Temporary foreign workers in Alberta will now be able to nominate themselves for permanent residency, provided they meet key requirements.
The changes to the Alberta Immigrant Nominee Program will allow eligible foreign workers with at least two years work experience to nominate themselves for residency. Under previous rules, workers could only be nominated by their employers.
Deputy premier Thomas Lukaszuk made the announcement Thursday at a Spruce Grove lumber mill.
“We have many skilled foreign workers already here working and contributing to our communities and our province,” said Lukaszuk.
“The Alberta Work Experience Category will have a positive effect on the lives of those foreign workers who will now be able to stay permanently.”
Applicants will still have to meet other provincial and federal immigration requirements. The changes will not affect existing quotas and government scrutiny of applicants will also remain unchanged.
Permanent residency status does not automatically grant Canadian citizenship, although it begins the application process.
“While our priority is to ensure employment and opportunities for Canadians, we want to expand the opportunities for the people who come here who are already helping maintain a growing Alberta economy,” said Fort McMurray-Conklin MLA Don Scott.
Scott says the changes will help end a “revolving door” workforce. Under previous legislation, workers who were not nominated had no other choice but to return to their home country and replaced with new workers, regardless of their work or education experience.
“The people who help make Alberta’s economy what it is deserve these changes,” he said.
Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo MLA Mike Allen says the region has benefited from the program, since it allows non-Canadians with desired skills fill employment gaps.
“In Wood Buffalo, our unemployment rate is 2.8%, lower than the province’s 5%,” said Allen.
“The Temporary Foreign Worker Program has helped Wood Buffalo keep that number down as our city and industry expands.”
Changes still ignore existing problems
Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan said he was happy workers will no longer rely on nominations from their employers. McGowan and the AFL have criticized the program starting from its inception.
The labour organization argues the program hurts Canadians, because it is cheaper to import temporary, non-unionized skilled labour instead of training Canadians.
He also says the Temporary Foreign Worker Program doesn’t give foreigners the same opportunities previous generations of immigrants enjoyed. Until the spring, it was also legal to pay workers in the program 15% less than their Canadian counterparts.
“Previous generations were able to immigrate for work and become Canadian citizens. This program still allows a growing pool of exploited and vulnerable workers without the protection of Canadian citizenship,” says McGowan.
According to McGowan, Alberta has 5,000 spots reserved for temporary foreign workers applying for permanent residency, the same number as Saskatchewan. However, a record of 213,516 temporary workers came to Canada in 2012, up from 190,575 in 2011. Alberta is home to 70,000 of them, more than any other province.
“The problem is that these changes do represent a step in the right direction, but they don’t mean much unless the federal government increases the cap on foreign workers who can be enrolled,” says McGowan. “Or even better, just eliminate the caps altogether.”
June 20, 2013