Time to revitalize the business immigration program

  • May 25, 2017
  • Kim Covert

Note: This blog post was prepared for the June, 2017, issue of CBA Influence.

The key to a thriving economy is a strong, skilled and knowledgeable workforce. And while in a perfect world a company might be able to find that skill and knowledge on its doorstep, the reality in the global economy is that companies might have to look far and wide for the right people.

Under current guidelines, leading stars such as economist Janet Yellin, Microsoft’s Bill Gates, director Sofia Coppola or chef Ana Ros might not be able to get a work permit to operate a business or be self-employed in Canada.

“Canada needs to attract and retain temporary and permanent business workers as key talent to support economic development in today’s competitive global market,” says the CBA National Immigration Law Section in a recent submission to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. In fact, the Section notes, the government has made it clear in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act that it is committed to pursuing economic goals through business.

However, “the current Business Immigration Program is inadequate to support the government’s goal of revitalizing both the temporary and permanent business immigration programs in support of our economy,” the Section says.

In its submission, the Section makes eight recommendations for improving the Business Immigration Program so that it will better attract and keep talented workers. The temporary worker program needs to be more flexible and transparent, with more timely and consistent processing. The Section makes a number of suggestions for refining the existing International Mobility Program work permits for temporary employees (C10) and entrepreneurs (C11), and proposes adding a new category of permit for workers who would be seeking permanent resident status (C100).

The proposed new C100 Work Permit Category would be the one targeting high-flyers like Gates and Yellin. The permit would have an initial span of three years, with two-year extensions and no cumulative maximum.

Applicants under these guidelines would be expected to be entrepreneurs, or self-employed in Canada. They would have to demonstrate that they are already leaders in their field and that there is a reasonable likelihood that they will add value to Canada either socially, culturally or economically.

“Because these applicants will have proven themselves as accomplished and able to contribute, imposing a maximum age limit, minimum education, or restricting by National Occupational Classification codes and skill levels would be counterproductive,” the Section says. “There should also be no specific required minimum for an applicant’s net worth; however the applicant’s available funds should be appropriate to support their specific business activity.”

Being able to retain proven talent is good for Canada’s economy in the long term, the Section says. The Self-Employed Class works well for cultural and athletic activities and should be expanded in that area, but the third stream, farming, needs to be overhauled.

The Business Immigration Program could improve its intake management by using an “expression of interest” system that favours people with Canadian business experience, and is not biased toward particular age or education levels, which would be counterproductive.

Kim Covert is Editor, Publications, for the CBA.

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