Friday, December 14, 2012

News Release — Making Canada’s Asylum System Faster and Fairer

List of Designated Countries of Origin Announced

Ottawa, December 14, 2012 – The Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism announced today the initial list of countries whose citizens will have their asylum claims expedited for processing because they do not normally produce refugees.
“Designating countries is an important step towards a faster and fairer asylum system,” said Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney. “It is remarkable that the European Union – with its democratic tradition of freedom, respect for human rights, and an independent judiciary – has been the top source region for asylum claims made in Canada. What’s more, virtually all EU claimants either withdraw or abandon their own claims or are rejected by the independent Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada.”
In 2011, of the total number of asylum claims filed by European Union (EU) nationals around the world, over 80% of were filed in Canada, even though EU nationals have mobility rights within the 27 EU member states. The majority of EU claimants do not appear for their Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB) hearing as they withdraw or abandon their own claims. Of all EU claims referred to the IRB, an independent tribunal, 91% were rejected last year.
As part of the improvements to Canada’s asylum system, the Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act included the authority to designate countries of origin (DCOs) – countries that respect human rights, offer state protection, and based on the historical data from the IRB, do not normally produce refugees.
The initial list of designations covers 27 countries, 25 of which are in the European Union:
  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Croatia
  • Cyprus
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • Netherlands
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Slovak Republic
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • United Kingdom
  • United States of America
Additional countries will be designated in the months following the implementation of the new system, which comes into force tomorrow, December 15, 2012.
All eligible asylum claimants from a DCO will continue to receive a full and fair oral hearing on the individual merits of their claim in front of the independent, quasi-judicial IRB. The new system does not change in any respect the nature of these first instance hearings, which are conducted in a manner consistent with principles of due process and natural justice, and meet the requirements of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, as stipulated by the Supreme Court of Canada in its 1985 decision R v. Singh.
Claimants from DCOs will have their asylum claim heard by the IRB within 30-45 days, depending on whether they make their claim at a port of entry or inland. In comparison, all other claimants will have a hearing within 60 days, compared to the current waiting period of 600 days. This means that all claimants will have their cases heard much faster.
Just as they do now, failed DCOs claimants will continue to have the option to seek appeal to the Federal Court to review a negative decision. However, they will not have access to the new Refugee Appeal Division at the IRB.
There will be no automatic stay of removal for DCO claimants should they ask the Federal Court to review a negative decision, which means that they could be removed from Canada while their application for review before the Federal Court is pending. In these circumstances, individuals can ask the Federal Court to stay their removal.
“In order for Canadians to continue to strongly support Canada’s tradition of providing protection to victims of persecution, they must have faith in the integrity of our asylum system,” said Minister Kenney. “With these improvements, we are ensuring that genuine refugees fleeing persecution will receive protection more quickly, while, at the same time, failed asylum claimants from generally safe countries will be removed much faster.”
To be considered for designation, a country must meet objective criteria related to the number of finalized asylum claims Canada receives from that country. For countries with 30 or more claims in any consecutive 12-month period during the three years preceding designation, quantitative criteria are used. At least 60% of claimants from the country must have withdrawn and abandoned their own claims, or least 75% of claims from a country have been withdrawn, abandoned, and rejected by the IRB.
In the case of countries with low numbers of asylum claims (i.e., no consecutive 12-month period with 30 or more finalized claims during the three years prior to designation), objective qualitative criteria are used, including the existence of an independent judicial system, recognition of basic democratic rights and freedoms and the existence of civil society organizations.
If a country meets these triggers, a thorough review is undertaken.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, recognised that “there are indeed Safe Countries of Origin and there are indeed countries in which there is a presumption that refugee claims will probably be not as strong as in other countries.” And he has recognised the legitimacy of providing expedited processing for asylum claimants from those generally safe countries.
Many developed democracies use a similar authority to accelerate asylum procedures for the nationals of countries not normally known to produce refugees. These states include the United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, Belgium and Finland, among others. Some European Union (EU) states also have accelerated procedures for the nationals of other EU member states.
In fact, within the 27 member states of the EU, asylum claims from other EU nationals are considered to be manifestly unfounded. In many of these countries, claims by other EU nationals are considered inadmissible or are subjected to expedited processing. Among other things, this reflects that fact that EU citizens have mobility rights in all neighbouring EU countries.
The Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act is expected to save provinces and territories $1.6 billion over five years in social assistance and education costs.
“Canada will continue to have the most fair and generous asylum system in the world,” said Minister Kenney. “We welcome 1 in 10 of the world’s resettled refugees, more than almost any other country in the world, and we are increasing that number by 20 percent.”
Canada’s new asylum system is the result of two laws passed by Parliament — the Balanced Refugee Reform Act (June 2010) and the Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act (June 2012) – which amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA).

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Strengthening Border Security

Ottawa, December 13, 2012 — In another step toward improving border security, Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney and United States Ambassador to Canada David Jacobson signed today the Immigration Information Sharing Treaty, a key part of the Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness Action Plan.  
“Today’s important agreement builds on our countries’ mutual efforts to protect our common borders and the surrounding perimeter, through improved screening of immigrants and visitors, before they enter Canada and the United States,” said Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney. “Enhanced information sharing of foreign nationals will protect the safety and security of Canadians by helping us prevent terrorists, violent criminals, and others, who pose a risk, from entering Canada or the United States in the first place.”
“This important agreement is the culmination of ten years of effort to advance the security of the United States and Canada, and to ensure the integrity of our immigration and visa systems. It reflects the commitment of President Obama and Prime Minister Harper to the Beyond the Border process, which will enhance North American security while facilitating the efficient movement of safe goods and well-intentioned travellers,” said David Jacobson, United States Ambassador to Canada.
Under the Immigration Information Sharing Treaty, no information will be shared on Canadian or American citizens or permanent residents.
The historic Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness Action Plan was signed in 2011 by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and President Barack Obama. The Action Plan will accelerate the vital flow of people and goods between both countries, promoting job creation and economic competitiveness, while strengthening the security of both countries.
As part of the Action Plan, Canada and the United States committed to share immigration information to improve border efficiency and security, by establishing and verifying the identities of foreign nationals, and identifying those who are inadmissible at the earliest opportunity.
The adoption of the Treaty enables our two countries to share systematically information from third-country nationals who apply for a visa or a permit to travel to either country. The Treaty also provides an additional tool for regular, systematic information sharing on inland asylum claimants, which already occurs on a case-by-case basis under an existing agreement between Canada and the United States.
Biographic immigration information sharing is set to begin in 2013 and biometric sharing in 2014.
“Increased information sharing on immigration and refugee applicants will support better decision making by both countries in order to confirm identities, and identify risks and inadmissible persons before they reach our borders,” said Minister Kenney. “The requirement to provide biometrics in our temporary resident immigration program will bring Canada in line with many of our international partners. Coupled with enhanced information sharing with the United States, our ability to screen out people who try to abuse our respective immigration programs will be significantly strengthened.”
Any information shared on travellers and asylum seekers will be handled responsibly and, as with other information sharing agreements, exchanged in accordance with relevant Canadian laws including the Privacy Act to ensure individuals’ privacy rights are considered and protected.
Even with increased information sharing, Canada retains its sovereignty in making admissibility decisions. Canadian visa officers and border services officers will continue to consider all information presented before making admissibility decisions in accordance with Canadian immigration law. 
Enhanced screening initiatives, including systematic immigration information sharing and the Electronic Travel Authorization system, were agreed to in the Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness Action Plan to achieve the security and economic competitiveness goals outlined in the Beyond the Border Declaration. The Declaration articulates a shared vision in which both countries work together to address threats at the earliest point possible while facilitating the legitimate movement of people, goods and services across our shared border.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Attracting the best and brightest skilled workers

Transition to permanent residence now faster, more flexible

Ottawa, December 11, 2012 — Skilled temporary foreign workers will soon be able to transition to permanent residence faster than ever before, Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney announced today.
Beginning January 2, 2013, skilled worker applicants may apply to the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) program with 12 months of Canadian work experience, a year sooner than the previously required 24 months. In addition, graduates now have more time to earn their one year of work experience – up to 36 months, compared to only 24 months previously.
“The CEC helps Canada attract the immigrants our economy requires: individuals who have valuable Canadian work experience and the necessary skills to benefit our country’s current labour market needs,” said Minister Kenney. “These skilled workers are set for success and expediting their transition to permanent residence will help Canada to respond to ongoing labour market challenges.”
This improvement makes the program more flexible for applicants, particularly for skilled worker applicants who will be eligible to qualify for permanent residency more quickly. International students will benefit by gaining more time to acquire the necessary experience to apply for permanent residency.
Through the CEC, which was created in 2008, Canada has admitted more than 20,000 international students and skilled workers. In 2013, CIC intends to accept a record high of up to 10,000 permanent residents through this program. This is a significant increase from the 2545 who were admitted in 2009.
“The government is committed to creating a fast and flexible immigration system that works for Canada’s economy,” added Minister Kenney. “The CEC has become Canada’s fastest growing economic immigration program and is part of our plan to attract the best and brightest from around the world.”
Further details about the Canadian Experience Class.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Building an Immigration System that Works for Canada

New Federal Skilled Trades Stream to Begin Accepting Applications on January 2, 2013

Mississauga, December 10, 2012 — To address Canada’s growing demand for skilled tradespersons, a new Federal Skilled Trades Program is being launched on January 2, 2013, Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney announced today.
“The new Skilled Trades Stream will help address serious labour shortages in some regions of the country, and support economic growth,” Minister Kenney said. “For too long, Canada’s immigration system has not been open to these in-demand skilled workers. These changes are long overdue and will help us move to a fast and flexible immigration system that works for Canada’s economy.”
The program criteria are built around four requirements that ensure applicants will have the right skills and experience needed to succeed here in Canada. In order to qualify, applicants will need to:
  1. have an offer of employment in Canada or a certificate of qualification from a province or territory to ensure that applicants are “job ready” upon arrival;
  2. meet a basic language requirement;
  3. have a minimum of two years of work experience as a skilled tradesperson, to ensure that the applicant has recent and relevant practice as a qualified journeyman; and
  4. have the skills and experience that match those set out in the National Occupational Classification (NOC B) system, showing that they have performed the essential duties of the occupation.
In order to manage intake, avoid backlogs and ensure fast processing times, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) will accept up to a maximum of 3,000 applications in the first year of the Federal Skilled Trades Program.
Minister Kenney was joined at today’s announcement by Michael Atkinson, President of the Canadian Construction Association. “The introduction of a dedicated and streamlined program for skilled trades addresses many of the shortcomings from the current Federal Skilled Worker Program,” said Michael Atkinson. “The new program ensures greater consideration is given to the needs of industry when processing eligible immigration applications.”
“Ensuring Canada’s immigration system works for small employers in need of skilled trades’ people has been a concern for some time,” said Dan Kelly, President and CEO of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. “With the shortage of qualified labour in many parts of Canada growing once again, the launch of the Skilled Trades immigration stream is very welcome news.”
Eligible occupations will include electricians, welders, heavy-duty equipment mechanics, and pipefitters, among others. CIC is currently working with the provinces, territories and federal government partners on the list of skilled trades’ occupations that are experiencing acute labour shortages and which will qualify under the program. This list will be announced prior to the program opening on January 2, 2013.
The Federal Skilled Trades Program will complement other avenues already in place for skilled tradespersons to immigrate to Canada, such as the Canadian Experience Class and Provincial Nominee Programs.
“As promised in Economic Action Plan 2012, we are creating a new immigration stream to facilitate entry of skilled tradespersons,” added Minister Kenney. “The Federal Skilled Trades Program will help transform Canada’s immigration system into a fast and flexible system focused on jobs, growth and long-term prosperity.”

Friday, December 7, 2012

Facilitating Travel to Canada – Canada to Begin Collecting Biometrics from Certain Foreign Nationals

Ottawa, December 7, 2012 — In order to facilitate legitimate travel, nationals of twenty‑nine countries and one territory will soon need to provide their biometrics to come to Canada to visit, study or work, under regulations proposed today by Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney.
“Biometrics has proven to be one of the most effective ways to identify individuals entering the country,” said Minister Kenney. “By providing immigration officials with greater certainty, biometrics will facilitate legitimate travel to Canada.”
Starting in 2013, persons from the following countries and territory who apply for a visitor visa, study permit or work permit will be required to provide their fingerprints and photograph at the time of application: Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Bangladesh, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, Haiti, Iran, Iraq, Jamaica, Jordan, Laos, Lebanon, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Palestinian Authority, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, Vietnam, and Yemen.
Canadian citizens and permanent residents will not have to submit biometrics to enter the country. Minors under the age of 14, the elderly over the age of 79, and diplomats travelling on official business and their family members will also be exempt.
Once an individual arrives in Canada, their biometric data will be checked to ensure that the individual who was approved to travel is in fact the same person who is entering Canada.
The use of biometrics as an identity management tool will bring Canada in line with many other countries that are now using, or preparing to use, biometrics in immigration and border management. These include the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, countries in the European Union Schengen Zone, Japan, South Korea, the United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Saudi Arabia.
Accordingly, many nationals from the selected twenty-nine countries and one territory will already be familiar with the requirement. In addition, the governments of 20 of the 29 countries already collect biometrics from their citizens for the issuance of documents, such as identity cards and passports, or they plan to do so.
“Biometrics will strengthen and modernize Canada’s immigration system,” said Minister Kenney. “Our doors are open to legitimate travellers and, through the use of biometrics, we will also be able to protect the safety and security of Canadians.”
Citizenship and Immigration Canada, along with its partners, the Canada Border Services Agency and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, continue to work closely with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner to ensure adequate privacy protection measures for an applicant’s personal information. Applicants’ privacy will be protected in accordance with Canada’s Privacy Act.

News Release — Facilitating Travel to Canada – Canada to Begin Collecting Biometrics from Certain Foreign Nationals