In December 2014, my colleague Steve Meurrens predicted that the introduction of Express Entry would have a devastating effect on the ability of international students to obtain Permanent Resident status in Canada (see: http://canadianimmigrant.ca/slider/are-options-for-international-students-to-immigrate-permanently-narrowing).
It seems like Steve’s epiphanies have come true. Just this past month I have received no less than 5 inquiries from individuals on the last year of Post-Graduate Work Permits (PGWP) asking about how they can obtain Permanent Resident status.
The challenges are quite clear. Time spent working on PGWPs, while earning some Canadian experience points, do not earn any extra points that appear necessary to obtain an Invitation to Apply. Individuals with PGWPs will have to not only meet the requirements of the Canadian Experience Class or Federal Skilled Worker Programs (at least 1 year of NOC 0, A, B experience), but also likely need either a Provincial Nomination or a Labour Market Impact Assessment.
The Labour Market Impact Assessment, which used to allow for advertising breaks for Employers hiring PGWP holders, now requires a $1000 application fee in addition to the 1 in 4 likelihood of a compliance review. Such burdens are heavy for Canadian employers to bare, particularly when the international graduate is likely entering only a mid-level NOC B position. Furthermore, the advertising exemptions have been removed and Canadian Employers must demonstrate that the PGWP holder is more suitable than Canadian candidates who have many more years of relevant experience and often times higher educational credentials. It is also hard, to make a business case, to pay someone with little experience a prevailing wage that reflects a skilled labour market generally with more experience and demanding hire wages.
One of the biggest problems facing PGWP holders is actually on the front end. Many recent graduates are unable to obtain positions right out of university that are NOC 0, A, B. Many start in NOC C, D positions (often unaware) that there is a requirement to obtain a promotion in order to qualify for Express Entry. Couple this with the fact that options for Entry-Level/Semi-Skilled (EE/SS) workers to obtain Permanent Residence (at least in B.C.) is limited to the currently-closed B.C. Provincial Nomination Program for EE/SS workers.
The Importance of Employer Communication Re: PGWP Status
One of the challenges is that many employees are hesitant to get into the conversation with their employers about their immigration status for fear of job security and other issues. However, this conversation needs to happen and ideally happen at the front end. Unless, it is in an Applicant’s plan to return to their home country following work on a PGWP, continue further studies, or pursue another guaranteed NOC 0, A,B vacancy within two years, not discussing immigration status with an employer can be disastrous. Currently, Canada’s economic immigration programs are all employer driven. If you are to obtain permanent residence in the future an Employer needs to be there to support you – write you a confirmation of employment, make recruitment efforts, provide your paystubs and their own tax/corporate information. Most importantly, they have to put their neck on the line in representations to Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) and Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC).
Your pathway to permanent residence starts on Day 1. Your employment contract or at the very least, your unofficial understanding with the employer needs to involve your ability to be promoted to a NOC 0, A, B position so you can get at least 1 year of skilled-work experience.
You can check the skill level of your position using the NOC matrix available online. Note that the BC PNP uses the 2011 NOC Matrix (here), which ESDC uses the 2006 NOC Matrix (here) Make sure, however, to obtain proper advice as to the wording of your job duties. Several positions, particularly those designated by Canadian employers who are unfamiliar with the NOC or your requirements to have skilled employment, may inadvertently hire you to a purported “skilled position,” while giving you job duties more akin to a lower-skilled worker. For example, one may assume that an administrative assistant (http://www5.hrsdc.gc.ca/NOC/English/NOC/2011/Profile.aspx?val=1&val1=1241) and an office support worker (http://www5.hrsdc.gc.ca/NOC/English/NOC/2011/ProfileQuickSearch.aspx?val=1&val1=1411) would both be considered under the same NOC Code given the similar nature of their duties, but an administrative assistant is a NOC B position (thus qualifying for Express Entry) while an Office Support Worker isn’t (NOC C low skilled position).
It is furthermore important to broach your Canadian employer because of the number of hybrid positions that are subject to classification under lower NOCs by ESDC. A great example of this is in the banking industry where a Customer Service Representative is a NOC C position (http://www23.statcan.gc.ca/imdb/p3VD.pl?Function=getVD&TVD=122372&CVD=122376&CPV=6551&CST=01012011&CLV=4&MLV=4) but a Financial Service Representation is a NOC B position (http://www5.hrsdc.gc.ca/NOC/English/NOC/2011/Profile.aspx?val=6&val1=6235).
There is arguably a ton of overlap between the two positions and a ton of Customer Service Representatives I know who are gaining in seniority begin to take on some of the responsibilities of Financial Service Representatives. Complicating things, I know some banks call their Customer Service Representatives, Financial Service Representatives.
Another complicated matter are individuals who take on hybrid Account Manager (NOC B) and CSR (NOC C) roles. For immigration purposes, these type of positions will be under heavy scrutiny.
Know your Provincial Nomination Programs
Until the non-Express Entry British Columbia – International Graduates Program is announced in the beginning of July, the Express Entry version is a very good option for applicants (http://www.welcomebc.ca/Immigrate/About-the-BC-PNP/Express-Entry-British-Columbia/Express-Entry-British-Columbia-International-Gradu.aspx). Again, one of the challenges is the Applicant has to meet the basic requirements for one of three economic programs – which will require one year of NOC 0, A, B, either prior to coming to Canada and while holding a PGWP. As the International Graduates program requires you to apply within two years of completing your education program, this essentially gives you a two year window to get the requisite experience (assuming you don’t have it).
The International Graduates program is nice because there is no need for previous experience. The Applicant must only demonstrate that they have the means to support yourself and your dependents. For the Skilled Worker program, there is the requirement of several years of work experience, which is usually assumed to be two or more, creating a major time crunch for transitioning from a PGWP.
Regardless, it is important to keep up with the rapidly changing PNP program offerings. For example, on July 1st the BC PNP is reopening several programs, which I forsee may create more options for graduates of particular programs in professions that B.C. views in high demand (possibly LNG, Tech, and Medical fields).
I hope this article provided some insight into the challenges. As always contact me if you have any questions!