The Federal Skilled Worker Immigration Category: Leaving the Past Behind

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On March 31, 2012, Citizenship & Immigration Canada (“CIC”) issued a news release regarding the further consideration of applications received under the Federal Skilled Worker immigration program (“FSW Program”). According to CIC, all applications received under the FSW Program prior to February 27, 2008, will be returned to applicants along with a full refund of the processing fees paid. The intention of this heavy-handed stroke of policy reformation is to reduce a supposedly insurmountable backlog of out-dated or “stale” FSW applications currently in process within the Canadian immigration system. Understandably, this has caused a considerable amount of indignation by those applicants who will have their applications and processing fees returned to them through no fault of their own.

Multiple operational, procedural and regulatory amendments have altered the face of the FSW Program over the course of the last few years, from changes which affect the location in which applications must be submitted to changes affecting what category and aptitude of applicant may be considered for qualification under the FSW Program in Canada. At present, it is CIC’s reasoning that an applicant who may have qualified under the FSW Program prior to February 27, 2008, would most likely not be able to qualify under present requirements due to the multiple changes made to the FSW Program in accordance with Canada’s ever-changing labour market. Simply put, the skills, occupations, labour shortages and occupations Canada has sought to identify and fill in past years are drastically different from what the 2012 economic landscape demands in order to facilitate Canada’s economic progress in the future.

According to CIC, the changes to the FSW Program are an absolute necessity in order to move forward with processing new applications received under newly introduced criteria; thus the backlog of applications formed too large of an impediment for the department to reasonably meet the expectation of creating an efficient, flexible and more responsive immigration system which better reflects and attends to Canada’s current labour market requirements.

Addendum: An excerpt of the press release taken from CIC’s official website detailing the specifics of the changes reads as follows:

“Under the proposed legislation, CIC will close the files of FSW applicants who applied before February 27, 2008, and for whom an immigration officer has not made a decision based on selection criteria by March 29, 2012. This is expected to affect around 280,000 applicants, including their dependants. CIC will begin the process of returning the full amount of fees paid to the Department by these affected FSW applicants. For those who have passed the selection criteria stage – approximately 20,000 people – CIC will continue processing their applications until they are approved for entry into Canada or not”.