NEWS: The immigration department plans to introduce more flexibility into the way it determines the job skills of potential immigrants.

guest (Toronto Star)
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`Flexible' job skills, experience, to benefit would-be immigrants

By Allan Thompson
Toronto Star Ottawa Bureau

OTTAWA - The immigration department plans to introduce more flexibility into the way it determines the job skills of potential immigrants.

Changes to the point system used to select independent immigrants, outlined in a discussion paper obtained by The Star, would triple the number of points awarded for work experience.

And they would do away with the ``occupations list'' that bases points on a potential immigrant's current job.
Citizenship and Immigration Minister Elinor Caplan says she will table the 32-page paper this week, offering an outline of plans to select independent immigrants based on ``flexible skills'' rather than a current occupation.

Last year, 105,404 of the 189,816 newcomers to Canada arrived in the independent class. The rest were family class immigrants and refugees, who aren't judged according to the point system.

Caplan said her goal is to ``identify the best, the brightest, the people with flexible skills who are going to come and be able to do well quickly in Canada.''

Her reasoning is that it makes more sense to recruit flexible and adaptable people, rather than going after specific skills or occupations that may not be in high demand once an immigrant actually settles here.

The new system would emphasize post-secondary education and apprenticeship training, an ability to communicate in English or French and, for the first time, would provide points to those who have informal job offers awaiting them in Canada.

But Caplan has killed her own proposal for an innovative plan to allow once-in-a-lifetime sponsorship of any relative - a scheme she says was deemed unworkable by bureaucrats.

Caplan introduced in April a new Immigration Act which is still making its way through Parliament.

``The reason for tabling the discussion paper is to give comfort and a sense of direction, of where we're going,'' she said yesterday. ``I'm hoping that it will lead to speedier passage of the legislation.''

The centrepiece of the regulations is the reworking of the point system used to select independent immigrants, who must attain a minimum score on a grid that assesses education, work experience, occupation, language ability and other factors.

``We are looking at a significant change in the selection grid, doing away with the occupation-based system, moving to what we call a `human capital' system, identifying the flexible skills and experiences,'' Caplan said.

The old point system requires applicants to achieve a pass mark of 70 out of a potential 110 points. The new selection grid has a maximum of 100 points, but Caplan said it hasn't yet been decided where to set the pass mark. As immigration minister, she would have the right to raise or lower that mark from time to time to influence the flow of immigrants.

The old system, for example, awarded 8 points for one year of work and up to 10 points for jobs appearing on a favoured occupations list, as well as a maximum 18 points for training related to those occupations.

The new system will have no such occupations list, but will dramatically increase points for experience, allowing up to 25 for four years of recent skilled work experience.

The new system will also increase total points for schooling from 16 to 25. A high school education that earned up to 10 points under the old system would now garner a maximum of 5. However, three years of full-time training leading to a diploma, trade certificate or apprenticeship would score 20 points - the same awarded for a Bachelor's degree and close to the 25 points for a Master's or PhD.

The new system would scrap a 10-point ``personal suitability measure'' left to the discretion of immigration officers and replace it with an ``adaptability'' criteria with a maximum of 10 points - five of those awarded if a spouse or partner is well educated. Applicants could also score points for having worked legally in Canada for a year, for two years of post-secondary education here, for an informal job offer or for having a family member in Canada.

The regulations package also follows through on a number of Caplan's promises to expand the family class.

``There are a number of things . . . which will support and encourage families to come together more quickly,'' she said.

The new rules would increase the age of dependent children to 21 from 18, include same-sex and common-law partners in the family class along with spouses, and make it easier to bring adopted children to Canada.

They would allow 18-year-olds to sponsor a relative under the family class, lowering the age from 19, and would also expand the family class to allow guardians to sponsor orphaned children from countries that don't allow adoption.

Caplan also proposes allowing people married to Canadians to apply for landed immigrant status from within Canada, rather than outside.
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