Canada has been attracting hundreds of thousands of skilled workers from abroad in high-priority occupations for decades. Immigrants approved for permanent residence arrive in Canada seeking employment in their field.
But there’s a problem: For regulated occupations, new immigrants often wait years for their foreign-obtained credentials to be assessed. As a result, they are not guaranteed to be working in their field — at least not until they have been authorized to do so by the regulatory body or governing agency.
In response, Canada recently committed to enabling immigrants in 10 new occupations to have their credentials assessed within one year.
Foreign credential recognition has been a hot topic since the early 1990s and while the Foreign Credential Recognition Program (FCRP) was implemented to help assess foreign credentials quickly, it is not fast enough. The program is accessed by regulatory bodies and governing agencies that oversee the certification of specific occupations across Canada.
While Citizenship & Immigration Canada (CIC) has offered immigration programs to attract skilled workers from around the world, the overall process to obtain foreign credential recognition has been incredibly lengthy; in some cases, as long as two years or more.
Employers looking to hire candidates in regulated occupations must wait until the candidates are certified in Canada before being allowed to perform the regulated work. As a result, new immigrants possessing the skills and experience Canada requires find themselves working in low-skilled, low-paying jobs until their credentials are assessed. Their skills and experience could even become irrelevant or deteriorate, making it less likely they will secure a job.
The popular Federal Skilled Worker program (FSWP) supports Canada’s objective to select high-skilled individuals based on their potential to become economically established in Canada and to assist employers in meeting their labour shortages. But since the barriers to securing a job in Canada also include high costs and lengthy credential assessment times, new immigrants seek temporary jobs, often times never working in their field.
The FCRP was implemented to speed up the recognition of and integrate skilled immigrants into the Canadian economy. Originally launched with 14 occupations — including dentists, pharmacists and medical laboratory technologists — the list now includes an additional 10 occupations:
•heavy duty equipment technicians
•heavy duty equipment operators
•audiologists and speech language pathologists
Through Canada’s Economic Action Plan and in partnership with the provincial governments, Canada’s goal is to streamline foreign credential assessment and recognition for 24 priority occupations so these new immigrants can go to work in their professions and fully contribute to the economy. This new policy will ensure foreign nationals who submit their applications, along with supporting documentation and applicable fees, will have their credentials assessed within one year.
“Anything that speeds up the recognition of internationally obtained credentials is a good thing because lack of international credential recognition is one of the major barriers to immigrants being able to work according to their skills and abilities and experience in Canada,” says Joan Anderson, director of employment and language programs at Vancouver’s Mosaic, a non-profit organization that addresses issues affecting immigrants and refugees.
By allowing for faster credential assessments, Canada’s ability to use human capital is greatly enhanced, and it allows for a more talented and accessible pool of candidates. Employers seeking to fill critical labour shortages will be able to employ more Canadians and permanent residents and slowly shy away from the Temporary Foreign Worker program.
Canada also plans to introduce an Express Entry (EE) system in January 2015. This seeks to direct employers to “immigration-ready” candidates who will be fast-tracked so they can come to Canada in under six months.
This would suggest credential assessment and recognition would no longer pose a problem as Express Entry will eliminate the issue of underutilization of immigrants’ skills.
Still, there are hundreds of thousands of recent immigrants and many thousands more still in the processing queue who will benefit from the addition of these 10 occupations.
Nir Rozenberg is director of the Canadian Association of Professional Immigration Consultants in Toronto. He can be reached at (416) 665-3939 ext. 222 or email@example.com.
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