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Foreign Service Workers To Return To Full Time Work At Canadian Visa Offices

1. Immigrant and Non-Immigrant Applicants (and Their Lawyers) Relieved As Foreign Service Workers To Return To Full Time Work At Canadian Visa Offices

Canada’s foreign service has reached a deal on a new contract with the federal government, ending a lengthy dispute and rotating strikes that have created an extensive backlog to visa processing and other consular services abroad. The government agreed to increase base pay for senior ranks of the foreign service, bringing it more in line with what the union had argued were comparable positions elsewhere in government. The government had previously resisted salary increases by taking the position that the jobs were already well-paid.

2. The Federal Skilled Trades Program – Expedited Immigration Processing

The Government of Canada launched the Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP) in January 2013 to facilitate the immigration of skilled tradespeople who meet Canada’s current and evolving trade needs. Applicants are assessed on relevant criteria such as language ability, practical training and work experience, rather than on formal academic education.

The FSTP was also created in response to requests from Canadian employers for skilled workers to fill labour shortages, particularly in the natural resources and construction sectors. Eligible applicants include carpenters, plumbers, contractors and supervisors of electrical trades, construction trades, installers, repairers and servicers, supervisors of logging and forestry or mining and quarrying, contractors and supervisors of oil and gas drilling service and logging machinery operators, amongst various other trades.

In order to attract and retain qualified, in-demand candidates, CIC’s goal is to process applications in this category as quickly as possible; current processing time for FSTP applications is three to four months.  Whilst this outcome is excellent for Canada’s trade industry, it is unfortunate that business owners and skilled, top-tier management employees essential to some of the largest companies in Canada continue to await receipt of permanent residence in queues of up to three years.

3. Parent and Grandparent Super Visas – How Super is this Visa?

Parents and grandparents of Canadian citizens and permanent residents, whether visa exempt or not, can apply for a Parent and Grandparent Super Visa to visit their children and grandchildren in Canada.

The benefit of applying for this visa is that it is valid for up to 10 years and allows an applicant to remain in Canada for up to 24 months at a time without the need for renewal of their status. The process for getting a Super Visa is not simple, however; applicants must provide proof that the host child or grandchild meets a minimum income level, demonstrate that they have purchased comprehensive Canadian medical insurance (which can involve a cost of $20,000) and undergo immigration medical examinations.  Moreover, extensive background, residence, travel and security information is required.

Although the government is issuing more than 1,000 Super Visas monthly, this new application process has created an extraordinarily expensive mandatory medical insurance requirement for parents and grandparents who are not visa exempt or, if visa exempt, for parents or grandparents wishing to remain in Canada for more than six months. It has created a lucrative new insurance market for Canadian insurance companies. The new Super Visa has also resulted in high refusal levels for traditional visa applications as well as visitor record renewals.

4. Citizenship Law Changes

a) Citizenship Testing Procedures Amended

Citizenship applicants who fail their first citizenship test will now have the opportunity to rewrite the test rather than wait for an appointment with a citizenship judge. In the past, individuals who failed their knowledge test would be required to wait a number of months for an appointment with a citizenship judge, who would then make a final decision on their case. Under this new procedure, applicants will be informed of their results immediately following their test. Individuals who fail but who have met all other criteria will be provided with a date to rewrite the test a few weeks later. Those who pass their test will be scheduled for a citizenship ceremony. Additionally, individuals who are currently waiting to see a citizenship judge because they had previously failed the test will also be invited to rewrite the test.

b) Citizenship Applications To Be Separated For Approval

All family members listed on one application no longer need to be approved at the same time. Previously, there were cases where all family members who had applied together were held up in obtaining citizenship when only one family member had failed a knowledge or language test. Successful applicants will now be informed that they may have their applications processed independent of other family members. This means that fewer people will need to wait for their applications to be processed and can proceed directly to being granted citizenship.

c) Government Hires More Citizenship Judges

In an attempt to reduce the growing citizenship backlog, the Government of Canada announced an investment of $44 million over two years toward improving citizenship processing. It is hoped that these funds will assist the government to address the growing backlog on straightforward citizenship applications which are currently in a queue of 25 months or more.  The government is also in the process of increasing the number of citizenship judges in Canada in order to make more decisions on citizenship applications and hold more citizenship ceremonies.

d) New Citizenship Test Preparation Resource

The citizenship eligibility test study guide, Discover Canada: The Rights and Responsibilities of Citizenship, has now been made available as an integrated audio eBook download for a more efficient way to learn about Canada’s history, values, symbols and important institutions. The audio eBook allows people to hear the text of the guide being read aloud as they follow along on their e-readers, smart phones or tablets. Citizenship and Immigration Canada was the first Government of Canada department to produce an eBook, which has garnered almost 60,000 downloads in the past year and a half. Well-known Canadians such as the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson and Mr. Ian Hanomansing lent their voices for portions of the English eBook and Mr. Jean-Benoît Rainville is one of the voices for the French version.

e) Government is Aggressively Prosecuting Residence Fraud in Citizenship Cases

Compliance enforcement on applications for Canadian citizenship has increased dramatically. Applicants who are found to have made false representations, fraudulent claims or to have knowingly concealing material circumstances in the citizenship process – for example, pretending to be present in Canada to meet the residence requirements for obtaining citizenship – could face charges under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the Criminal Code and/or have their citizenship revoked. The Government of Canada offers a tip line through the CIC Call Centre where tips on suspected citizenship fraud cases may be reported.