Tag: Service Canada

The portal is closing….

This is in response to the new changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker program. There has been a lot of coverage of this in the press already, but unless I’ve missed it, no one has yet actually asked the views of the people actually in the middle of this program – ie: the foreign workers themselves.
I’ve picked the Globe and Mail article because it’s a national newspaper and, well, it was the first one I found. Taking out all the editorial and opinion pieces though, they all say pretty much the same anyway!
Here’s the original article:
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/economy/jobs/ottawa-set-to-unveil-sweeping-changes-to-foreign-workers-program/article11601857/

“The federal government will announce sweeping changes to the temporary foreign workers program Monday, aimed at ensuring non-Canadian workers are employed in this country only after every effort has been made to put Canadians in the jobs first.”

– “sweeping changes” says it all. I’ve found nothing to suggest that these changes were on the cards before the RBC scandal broke. In other words, this sounds very like a knee-jerk reaction, and the Tories are just trying to be seen to be Doing Something.  The system ALREADY includes a process that should ensure the Canadians are given the opportunity first – it just needs enforcing better, not completely re-writing. A Labour Market Opinion (LMO) is exactly that – an opinion on the local labour market that identifies a skills shortage. They are only approved for skilled/managerial level jobs, and only after the prospective employer demonstrates that they have tried to recruit locally for a set amount of time, and not found any suitable, Canadian candidates.

“Other measures, to be announced either Monday or at a later date, are expected to require employers to pay a fee for a permit to hire from overseas.”

This is the bit that really, really annoys me. I can see the logic behind it: why should Canadian taxpayers pay for the system that gets foreign workers in to do local jobs? However, to my mind, this is going to severely hamper the system – both from the point of view of small businesses who can’t necessarily afford it, and for the would-be immigrants who then not only need to find a job, but also find an employer who is willing to cough up the fee, AND wait whilst keeping the job open for that person for the months it takes for all this bureaucracy to process. Even the old system was problematic for small businesses, because if you have few staff and are seeking to hire a key worker, the chances are you’d struggle to keep the business afloat during the ridiculously long wait for the application to go through anyway. As I have pointed out repeatedly, my LMO took an epic five months to go through, and I was just lucky that my employers waited for me (not that I ended up doing the job I was originally offered, but that is a different issue). To my mind, adding a fee on to that as well would be enough to make most small business rule out the option entirely.

“The reforms – which will also address the question of wage discrepancies between foreign and Canadian workers doing identical jobs – aim to reduce abuse of the system while not shutting off the tap supplying an essential source of workers.”

Rubbish. Again, the old system did address wage discrepancies – or at least, aimed to prevent temporary foreign workers undercutting the local labour market. Under the old system, a Labour Market Opinion document was only granted if they employer was willing to pay “the going rate” or the local average wage for that specific job or industry. My LMO was actually refused initially because my employers weren’t offering me the provincial average for the role.

The problems with the original LMO system arose from very large companies basically flouting the rules, fudging the applications, and exploiting the workers they brought in. To combat this, the CIC or Service Canada need to be a bit more rigorous with enforcing the existing system, and – most importantly – do checks on the company and the workers after they have entered Canada to check that the foreign workers are actually doing the jobs set out in the LMOs, check they are being paid what they should be according to the job description, and in the case of RBC, check that they are not actually being trained to replace Canadian workers facing redundancy!

There is no need to charge a fee for the application: big businesses will hardly be affected, and if they are determined to flout the system anyway, they won’t be dissuaded by an additional fee. The fee only hurts small businesses and makes the program an option exclusive to huge multinational companies. If a fee has to be charged, it should be in return for much faster, more efficient processing times so that small businesses don’t have to struggle to hold a job open for so long.

From the perspective of would-be immigrants, making the leap into Canada is difficult enough already. Either you get in on the Temporary Foreign Worker program – which in turn, means finding a job in Canada from outside the country, then persuading your prospective employer to not only apply for an LMO, but also hold the job open for you for several months – and then making your own way to Canada and paying for your initial work permit, and then going through the whole process again with even higher fees as soon as you are eligible to apply for permanent residency….

OR,

There’s the Federal Skilled Worker program, a process which can easily take over two years to complete, and which also requires you to have $12000 Canadian dollars  in cash, after the already steep fees for the application process, and on top of all your moving costs, to support yourself while you look for a job in Canada. Practically speaking, you couldn’t really look for a job in Canada from outside the country under this system, because you wouldn’t be able to tell your employer when you’d be able to start. Also, the backlog of applications for this program was so long in recent years that they just cancelled ALL the applications, refunded everyone’s money and restarted the whole system from scratch.

We started the whole process of emigrating when my daughter was one year and one month old. By the time we got here (even going through the LMO program), she was nearly two, (10 months in total) and the whole thing cost us over $10000. To reiterate, that was the Temporary Foreign Worker program. The Federal Skilled Worker program wasn’t even an option for us – whereas we did qualify under the points system, we don’t have that sort of money anyway, but more significantly, we couldn’t put ourselves into that program with no guarantees of the timescale and no guarantees of employment nor income, not with a small child in tow. You can’t plan your family’s future with the vague hope that you’ll get to emigrate “sometime in the next few years”, it’s just not practical, especially when children’s schooling, your own career and most problematically – your mortgage, are all up in the air indefinitely during the application process.

For the vast majority of people the Temporary Foreign Worker program, while difficult enough, is the only realistic method of emigrating to Canada. Watch any news program about Europe and you’ll see why there are many people wanting to escape. This article quotes the Canadian unemployment rate as being “stubbornly 7%” – well, the European average is now 12.1%. In the UK there’s around 2.6 million people unemployed: that is over twice the total population of Saskatchewan. Despite this regressive, knee-jerk reaction legislation, Canada is a wonderful place to be. If there are jobs to be done, let us in to do them.   Please don’t close our only portal!

 

 

 

Worried. More than Worried.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaargh.

I celebrated too soon. At the beginning of January, New Employers phoned Service Canada and were told that the decision on the LMO should arrive in the last week of February. This sounded excellent news. Unfortunately, it is now unlikely to happen.

Briefly, an LMO is a Labour Market Opinion which identifies a skills shortage in the local area. If there are no applications for a job from local people with the necessary skills, then the company is allowed to recruit from overseas. I’ve moaned enough on this blog already about the Epic 12-weeks-and-5-days it took for my first one, for Kave Haz, to arrive. This one, apparently, may take even longer.

Service Canada, who are the office in charge of processing LMOs, applications for temporary residency and work permits, never admit on their website how long it takes to process an LMO, with good reason. 13th Ave are now being told 14-16 weeks, and someone on the ex-pat forums I read has reported 21 weeks and counting!!! It’s utterly ridiculous.

Here’s a Canadian lawyer explaining the situation:

http://www.canadianlawyermag.com/4012/processing-delays-in-the-age-of-increased-scrutiny.html?print=1&tmpl=component

This puts us all in impossible positions. New Employers offered me the job because they genuinely need a new staff member. With all these delays, they are having to cope without a key worker. Worse still, all the bureaucracy means that they are frantically faxing off every single irrelevant document they can to satisfy a random audit for Service Canada, on top of running the business and working full time.

Meanwhile, I just do not know what to do here. We are just keeping out heads above water financially but it was all done with the view that I would be over in Canada very soon and earning a salary. If that is not going to happen then we are stuck: there are no jobs here, which is why we want to emigrate anyway. I can’t go back to my cafe because Miranda would be climbing the walls in there nowadays, she needs more entertainment than “coming to work with Mummy” now. And Jo would kill me. I am apparently not eligible for any sort of help or support whatsoever from the benefits office. Even if I could find a job, I can’t work full time because I can’t afford childcare for Miri. I am therefore restricted to working evenings and weekends when Carl can look after her for me. And those sorts of jobs tend to be minimum wage – a fine toss up between the advantages of a minimal income vs the disadvantages of seeing even less of my husband and general exhaustion.

Another potential buyer  is coming round to view the house again tomorrow. If they do decide they want it, do we accept and risk having to move out of here before we can move to Canada?

After my truly gutting experiences with Kave Haz, I am totally and utterly paranoid about whether or not 13th Avenue will just give up on the LMO application, not hold the job open for me and find someone else to do it in the mean time. It is asking so much of them to wait for me, they’ve got a lot to deal with anyway, and for a small business, the wait is crippling. I can totally understand their frustrations – neither of us expected anything like this amount of hassle, and I wouldn’t blame them if they decided not to wait for me. However, they both seemed lovely, I do trust them, and they’ve never given me any reason not to, they always respond and update me, and a rational person would have no reason to believe they won’t wait for me and sort out this LMO. I am losing my rationality very quickly though.

But if they did cancel the application, that would just leave me hung out to dry, house up for sale, unemployed and with my business here already gone. And I don’t think I could cope with that AGAIN!

Very, very worried.