand” component whereby a skilled worker’s intended occupation in Canada was a criterion for admission to this class. However, it also contained selection factors that addressed the human capital of applicants. Under IRPA a broader approach to selection was implemented, whereby selection factors indicate an applicant’s ability to adapt as the labour market changes. The new system placed more emphasis on the “human capital” model by putting more weight on the human capital selection criteria.
The major findings regarding the new approach to the selection of FSWs are as follows:
A. The revised design of the Program under IRPA, including the shift to placing more emphasis on the human capital selection criteria, was guided by research, analysis comparing economic outcomes with the characteristics of FSWs, and input from experts in the field.
The new selection approach for FSWs under IRPA was based on research evidence presented in two major papers titled ‘Not Just Numbers: A Canadian Framework for Future Immigration (1997)’ and ‘Towards a New Model of Selection. Current Selection Criteria: Indicators of Successful Establishment’ (1998). In consultation with policy makers and the Canadian public, a group of consultants developed a new framework for immigration programs outlined in ‘Not Just Numbers: A Canadian Framework for Future Immigration’. This legislative review proposed a new model for economic immigration, emphasizing the growth of knowledge industries and the need for self-supporting immigrants. The framework recommended the following changes to the selection criteria:
- Education: “In recognition of the fact that the labour market is constantly evolving and that it is impossible to predict with certainty the exact skill sets required at any point in time, general education is a better indicator of long-term flexibility than specific skills”.
- Official Language Ability: “The core standard for official language ability should be proficiency in at least one of the two official languages. Immigrants should be able to enter the labour market upon arrival with minimal upgrading”. The need for official language ability to be demonstrated through an internationally accepted language test was emphasized in the following: “Given the importance of this requirement, the decision should not be based on a subjective assessment by the visa officer who may not even have the opportunity to interview the applicant”.
- Economic ties to Canada: recognizing the links between previous schooling or work experience in Canada and eventual economic outcomes.
- Self-sufficiency: having access to the funds needed to settle successfully in Canada.
Other research or documentation that played a part in the development of the new FSWs selection approach included research which highlighted issues such as the importance of language in labour market assimilation, the effects of age and Canadian credentials on successful integration. The design of the new selection model and the allocation of points was supported by an analysis of the IMDB that assessed the economic outcomes for federal skilled workers and the effectiveness of the selection criteria.
The report ‘Towards a New Model of Selection - Current Selection Criteria: Indicators of Successful Establishment’, outlines the key findings of the analysis regarding the effectiveness of the selection criteria, including26:
- Education, the main element of human capital, is a key indicator of labour market success;
- Experience did not provide a clear signal of success;
- Language proficiency showed a clear and long lasting relationship to income and employment prospects;
- Arranged employment was a solid factor in successful establishment; and
- The Assisted Relative Bonus increased the acceptance of marginal candidates, ones with weaker core attributes.
The majority (5 of 8) of CIC Managers and Directors interviewed said that they were not involved in the program when the shift was made towards the new selection model. Those Managers and Directors as well as CVOA staff who were more extensively involved in redesigning the Program said that the changes were evidence based and guided by research regarding the importance of language, age and Canadian credentials in the successful integration of immigrants. Analysis of changes in intake, processing times, acceptance and refusal rates, and backlogs were included in the development and amendment of the policy.
B. Analysis of IMDB data demonstrates that IRPA FSWs outperform pre-IRPA FSWs economically, and significantly outperform dual assessment FSWs.
The taxation data indicates that employment earnings of IRPA FSWs are significantly higher than those of pre-IRPA FSWs. It is difficult to directly compare IRPA and pre-IRPA FSWs on a comparable year basis (in order to control for differences in economic and labour market conditions at the time of arrival) as the volumes for IRPA were low early after the introduction of the new regulations and that the pre-IRPA volumes are declining after 200227. The 2004 cohort can be used for comparison purpose since there were sufficient FSWs for each regime. For that cohort, average employment earnings for the IRPA FSWs increased from $40,100 in the first year after landing to $47,500 a year later, while average employment earnings for the pre-IRPA FSWs increased from $24,300 in the first year after landing year to $31,300 a year later. Dual assessment FSWs started arriving in 2004, and their average employment earning increased from $21,400 in 2005 to $28,800 in the 2006.
|Selection Regime||Taxation years|
Source: IMDB. Earnings are in constant dollars. Base: 2006.
Regression analysis of the IMDB data shows that the selection regime significantly affects the level of earnings of FSWs. IRPA FSWs earn significantly more than their pre-IRPA counterparts. Analysis without gender distinctions shows that IRPA cases make about $10,000 to $17,000 more than pre-IRPA FSWs admitted during the same period, depending on the cohort and tax year considered. Interactions between selection regime and gender show that the advantage of IRPA cases is greater for men than for women admitted under this selection regime. Full regression results are presented in the tables Appendix D-1 and Appendix D-2 .
The incidence of employment insurance and social assistance benefits is also lower for IRPA FSWs than for pre-IRPA FSWs. Table 3-3 summarizes the percentage of FSWs from the 2004 cohort who reported employment insurance or social assistance on their income tax returns for 2004, 2005 and 2006.
3.4 Arranged employment offers
Employers can make a permanent employment offer to a foreign national in a skilled occupation and then request an Arranged Employment Opinion from HRSDC. The wages and working conditions offered for the job have to be comparable to those offered to Canadians working in the occupation. However, there is no requirement to demonstrate that there are no Canadians available to fill the position. Under IRPA, HRSDC is mandated to assess offers of employment made by employers interested in hiring a skilled worker. Applicants with a positive arranged employment opinion issued by HRSDC are then assessed against the FSW selection criteria by a visa officer in a CVOA. The AEO, if accepted by the visa officer, entitles the applicant to an additional 15 points28 towards the threshold of 67 points. The major findings of the evaluation regarding AEOs are as follows:
A. Federal Skilled Workers who have arranged employment significantly outperform those who did not have an AEO, based on economic indicators.
Of the IRPA FSWs present in the IMDB, 13.5% had received points for an arranged employment offer, compared to 1.4% for the pre-IRPA FSWs29.
Figure 3-8: PRE- IRPA and IRPA FSWs with AEO
IMDB data shows that average employment earnings for FSWs with an AEO are significantly higher than the earnings of those without one. As indicated in chart below, the average employment earnings of FSWs who received points for an AEO increases from $72,700 in the year after landing to $79,200 three years after landing, while the average employment earnings of FSWs who did not receive points for an AEO increases from $32,200 in the year after landing to $44,200 three years after landing.
Figure 3-9: Employment earnings of AEO FSWs and other FSWs
|1st Year After Landing||2nd Year After Landing||3rd Year After Landing|
Source: IMDB. Earnings are in constant dollars. Base: 2006.
The survey also found that the FSWs who came to Canada with an AEO reported significantly higher earnings than other FSWs, were more likely to still be with their first employer, and were more likely to be employed full-time. The survey findings of the FSWs with an AEO are as follows:
- 81% of those with an AEO are employed full-time;
- Those working full-time are earning an average of $99,000 annually31, which is significantly more than full time employed FSWs surveyed who are not in arranged employment positions32;
- 90% of AEO FSWs report working in their arranged job position after arriving to Canada. The main reasons mentioned by 10% of those who did not start working in their arranged jobs were that the job was no longer available or they found a better position.
- 69% of the FSWs with AEOs are still employed with the same organization. Of those who left their positions, 73% did so voluntarily to start another job or to continue their studies.
B. Employers who have prepared arranged employment offers are very satisfied with the FSWs they hired and are supportive of the program.
Of the employers participating in the survey who have hired AEO FSWs, most have been involved in multiple AEO applications and are very satisfied with the FSWs who were hired and with the program overall. As noted previously, the interview sample was developed based on referrals from FSWs, and therefore may be biased towards employers with whom the FSWs have a positive relationship.
Major findings from the survey of employers involved in AEOs are as follows:
- 74% of the employers have been involved in hiring more than one AEO client.
- 89% are interested in using the AEO process to hire another FSW (only 4% were not).
- 83% are satisfied or very satisfied with the performance of the FSW. Those who were less satisfied indicated that the FSW had some difficulty communicating in the workplace or lacked experience relevant to the occupation in Canada.
- Almost one-half (49%) of employers indicated that HRSDC contacted them to discuss the arranged employment offer.
- The AEO employers were satisfied with the HRSDC process, noting that the communication with HRSDC was appropriate (80%), the application process was completed in a timely manner (72%), the related information was accurate and useful (78%), it was easy to have information to complete the application (70%), and the process and procedures were clear and understandable (66%).
- The two most common positions for which an offer was made were Management/ CEO/ Director/ President and Assistant/Associate Professor.
- Most of the AEO employers interviewed are located in Ontario (45%) and Alberta (30%).
- 77% of AEO employers said that it was very difficult or somewhat difficult to fill the position which was occupied by the FSW due to the complexity of the work, the skills/specialization necessary and the limited supply of people with these types of skills in Canada.
Key informants believe that FSWs with an AEO are meeting the needs of particular employers, but the relatively small number of skilled workers with an AEO limits its overall impact in meeting the needs of the Canadian labour market. When asked to rate the extent to which FSWs meet the needs of the Canadian labour market, HRSDC and Provincial representatives provided ratings of 3.5, and 3.0 respectively, on a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 is not at all and 5 is very significantly.
C. CVOA staff are much less supportive of using AEOs as they currently exist because of concerns regarding the authenticity of arranged employment offers.
AEOs tend to be perceived very negatively by all levels of staff across the large visa offices visited. In interviews and focus groups, staff and managers expressed concern and frustration over the due diligence required to assess the validity of the job offers and the legitimacy of the employers.
Initial processing and assessment of arranged employment offers is administered through an HRSDC Centre of Specialization located in Saint John, New Brunswick. HRSDC officers provide an opinion regarding an offer of employment on an indeterminate basis to a prospective skilled worker. In forming the opinion, the officers assess whether:
- The offer of employment is genuine;
- The employment represents full-time, non-seasonal employment; and
- The wages offered to the skilled worker are consistent with the prevailing wage rate for the occupation and the working conditions meet generally accepted Canadian standards.
In reviewing the genuineness of the job offer, HRSDC officers examine the consistency of the predominant duties defined for the position with the duties outlined in the NOC, whether mandatory licensing/certifications are identified, and whether the employment offer is consistent with the needs of the company given its business activities, size and operations. In addition, HRSDC officers assess employer-related factors such as business location, the active engagement of the employer in business activities, whether at least one full-time employee has been working for the employer for a minimum of one year, and whether it is reasonable to expect that the employer will fulfill the terms of employment (e.g. the company’s ability to indeterminately support the salary offered to skilled workers)32.
If HRSDC officers provide a positive opinion on the offer of employment, it is forwarded to CIC visa offices where the applicant is assessed against the selection criteria including whether or not to allocate the 15 points for the AEO. In doing so, visa officers may review whether the applicant will be able to fulfil the duties described in the job offer and may conduct final verifications of employers which, in many cases, is difficult to do from abroad. The missions employ different strategies to verify the job offer. For example, the Hong Kong office typically requests a number of documents from employers such as tax return assessments, banking information, financial statement information, etc. Other strategies used include calling employers in Canada and asking them specific questions about the job duties, or conducting further investigation by checking their business registration and company website.
The case studies showed that the quality of applications with AEOs varies across the missions. For example, the Buffalo office reports that most AEOs are approved and points awarded (about 90%), while the New Delhi office estimated an acceptance rate of about 30%. New Delhi officers have been compiling information on small businesses that have made multiple job offers.
Examples of fraudulent AEO applications include job offers from non-existent employers, fictitious positions incompatible with the type of business or business operations, offers of convenience from friends or family members, and genuine offers with inflated job descriptions. There is also a concern in CVOAs that AEOs can be purchased and that clients are being lured to pay large fees to consultants for job offers that they believe await them in Canada. Fraud is generally hard to prove, and AEO fraud-related refusals cannot be extracted from the administrative systems. Some visa offices are conducting independent investigations in an effort to demonstrate the lack of integrity and level of fraud associated with AEOs.
In the interviews, CVOA staff (particularly those from Hong Kong and New Delhi) indicated that applicants often use AEOs to compensate for not receiving sufficient points under the language or education criteria (or more recently, as a means to by-pass Ministerial Instructions and the list of 38 occupations; the percentage of FSWs with AEOs has increased significantly since the introduction of Ministerial Instructions in 200833).
Visa officers in Hong Kong believe that the increase in AEO applications under IRPA has at least to some extent impacted the drop in the approval rates in recent years. For example, as outlined in Table 3-4, the Hong Kong office has seen a significant increase in AEO applications, most notably in the last few years, and a significant drop in approval rates (from over 90% at the time of IRPA implementation to just over 40% in 2007, and to only 24% in 2008 - likely due to the introduction of Ministerial Instructions). In the view of the visa office staff, this trend might have been, at least in part, the result of applicants abusing AEO in the desire to compensate for lower scores on other criteria (e.g. English language skills) or to get a priority assessment.
|Number of AEO Applications Received in Hong Kong|
|Number of AEOs||2||15||33||43||78||121||400|
* Ministerial Instructions were implemented in 2008 and are outside the scope of this evaluation.
Source: Case study data
Visa Officers note that it may take longer to process a refusal than an acceptance, and this is particularly problematic with AEOs. Additional steps can be taken to investigate suspected fraud and, as noted above, additional documentation may be requested. Concerns often center on the authenticity of the job offer; follow-up with employers in Canada is hindered by time differences. If the visa officer intends to refuse the AEO, he/she must send a letter of concern to the applicant stating the concerns, and provide the applicant with the opportunity to respond. Processing AEOs is generally viewed as highly inefficient and time-consuming, with insufficient support within Canada to address fraud in the process.
3.5 The mobility of FSWs
A. IMDB data shows that only a small percentage of FSWs stop filing tax returns for two consecutive years, indicating their outmigration. Findings of the FSW survey indicate that most FSWs have not resided outside of Canada since landing and are unlikely to leave Canada in the next few years. Concern was raised in Missions regarding FSWs who receive permanent resident status, but do not intend to live and work in Canada.
Past CIC research on the IMDB indicates fairly consistent patterns of outmigration across cohorts, with outmigration generally increasing in the early years after landing and stabilizing afterwards. However, patterns were found to vary by country of last permanent residence. The highest outmigration rates were found in western countries (USA, northern Europe and Oceania). Immigrants from the United States and the United Kingdom experienced their highest outmigration rate one to two years after landing, while immigrants from countries like China and Hong Kong were more likely to experience outmigration 4 to 5 years after landing.
Applying the same methodology to FSW immigrants, IMDB research shows that from 2000 to 200434 a limited proportion, about 6.5%, of pre-IRPA FSWs stopped filing tax returns for at least two consecutive years without reappearing in the database, which could indicate that they left Canada35. The percentage is smaller for IRPA cases (2.7%); however, this could be due to IRPA cohorts 2002 to 2004 residing in Canada for a shorter period of time compared to pre-IRPA cohorts 2000 to 2004. These findings are consistent with previous CIC research findings that looked at all migrants for the same length of residence in the country. Table 3-5 represents the number and percentages of FSWs believed to have left Canada.
|Still in Canada||142,280||5,095||10,355|
The analysis indicates that about 10% of the 1,499 FSWs participating in the survey have resided outside of Canada for more than 3 months since landing, and 12% have considered permanently moving from Canada. The primary reasons for leaving Canada are to pursue better job prospects or employment elsewhere, to look after an existing business, to move closer to relatives or friends, to pursue education, or for quality of life. Of the FSWs interviewed, 93% estimated that they will remain in Canada for the next three years. Staff in visa offices raised concerns regarding permanent
residents who do not intend to reside or work in Canada. Some FSWs, often with the help of consultants, maintain a “fictional life” in Canada in order to meet citizenship requirements without residing of working there. The belief is that these FSWs move their families to Canada, often to send their children to Canadian universities, and with the intent to later retire in Canada. The concern around this movement of FSWs was raised in the missions visited, particularly in London, where visa officers, in collaboration with an anti-fraud officer based in Abu-Dhabi, are collecting data on the Gulf FSWs reapplying for a Permanent Resident Temporary Document (PRTD). These could be FSWs who landed in Canada and received a permanent resident card that expired after they returned to the Gulf. Information on FSWs who have become permanent residents but have never resided or worked in Canada is difficult to collect as there are no exit controls at the border. These clients may appear in the IMDB, but family income would be likely underreported as minimal income is reported for income tax purposes.
Not all interviewees believed this practice to be unethical. One lawyer, who represents a number of these clients from the Gulf, and a minority of visa officers, believed that this practice reflects the global economy and the increasing mobility of labour.
B. The IMDB shows that pre-IRPA and IRPA FSWs have similar mobility patterns within Canada. They are most likely to move from Saskatchewan and Atlantic Canada and to remain in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia. In the survey, FSWs who moved to another province after initial settlement did so mostly for employment opportunities.
The destination of FSWs across provinces is uneven, with roughly 60% of IRPA FSWs intending to settle in Ontario, 20% in British Columbia and 10% in Alberta, and much smaller shares intending to settle in Saskatchewan, Manitoba and in the Atlantic provinces.
|Selection Regime||Taxation years|
|Net change (%)||Pre-IRPA||11.6||118.8||-8.4||-4.0||-4.7||45.8||-1.6|
*Even though Quebec Skilled Workers (QSWs) have been excluded from the analysis, FSWs can still go to Quebec.
FSWs arriving under IRPA generally have inter-provincial mobility patterns similar to pre-IRPA FSWs. The biggest differences are seen in the 2002 cohort, as the very first IRPA cases were arriving in Canada. The previous table presents the movement of the pre-IRPA and IRPA FSWs who arrived in Canada between 2002 and 2005.
As outlined in Table 3-7, Saskatchewan and Atlantic Canada have the lowest retention rates37 of pre-IRPA FSWs. Although the Saskatchewan and Atlantic Canada retention rates are higher for IRPA FSWs, they are still the lowest in Canada. The difference in retention rates between the two regimes can partly be explained by the fact that IRPA FSWs have spent less time in the country than pre-IRPA FSWs. Most of the pre-IRPA FSWs included in the study were admitted between 2000 and 2004, while the majority of IRPA skilled workers arrived in 2004 and after. Under pre-IRPA, Atlantic Canada had more FSWs moving in than moving out (positive net change38 of 12%), however, IRPA FSWs are more likely to move out (negative net change of 7%). Alberta has the highest retention rates for IRPA FSWs.
Survey results indicate that about 7% FSWs have resided in other provinces for a continuous period of more than 3 months after their initial settlement. FSWs moved between the provinces for employment or better job opportunities (69%) or to move closer to relatives or friends or people of same origin (10%). They most often moved from Ontario and to Alberta, although all provinces lost and gained FSWs.
3.6 The effectiveness of selection criteria for FSWP
The evaluation findings regarding the effectiveness of the selection criteria are as follows:
A. The economic performance of FSWs is closely linked to whether they have an AEO, language abilities, and/or Canadian work experience, prior to obtaining permanent resident status.
Once having controlled for province of residence, origin and intended occupation skill type, regression analysis shows that the most relevant factors for economic success of immigrants are, by order of importance, arranged employment, language and work in Canada prior to migration. Among other factors from the selection grid, age, education, work experience and partner’s education also have a positive effect on employment earnings, while having received points for relatives in Canada affects earnings of FSWs negatively.
(Note: All results in this section are based on the regression analysis and controlled for a number of factors (items from selection grid, province of residence, origin and intended occupation skill type). For complete regression analysis, refer to Model 3 in Appendix D-2.
- Arranged employment offer: Having an AEO is the factor from the selection grid that affects the earnings of FSWs the most. One year after landing, IRPA FSWs who had an AEO were earning 74% more than those who did not have one. However, the gap in earnings between those who had an AEO and those who did not diminishes over time. For every year spent in the country, the gap in earnings diminishes by 9%.
- Language: The second most important influence on employment earnings is language. The effect of language points on earnings increases gradually with the more points earned, and reaches a peak between 16 to 20 points, which corresponds to having received the maximum points for the knowledge of the first official language. Individuals scoring in that range of points have earnings that are 38% to 39% higher than FSWs who received between 0 to 7 points for language.
- Adaptability: Immigrants who worked in Canada for at least one year prior to applying as an FSW earned 27% more that those who did not have Canadian work experience prior to migration. In addition, those who received the maximum number of points (5) for their partner’s education under the adaptability factor also have significantly higher employment earnings (12%). However, for those who did not receive the maximum number of points (who received 3 or 4 points), the difference in earnings was not statistically significant, meaning that they do not earn significantly more than those who did not receive any points for their partner’s education. Two factors in the selection grid have a negative impact on earnings. The first one relates to having relatives in Canada, which is associated with 8% lower earnings. Having studied in Canada for at least two years prior to migration is also associated with lower earnings (-6%). This could be attributable to their possibly limited work experience or to the fact that some of them may still be pursuing their studies. In addition, the models control for language abilities, which may be one of the benefits of having studied in Canada.
- Age: Age at landing39 is a significant predictor of employment earnings. Results show that immigrants arriving at a younger age earn more than those who arrive in Canada at a later age. Immigrants who were less than 30 years old at landing earned 27% more than people 50 years of age or older, while the gap in earnings was 14% higher for those who were between 45 and 49 years old when they landed, when compared to the older age group.
- Education: Points received for education also have an impact on employment earnings40. Those who received 25 points (having either a master’s degree or a Ph.D) were found to earn 17% more than immigrants who received between 0 and 15 points, and 14% more for those who received 20 points (two year diploma, trade certificate, apprenticeship or two year university diploma). However, immigrants who received 22 points (three year diploma, trade certificate, apprenticeship or two or more university degree at the bachelor’s level) have an advantage of only 9% with regards to employment earnings compared to those obtained by FSWs in the reference category (0 to 15 points).
- Work experience: PAs who received the maximum number of points for experience (4 years or more of experience) earned 14% more than immigrants who received points for only one year of work experience prior to migration. There is no significant difference in earnings between those who received points for two or three years of experience when compared to those who had one year of experience.
Regression analysis was also conducted for pre-IRPA cases to determine the effect that factors from the previous selection grid had on immigrant earnings. Results obtained for employment earnings of pre-IRPA FSWs indicate similar trends as to the effect on earnings of AEOs, language, age at landing, education and relatives in Canada as those observed for IRPA FSWs. However, prior to the introduction of IRPA, experience did not have any significant impact on earnings, which suggests improvements in the way experience is assessed under the new selection grid. Full regression results are presented in Appendix D-3 and Appendix D-4.
B. Most key informants believe that the new selection approach that emphasizes human capital factors is a more effective approach than the previous occupational model for maximizing economic outcomes.
CIC Managers and Directors and most CSIC & CBA representatives strongly believe that the IRPA selection model that puts increased emphasis on human capital factors is more effective. The rationale is that it facilitates better economic success and integration of skilled workers, there is broader diversity in the occupational and professional backgrounds of FSWs, skilled workers are more adaptable to changing labour market conditions, and the program is more on sustainability and long term integration. Those who disagreed felt that the approach is less effective in matching people to jobs, dealing with regulated professions, ensuring flexibility in the policy that will reflect a changing economy, and in processing of applications.
Figure 3-10: Effectiveness of selection approach introduced under IRPA41
|Provincial Representatives (n=6)||17%||33%||50%|
|HRSDC Representatives (n=6)||17%||33%||50%|
|CSIC & CBA Representatives (n=32)||13%||10%||77%|
|CIC Managers and Directors (n=6)||0%||0%||100%|
Source: Key informant interviews
Visa officers in CVOAs were overwhelmingly supportive of the IRPA selection model, noting that it is more objective, efficient and transparent. There was general support for selecting permanent residents on human capital factors as opposed to occupations. While there was strong support for the program design, there was considerable concern about the implementation of the program, including issues ranging from not controlling intake with the pass mark to not having the tools or policies to properly apply the selection factors. Concern was also expressed that the IRPA model had not had sufficient opportunity to succeed, before the introduction of Ministerial Instructions imposed an occupational filter.
C. Key informants and visa office staff generally consider the selection criteria to be appropriate, however, changes were suggested with respect to the weighting of the criteria and the assessment process. The feedback from the visa officers was highly consistent.
Over two-thirds of each key informant group viewed the current selection criteria to be appropriate, given the objectives of the program.
Figure 3-11: Appropriateness of the new selection criteria42
|Provincial Representatives (n=5)||0%||40%||60%|
|HRSDC Representatives (n=5)||20%||20%||60%|
|CSIC & CBA Representatives (n=32)||3%||29%||68%|
|CIC Managers and Directors (n=5)||20%||20%||60%|
Source: Key informant interviews
The CVOA staff also indicated that the selection criteria under IRPA are appropriate for selecting diverse immigrants who have strong potential to succeed economically and to integrate into the Canadian social and cultural fabric.
CVOA staff provided the following suggestions for improvement:
- Language: Visa office staff view language as the single most important factor in the successful integration of immigrants. FSW applicants can submit the results of a language test (typically IELTS) or they can submit a written text with their application, to demonstrate language proficiency. Allowing a written submission introduces subjectivity, inefficiency and the potential for fraud. Visa officers must assess a language submission that they aren’t qualified to assess, nor can they confirm whether the applicant wrote the text. Alternatively, they can send a request to the applicant to submit an approved test result, thus extending the processing time and the effort required to process the file. Visa officers overwhelmingly support mandatory language testing.
Many visa officers supported awarding more points for full fluency in one of the official languages, rather than the current points split between the two official languages and some suggested a mandatory minimum threshold for language fluency.
- Education: When allocating education points, visa offices do not have the tools to distinguish between the highest ranked universities in the world and small, local and unregulated schools. Degrees from these two extremes are allocated the same points. Many visa officers argued that it is essential to create equivalencies in education to equitably apply this criterion and to ensure that the FSWP is selecting qualified applicants. London was the one visa office visited that establishes equivalencies, through using the British NARIC system which provides benchmarks for educational equivalencies. Long distance education is becoming more common and posing challenges for the visa officers. The case studies indicate that it isn’t being assessed in a consistent manner across the delivery network.
- Age: Most visa officers interviewed recommended that the upper limit of the age for which maximum points are awarded be reduced. Proposed ages for maximum points ranged from 35 to 45. Concern was also expressed that some older FSWs are applying to retire in Canada. Interviewees also believe that placing a focus on younger skilled workers would enable the Program to better offset some of the impacts of the aging population (although demographic research suggests a very minimal impact at best).
- Experience: Some interviewees suggested points be assigned for work experience in Canada or in similar countries and several noted that Canada should require credential recognition to be established prior to immigration. A primary concern in assigning points for experience is the level of fraud and the difficulty in establishing the validity of the experience, particularly in countries where the economic structures are diverse, with numerous small family-owned businesses.
- Arranged Employment Offer: As noted earlier, officers in the visa offices visited were overwhelmingly negative about the AEO. They believe that it is fraught with fraud, difficult to validate the employers and job offers from overseas, inefficient to process, and that it provides an avenue for applicants who cannot receive sufficient points on the key human capital criteria, to be approved as permanent residents. It was noted that it is contrary to the human capital model. Suggestions for improvement ranged from cleaning up the program, to lowering the allocated points, to completely eliminating AEOs.
- Adaptability: AEOs: Visa officers across the 5 missions do not support assigning an additional 5 points for AEOs for the reasons noted above.
Spouse’s education: Concerns around points for spousal education related to the equivalency issue and the observation that many spouses had never worked in their field.
Relative in Canada: There was spread concern that a relative in Canada was not related to successful integration.
Staff noted that often the relative was geographically distant from the intended destination of the applicant and that the relative is often not immediate family. Staff in the missions suggested that working and studying in a country other than one’s country of nationality’ could be an alternative indicator of ability to adapt.
- Pass Mark: The original design for the FSWP under IRPA envisioned periodically adjusting the pass mark to regulate supply and demand. The pass mark was last adjusted in 2003, from 75 to 67, which contributed to an increase in demand and a backlog. The backlog increased each year as the number of applications received exceeded the number of visas issued. Several CVOA staff recommended adjusting the pass mark on a more regular basis.
D. While there are projected changes in the labour market, these do not appear to directly impact the appropriateness of the current selection criteria.
Research conducted by HRSDC and reported in ‘Looking Ahead – A 10 Year Outlook of the Canadian Labour Market, 2006-2015’ projected that:
- Employment will continue to grow: The growth in employment is expected to slightly outpace the growth in the labour force;
- Employment growth is expected to be fastest in the service-producing industries;
- More than two-thirds of all new jobs are expected to be in occupations usually requiring postsecondary education or in management;
- Over the next 5 years, retirement will continue to increasingly account for a growing share of job openings; and
- Occupations in the health sector and management are expected to remain in demand.
The labour market related changes are not expected to significantly affect the appropriateness of the existing selection criteria. As mentioned previously, some key informants suggested that it may be useful to increase the emphasis and place limits on age in the selection factors in response to the aging population. Other labour market changes may drive revisions to priority occupations and place more pressure on applicants to ensure that their educational credentials are recognized in Canada and valued by employers.
E. Research of similar programs in other jurisdictions (Quebec) and countries (Australia and New Zealand) shows that, although the selection factors are generally similar to FSWP, the defining characteristics of each factor and the points allocation are somewhat different.
A comparison across various selection systems revealed some notable differences between the factors used and points awarded under the FSWP and other similar programs.
- Age - In comparison to the FSWP, Quebec and other countries place greater emphasis on selecting younger applicants. Both Australia and New Zealand have established a ‘cut-off age’ as a minimum requirement for applying under the skilled immigration category. That is, applicants who are over 45 years old in Australia and over 56 years old in New Zealand are not eligible to apply. Quebec awards maximum points only for applicants aged 18 to 35 years; no points are awarded for applicants older than 42. Australia awards maximum points for applicants aged 18 to 28 years and New Zealand awards maximum points for applicants aged 20 to 29 years.
- Language - Australia and New Zealand have also established ‘language proficiency’ as a minimum requirement for applying under the skilled immigration category. In New Zealand, the program does not allocate points for language. However, language is a part of the minimum requirements and applicants must demonstrate a minimum standard (IELTS band score of 6.5) in order to be processed.
New Zealand places the most emphasis on language as the applicants have to meet a minimum language threshold in order to have their application processed43. While Australia only allocates 13% of total possible point to language, an applicant must receive a much higher IELTS score to obtain these points. Canada allocates 24% of total possible points for language; however, the standard to receive points is lower. Therefore, an applicant who has an IELTS score of 6 would receive a greater advantage from this score in Canada than in Australia, and the application would not even be considered in New Zealand.
- Work experience - New Zealand awards additional points if the work experience occurred in New Zealand, in an identified future growth area, or in an absolute skill shortage area, thus providing opportunities for workers in the lower skill levels with experience in demand areas to be awarded additional points. Australia awards additional points for at least 3 of the 4 years of experience that occurred before the date of application.
- Education - In Australia, education is assessed as part of the skill level and must be equivalent to Australian degrees. Applicants to New Zealand must have their qualifications recognized by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority.
- Adaptability - Different criteria are assessed under adaptability across the programs. In addition to other adaptability points, Quebec awards points for certain characteristics of the spouse including education and age, for families with young children, and for visits and ties to Quebec. Australia awards points for applicants with Australian education and experience.
Table 3-8 summarizes the percentage of points allocated for each criterion across the programs and the pass mark associated with each selection grid. As mentioned above, a notable difference in the allocation of the points is the importance of language.
In addition, skilled immigrant programs in Quebec and Australia place less value on experience than Canadian and New Zealand programs. New Zealand awards points for relevant work experience, work experience in New Zealand, work experience in an identified future growth area and work experience in an area of absolute skills shortage.
Canada places less emphasis on age and adaptability than the other programs. Adaptability is defined differently across the programs (refer to the adaptability section in the Appendix C: for a more detailed description).
Australia and New Zealand have two sets of marks to help control the intake of applications: a pass mark and a pool mark. The pass mark refers to the minimum number of points an applicant requires to directly qualify for immigration under the skilled migrant category. The pool mark is set lower than the pass mark. Applicants who meet the pool mark but not the pass mark are kept in the pool for 6 months in New Zealand and 2 years in Australia for possible changes in the pass mark. Canada has one pass mark currently set at 67 out of 100 points.
|Education||25%||26% - 23%||30%||25%|
|Age||10%||15% - 13%||15%||12%|
|Arranged Employment||10%||9% -8%||10%||23%|
|Total Max. Points||100||107 - 123||200||265|
|Pass Mark**||67||55 - 63||120 (100)**||140 (100)**|
*In Quebec, the minimum pass mark differs for a single applicant, versus one with a spouse (partner). The first percentage reported in the table is for applicants without a spouse and the second one is for applicants with a spouse.
**Australia and New Zealand have set two point marks – a pass mark and pool mark
Processing times for skilled applicants vary across the programs. In Canada, priority applications (Quebec and AEO skilled workers) take about 7 months to process whereas the average processing time for all other FSW applications is 23 months. Quebec applicants are selected by the Quebec government, and the CVOA is only responsible for the admissibility step. (i.e. medical, security and criminality checks) and for issuing the visa.
In New Zealand there is no formal prioritization of the applications. The average processing time after the expression of interest is reviewed and applicants are invited to submit a full application, is about 6 months. Processing times in Australia vary depending on whether the applications are submitted onshore or offshore and whether they have a priority processing (priority applications can take 6 months for onshore applicants and up to 15 months for offshore skilled workers)45. Non-priority applications in the skilled independent subclass submitted onshore take up to 2 years to process and applications submitted offshore can take up to 3 years46.
3.7 The processing of FSWP applications
The major evaluation findings regarding the processing of FSW applications in terms of program transparency, objectivity, processing issues and challenges, and impact of fraud on program implementation are as follows:
A. The system is designed to be efficient, transparent and objective.
CIC managers noted that IRPA was designed specifically to be more objective and transparent by simplifying the application process and making changes to the selection criteria such as removing the personal suitability factor, and capturing work experience in one factor. CVOA staff agreed that the program policies have moved towards a more objective and efficient process of selecting skilled workers (i.e. fewer interviews). The drop in the number of substituted evaluations (less than 1% of all applicants are accepted on positive substituted evaluation) reflects the increased confidence of management and other visa office staff in the objectivity of the selection process and reliability of the points system in selecting skilled workers.
The regulations associated with IRPA introduced more simplified assessments by giving weight to attributes which can be demonstrated on paper. Major modifications to the selection points system reduced the number of factors from 10 to 5 (see Table 3-9 below). The major changes that were intended to result in a more transparent and objective process included:
- Education: More points for educational qualifications, with years of schooling taken into account which simplified the educational spectrum (i.e. high school, trade certificate, college diploma or university plus number of schooling), and provided more objective assessment for educational attainment;
- Experience: Removing points for specific vocational preparation and changing the assessment to only consider the number of years of experience;
- Language: The points split between primary and secondary language was adjusted to place more emphasis on the primary language; and
- Personal suitability: This factor was removed as it required an interview and a subjective assessment of adaptability, motivation and resourcefulness. Instead, adaptability criteria, which could be assessed through a review of documents, were introduced.
Table 3-9 summarizes the criteria and points allocation under both regimes.
|Criteria||Pre-IRPA points (%)||IRPA points (%)|
|Education||16 (14)||25 (25)|
|Official Languages||15 (13)||24 (24)|
|Experience||8 (7)||21 (21)|
|SVP - specific vocational preparation||18 (16)|
|Age||10 (9)||10 (10)|
|Arranged Employment||10 (9)||10 (10)|
|Personal Suitability||10 (9)|
|Adaptability (arranged employment, relative in Canada, spouse's education, study in Canada, work in Canada)||10 (10)
(5 per factor, max. 10)
|Relative in Canada||5 (4)||Under adaptability|
|Demographic Factor||10 (9)|
B. Processing times show that IRPA was successful in reducing the time associated with the selection decision and final decision. However, this was largely offset by an increase in the time required to complete the paper screening, as the rate of applications received exceeded the capacity to process them.
Key informants indicated that although the Program has improved the selection process, it has been less successful in achieving its objectives with the respect to the timely entry of skilled workers. The various groups were asked to rate the success of the Program in achieving these objectives, on a scale from 1 to 5, where 1 is not at all successful and 5 is very successful. The average ratings ranged from 2.2 amongst provincial representatives to 3.3 amongst HRSDC representatives. Key informants have identified growing inventories and large backlogs as factors that constrain the Program’s ability to process skilled workers applications in a timely and effective manner. Other areas where the Program is viewed as being less successful include assessing language abilities of FSWs, ensuring integrity in the processing, and requiring recognition of the credentials in regulated occupations.
Figure 3-12: FSWP success in achieving its objectives
|Provincial Representatives (n=7)||2.20|
|CSIC & CBA (n=32)||2.90|
|CIC Managers and Directors (n=8)||3.25|
|HRSDC Representatives (n=5)||3.33|
Source: Key informant interviews
The improved transparency of the new selection system was expected to decrease processing times by reducing the time spent interviewing applicants and by removing subjectivity from the assessment process. However, the number of applicants awaiting a decision continued to increase, reaching over 600,000 at the end of 2008, an increase of almost 300,000 persons since 1999. The available data from CAIPS on processing times shows that IRPA was successful in reducing the time associated with the selection decision and final decision, but this was largely offset by an increase in the time required to complete the paper screening (the time required to begin assessing the application as a result of the large backlogs). Overall, the average processing time has increased by 3 months, from 20 months pre-IRPA to 23 months under IRPA.
|FSWP Processing Components||Pre-IRPA||Dual-
|Paper Screening Decision||4.2||15.4||15.0|
|Total mean months *||19.7||54.8||23.3|
* Total mean months does not represent the sum of all processing components, rather it is the total mean time for the applicants who were selected (final decision).
Processing times vary ly by mission, as outlined in Table 3-11.
|Buffalo||Port of Spain||All Missions|
|Pre-IRPA processing time (mean months)||12||22||29||11||12||20|
|IRPA processing time (mean months)||26||18||38||20||22||23|
Source: dwsweb;(4) International Region, and CAIPS
Factors identified by CIC and CVOA staff as contributing to the large backlogs and long processing times include:
- A significant increase in the number of applications submitted before IRPA came into effect. This was followed by a large decline in applications for the next two years, which raised concerns about visa offices being able to meet their targets over the medium-term. The pass mark was lowered in 2003, from 75 to 67, which increased the intake of applications by 71% in 2004. The number of applications continued to increase until 2008 as indicated below.
Figure 3-13: FSW applications received – all offices abroad
|Intake of Application (cases)||130,000||51,100||33,800||57,900||59,000||77,800||81,200||73,000|
The number of applications received can be affected by the political and economic environment of the particular country, as well as other factors such as changes in the regulations (e.g. the intake of applications in Hong Kong increased after the transfer of sovereignty from the United Kingdom to Peoples Republic of China in 1997 but dropped after IRPA was implemented).
- Litigation. Due to the perceived inequity of the transition provisions, a number of applicants initiated litigation challenging these provisions. In response to the court challenges and some court orders, on December 1, 2003, substantive amendments to the IRPA regulations took effect, which provided for “dual assessment”, using either the selection criteria of the former Immigration Act (IA) or the IRPA, whichever was most advantageous to the principal applicant. As outlined previously, the average processing time for applications that underwent dual assessments was over twice that of pre-IRPA applications (55 months vs. 20 months). CIC managers and visa officers noted that these transitional cases created large bottlenecks in the system as a result of the dual assessment and the litigation which delayed the processing of numerous claims.
- An annual immigration plan is developed and approved by parliament each year, which sets the level of immigration by category. The targeted numbers can vary significantly over time. The targets for the year are then distributed across missions. The missions will be responsible for processing cases in accordance with ranges identified at the beginning of the year. The missions should not exceed the number of visas they were allocated and must work with the priorities that were set in terms of case processing. Applications received under the PNP and the Quebec skilled worker program are given processing priority. Applications received under the new Ministerial Instructions are also given the priority within the FSW category. Those three priorities often limit the ability to process IRPA applications received before the new instructions were implemented. For example, in Hong Kong, targets for the number of visas issued under the FSWP have decreased from over 14,000 in 2002 to just over 3,000 in 2008. According to the management staff interviewed in Hong Kong, targets in 2008 have been met with applications submitted under Ministerial Instructions, which left little room for processing the backlog.
- Approval rates. Approval rates for IRPA applications have declined between 2004 (78%) – when a significant number of cases started to be processed under that selection regime – and 2008 (57%).
Refusals may be more resource intensive to process than approvals. Low approval rates can be indicative of higher levels of suspected fraud, possibly resulting in an increase in processing times as well as the resources required to process applications. If fraud is suspected visa officers can request additional documentation and, possibly, conduct an interview.
- The IRPA backlog will take several years to process. As the PNP levels have increased, the IRPA FSW levels have decreased, to accommodate the higher PNP targets; and, IRPA FSWs are one of the few categories that are not considered to be a priority. Therefore, MI applicants are processed first which can limit the number of IRPA FSW applications a visa office can process in a year.
- If an IRPA FSW file is incomplete, the visa officer will request the missing documentation. Documentation is requested for other reasons already noted, for example, to request IELTS test results and to request additional documentation to validate information on the file. The requirement to handle a file multiple times both extends the processing time and increases the level of effort to process the file.
C. In certain instances, visa officers do not have the tools to consistently and efficiently implement the FSWP.
Visa officers across the missions visited expressed their concerns about the tools and resources available to assess applications effectively, particularly with respect to the assessment of:
- Language: The lack of a requirement for a mandatory language test creates several problems. It is inefficient and hinders consistency as visa offices have developed different practices for processing applications without language test results.
- Education: Validating educational credentials and allocating points to foreign degrees is a time-consuming and difficult process as equivalencies to the Canadian educational system haven’t been established. As noted, the London visa office can access NARIC (National Agency for the Recognition of International Credentials, a national agency responsible for providing information, advice and expert opinion on vocational, academic and professional skills and qualifications from over 180 countries world.) Assessing online and long distance education is problematic and not addressed in a consistent manner across the visa offices in the case studies.
- Quality Assurance: In the absence of a delivery network quality assurance program, quality assurance activities vary across visa offices.
D. The level of suspected fraud further constrains the implementation of the program and efficiency of the selection process.
All groups of key informants pointed to areas of the program that are susceptible to abuse and fraud, including:
- AEO related fraud, which can range from job offers from non-existent employers, fictitious positions, offers of convenience from friends or family members, and genuine offers with inflated job descriptions.
- Education related fraud, which includes falsified educational certificates and diplomas, certificates from non-existent or non-recognized educational institutions (e.g. in London, out of 36 refused cases we reviewed during the case study, 23 were refused on education related fraud).
- Employment related fraud, which may include false reference letters regarding type and years of experience, bank records, exaggerated job responsibilities, and inflated resumes.
Some visa officers, particularly those working in fraud units, noted other areas where fraud can occur such as imposter fraud on IELTS tests and unreliable written submissions offered as a proof of language, misrepresentation of relatives in Canada, false identity documents, such as police certificates, birth-certificates, adopted children claims, and marriages of convenience.
Visa officers indicated that much of the misrepresentation and fraud is planned, sophisticated and organized by the third parties. CVOA staff expressed concerns with the lack of mechanisms, tools and training to increase the integrity of the program. CIC Managers and Directors also noted that incidence of fraud has grown, but the resources have not kept pace with an increasingly complex environment. All the visa officers interviewed would like to see more measures implemented, such as an increase in the number of years that applicants are banned from reapplying for permanent residence if misrepresentation on their application is demonstrated (currently set at two years), to deter applicants from committing fraudulent activities and to send a message that the Canadian Government will not tolerate unlawful activities.
E. According to the FSWs who were surveyed, the application process and procedures are clear and understandable, information is accessible, and the services they received were satisfactory.
Approximately 36% of FSWs reported receiving assistance in the application process from a third party (e.g. from immigration consultants and lawyers). As indicated in the following chart, FSWs were satisfied with the application process, regardless of whether they received assistance.
Figure 3-14: FSWs satisfaction with the program
|Average - Clients who did not receive help (n=953)||Average - Clients who received help (n=536)|
|The application process was completed in a timely manner||4.1||4.3|
|You were satisfied with the service that you received||4.1||4.1|
|It was fairly easy to access the information you needed to complete the application and process||4.0||4.2|
|The application process and procedures were clear and understandable||4.1||4.3|
Source: FSWs survey
Those FSWs who did receive help with the application process tended to be older applicants (about one-third of applicants in their 20s received help compared to over one-half of those aged 50 years and older), less educated (44% of applicants with 12 years of education or less received help versus 36% of those who had more than 13 years of education), and more likely to have an AEO (44% of AEO FSWs received assistance versus 34% of others).
FSWs who expressed concerns about the process and procedures felt that the instructions were complicated, unclear and ambiguous, it was difficult to make contact with a representatives in the visa office, there were concerns about customer service (e.g. lack of guidance, lost documents, poor communication), and required documents were hard to obtain (e.g. school records, old documents, original copies of transcripts and employment).
F. CSIC and CBA representatives were less satisfied than the FSWs with the success of the Program with respect to meeting the information needs of stakeholders and their applicants.
The CSIC and CBA representatives were asked to rate the success of the FSWP in terms of meeting the information needs of applicants, meeting the information needs of other stakeholders, processing applications in a timely manner, keeping backlogs to an appropriate level, and making effective use of the potential for discretional decision-making on a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 is not at all successful and 5 is very successful. As indicated below, the primary concerns of these representatives related to backlogs, processing times, and the limited use of substitute evaluation in situations where the FSWs do not otherwise obtain the pass mark.
Figure 3-15: FSWP success in processing areas (CSIC and CBA ratings)
|Keeping backlogs to
an appropriate level
|Making effective use of the potential
for discretional decision-making
in a timely manner
|Meeting the information
needs of applicants
|Meeting the information
needs of stakeholders
Source: Key informant interviews
About 61% of CSIC and CBA representatives said that their FSWs are not satisfied with the application and selection processes of the FSWP because the process takes too long, applicants can’t make plans due to the uncertainty of the processing times, and they are frustrated with the paper work. Where there were concerns regarding meeting information needs, the CSIC and CBA representatives felt that the program has not effectively addressed communication issues by regularly updating websites, providing clear and complete information about the requirements and points system, and effectively corresponding on case-specific inquiries.
G. CIC Managers and Directors expressed some concerns about the success of the Program in providing quality services to FSWs and in effectively allocating resources.
As indicated in the chart below, CIC managers and directors generally indicated that the Program has been successful in monitoring and controlling safety, security and health risks, as well as keeping wastage rates at an appropriate level47 (providing the ratings of 4.3, and 4.0 respectfully).
Figure 3-16: FSWP success in processing areas (CIC ratings, N= 8)
|Monitoring and controlling safety, security and health risks||4.3|
|Keeping wastage rates at an appropriate level||4.0|
|Minimizing misuse and fraud||3.8|
|Processing applications involving AEOs||3.4|
|Achieving consistency and transparency in the process||3.4|
|Responding effectively to complaints||3.2|
|Providing quality service to applicants||2.5|
|Allocating existing resources effectively||2.3|
Source: Key informant interviews
Provision of quality services to FSWs and effective allocation of the resources were rated as less successful areas (2.5 and 2.3 respectively). CIC representatives noted that resource shortages have affected the provision of quality services to applicants. They suggested that the level of resources allocated to ensuring the integrity of the program has not kept pace with the level of fraud experienced in some regions. Furthermore, the funding model does not recognize differences in the intake levels for applications and levels of refusals. As noted earlier, IRPA approval rates have declined from 78% in 2004 to 57% in 2008.
All five CVOAs visited have established a client service unit, or have designated a client service responsible staff member(s) who deals with FSWs’ and stakeholders’ inquiries and ensures timely and standardized correspondence. Missions with higher volumes of applications such as London and New Delhi have set up a client service unit of 6 to 8 visa office staff. Smaller offices have one or two staff responsible for general inquiries and distribution of case specific emails to the program assistants or officers responsible for the file.
Staff in the visa offices visited generally believe that the program is successful in providing information to applicants and responding to their needs, given the resources available. Despite the volumes, emails are responded to in a reasonable time frame. In Buffalo, standardized replies for general inquiries on status, processing times, fees, new regulations etc., are sent within 24 hours. In the New Delhi office, most inquires are dealt with within two weeks. Information needed to successfully complete an application is available on the website, although some skilled workers noted that the amount of information can be overwhelming and that it is difficult to receive answers to questions that are specific to their case.
3.8 Other program impacts
The findings regarding other program impacts are as follows:
A. Most provincial governments prefer the PNP due to its perceived responsiveness about provincial priorities and needs. As the PNP has expanded in recent years, the levels for the FSWP have been reduced, to ensure CIC adheres to the annual levels plan.
Targets for the PNP have been growing while targets for FSWP have declined. From 2002 to 2008, the minimum visa target for the FSWP decreased from about 116,000 to 67,000 visas while the PNP target increased from 1,500 to 20,000.
Figure 3-17: Number of federal skilled workers and provincial nominees admitted to Canada from 2003-2008
Source: Annual report to Parliament 2003-2008
Although Provincial representatives interviewed generally support FSWP, particularly those from Ontario and BC that benefit the most from the Program, they perceive PNP as being more effective due to its flexibility, responsiveness to immediate labour needs and provincial priorities, ability to attract workers who wish to settle in destinations other than major urban centers and shorter processing times.
As indicated in Figure 3-18 , median processing times for other economic categories (particularly PNP) are significantly shorter than those of the FSWP. However, PNP processing times do not include the selection process which is a provincial responsibility.
Figure 3-18: Median processing times for economic programs in 2008 (months)
Source: dwsweb; (4) International region
B. The profile of FSWs has changed and is more diversified under IRPA.
The selection criteria under IRPA, which places more emphasis on human capital factors, have resulted in changes in the characteristics of FSWs. For example, under IRPA48:
- FSWs are more likely to have either a master’s degree or a PhD (46%) compared to pre-IRPA (26%);
- FSWs reporting no English or French language skills has decreased with IRPA (23% vs. 4%);
- Increased number of female applicants (30% compared to 23% from pre-IRPA);
- FSWs have been attracted from a r range of professions. For example, under pre-IRPA, 60% of FSWs were in NOC 21 occupations (primarily engineering and software related professions). This percentage decreased under IRPA to 33%. Conversely, FSWs intending to work in occupations NOC 41 (Professional occupations in social science, education, government services and religion) have increased from 4% under pre-IRPA, to 18% under IRPA;
- There has been a drop in admissions from Asian FSWs, particularly from China, which may be attributable, at least in part, to the more stringent language requirements under IRPA. The percentage of the FSWs identifying China as the country of last permanent residence dropped from 28% to 16% under IRPA, and FSWs coming from China and intending to work in NOC 21 dropped from 24% of the pre-IRPA to representing only 7% of the IRPA flow.
As a result, the profile of FSWs under IRPA is more diversified, especially with respect to occupational and country distribution. IRPA FSWs are also more educated and have a better knowledge of official languages.
14 Skill level A of the National Occupational Classification refers to occupations that usually require university education. The skill level B refers to occupations that usually require college or vocational education or apprenticeship training. Occupations in the 0 category refer to management occupations.
15 Reference: http://www.budget.gc.ca/2008/plan/table-eng.html
16 Reference: http://dsp-psd.pwgsc.gc.ca/Collection/C2-596-2001-1E.pdf
17 Numbers presented in this table include principal applicants as well as spouses and dependents.
18 Principal applicants only.
19 See Methodology section for more details regarding IMDB analyses.
20 Data from the landing year is not included as it does not represent the full year of employment. The counts of individuals in year 4 are low and the analysis presented in the following charts should be interpreted with caution.
21 For more details refer to Table 3-3.
22 Of the 1499 FSWs surveyed 359 indicated that they had an arranged employment.
23 Date data was available for 1,471 FSWs (including the 81 FSWs who have not obtained employment but excluding 28 who have worked but for whom there were missing dates in their employment data).
24 The survey results have to be interpreted with caution. Given the self-selected nature of the survey, there might be potential non response error in the survey.
25 Results from the survey of employers should be interpreted with caution given that the sample of employers was developed based on referrals from FSWs. FSWs may be more likely to provide reference for employers with whom they have a positive relationship.
26 For the full list of findings see ‘Towards a New Model of Selection. Current Selection Criteria: Indicators of Successful Establishment?’ Economic Policy and Programs Division, Selection Branch, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (1998).
27 Most FSWs who immigrated during the earlier years (e.g. 2002 and 2003) are pre-IRPA FSWs while most FSWs who immigrated during the later years (e.g. 2005 and 2006) are IRPA FSWs.
28 IRPA applicants can earn a total of 15 points if they had an arranged employment offer in Canada (10 points for the arranged employment offer and an additional 5 points can be obtained under the adaptability factor).
29 In the IMDB, 4,305 of the 31,935 IRPA FSWs obtained points for an AEO.
30 Note that earnings reported in the survey for FSWs who have an AEO are higher than the earnings that were found for FSWs with an AEO from analyzing the IMDB data. Survey results indicate that the two most common positions for which an offer was made were Management/ CEO/ Director/ President and Assistant/ Associate Professor.
31 Only full time earnings are reported because 97% of FSWs with AEO who did report annual earnings are employed full time, and not everybody worked the full year.
32 For more information visit http://www.hrsdc.gc.ca/eng/jobs/foreign_workers/index.shtml.
33 Ministerial Instructions were implemented in 2008 and are outside the scope of this evaluation.
34 Cohorts 2005 and 2006 and tax filers that appear for the first time in these two years are excluded from the analysis as immigrants must disappear for at least 2 years to be considered as returned migrants.
35 To obtain estimates of outmigration (or onward migration), the deaths (reported and estimated) were eliminated from the disappearances as well as others who have obvious reasons for not filing during a two year period and beyond.
Deaths (along with the date of death) can be reported in a final tax return. However, this definition of death is insufficient, and estimated deaths were also eliminated from the disappearances. Death was estimated as being a reason not to file an income tax return if a person is the only member of their arrival group to disappear, they are not a woman of child-bearing age, and younger than 65 years of age (of working age). Other people might not file an income tax form for various reasons, including: women of child-bearing age, if they are the only member of their arrival group to disappear and people over the age of 65 if they are the only member of their arrival group to disappear and if they landed in Canada after they turned 55 and subsequently disappear in a 10 year window (as they are not eligible for public pension). Therefore, outmigration equals to the disappearances minus the reported and estimated deaths and people who do not file an income tax return. Outmigration can be defined as the reported emigration plus the estimated emigration and the other emigration.
Reported emigration includes both those who declare they have left the country on the final tax form they submit and those who disappear for two years and at least one of the members of their arrival group declared that they have emigrated. Estimated emigration happens when an entire arrival group disappears within a window of two years without reporting it, or if a person fills out a tax form from outside the country and then subsequently disappears. The other emigration is the remainder of the observations. This methodology is consistent with what others have used when analyzing the Canadian census, such as Victor Chen (2009).
36 Because of the small number of observations and the short period of observation, survival tables or analysis based on years since landing could not be done
37 Represents the percentage of individuals who were intending to settle in a given province who still resided in that province in 2006.
38 Represents the percentage of increase in residents living in a given province. Derived from subtracting in-migration and out-migration (net change) and dividing it by the number of people initially intending to settle in that province.
39 Of all IRPA cases present in the IMDB, 98% received the maximum number of points allowed for age. Thus, because of the little variation in points for the age factor, age at landing was used to better depict the effect of age on employment earnings.
40 Points for education under IRPA are awarded as follow: a) No points - Have not completed high school; b) 5 points - High school completed; c) 12 points - One-year diploma, trade certificate or apprenticeship and at least 12 years full-time study; d) 15 points - One-year diploma, trade certificate or apprenticeship and at least 13 years full-time study OR One-year university degree at the bachelor's level and at least 13 years of full-time study; e) 20 points - Two-year diploma, trade certificate or apprenticeship and at least 14 years full-time study OR Two-year university degree at the bachelor's level and at least 14 years of full-time study (20 pts); f) 22 points: Three-year diploma, trade certificate or apprenticeship and at least 15 years full-time study OR Two or more university degrees at the bachelor's level and at least 15 years of full-time study; g) 25 points - Master's degree or PhD and at least 17 years of full-time study.
41 n represent the number of participants who rated the questions.
42 n represents the number of respondents who answer the question
43 In New Zealand, a score of 6.5 in either the General Training or Academic IELTS Modules is mandatory for skilled migration.
44 For a further discussion of differences in the selection criteria and points allocation across the region, please refer to Appendix D:.
45 For the recently updated list of priority skilled migrant applicants in Australia, visit http://www.immi.gov.au/skilled/general-skilled-migration/pdf/faq-priority-processing.pdf.
46 For more on priority application processing times in New Zealand visit http://www.immi.gov.au/skilled/general-skilled-migration/pdf/faq-priority-processing.pdf.
47 Wastage rates are at about 5.4% under IRPA (Source: International Region).
48 FOSS analysis for this section is based on FSWs PA who landed between 2000 and 2006.
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