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Immigration, Work Permits

Immigration Pilot Projects – Good Idea or Creator of Competitive Disadvantages?

In many cases, before the government introduces changes to the immigration system, pilot projects are run to assess whether a new and different approach to immigration will achieve certain policy goals.  The advantage of pilot projects are that they allow the government to analyze how a change in immigration policy could work on a smaller scale level before rolling it out to the entire country.  It also allows the government to change or amend the final rules after getting back the pilot project data.

While pilot projects are useful in paving the way for future changes to the immigration system, these pilot projects can give employers in some jurisdictions a competitive advantage over employers in other jurisdictions.

For instance, the “Brain Gain” pilot project that was launched in Ontario allows for spouses and dependent children of Canadian citizens who are returning to Canada in specific occupations to work upon arrival.  This pilot project is designed to eliminate the problem that exists when a Canadian returns to Canada and their spouse or common-law partner is not allowed to work until after a lengthy immigration process.  During this process, the foreign spouse is usually also ineligible for health care in Canada.

Clearly, this pilot project is a good idea.  However, because it is only open to certain occupations in Ontario, companies recruiting expats may have a better chance of recruiting individuals to Ontario than to an identical position in another province.

Another set of pilot projects, are designed to allow working age dependents or children of temporary foreign workers to work in Canada. In cases where older children are resistant to come to Canada, pilot projects such as these can ease the situation.  Again, while a good idea, until the project is rolled out nationally only individuals in certain provinces get these advantages.

Recently, there has been an expansion of the Alberta pilot project that makes it easier for Alberta companies to hire certain foreign workers to work in that province: Alberta rule changes opening door to skilled foreign workers. This can create a competitive advantage for Alberta businesses in one of two ways. First, an Alberta business that is short of workers could hire foreign workers to staff their Alberta operations and then move their Canadian/permanent resident employees to projects outside of Alberta. Second, Alberta  businesses competing on the world stage could hire foreign workers to compete with other Canadian businesses for international markets.

While pilot projects are necessary, businesses should be aware of the possible competitive advantages businesses in certain provinces may get while these projects are running.

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About Reis Pagtakhan

Reis Pagtakhan is an immigration law partner with MLT Aikins LLP. His extensive experience includes assisting businesses obtain temporary entry to Canada and permanent residency for their executives, employees and contractors from all over the world. Reis has lectured on and written papers on immigration law for the Law Society of Manitoba, the Manitoba Bar Association, the Human Resources Management Association of Manitoba, the Canadian Corporate Counsel Association, and the Community Legal Education Association of Manitoba. He has presented position papers before the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Immigration Department officials and Manitoba Labour and Immigration. He has written articles on immigration for the CBC, the Winnipeg Free Press, trade, industry and ethnic publications.

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