On 14 April 2021, the Minister released a Temporary Public Policy (“TPP”) for international graduates, including the creation of a 40,000 cap for those with a recent Canadian post-secondary credential issued since January 2017 (See: https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/corporate/mandate/policies-operational-instructions-agreements/public-policies/trpr-international-graduates.html).
While this move is rightfully being lauded as part of a larger set of Temporary Public Policies that open the door that Express Entry has lately kept shut and the target shortfalls of COVID-19 have exacerbated, I have my concerns.
In this piece, I will go over three challenges I can already foresee with Canada’s Temporary Public Policy for International Graduates and what I would do to address it if I were the Government. In some cases, it will be too late likely but I’ll provide my hindsight perspective:
1.The Speed Based System Will Inevitably Lead to Crashes
Whether it be the system crashing or an Applicant’s application crashing due to the system forcing too much speed, I suspect something will crash on May 6th. While I have heard many numbers thrown around, from 500k vying for 40k spots, we know for a fact that very few former study permit holders ultimately obtain permanent residency in Canada. While this number was at one time in the mid 90’s and early 2000’s at a higher percentage, for the last few years it has been single digits. Even Express Entry, ostensibly made to support international graduates, do not meet the needs of most international graduates. Taking into account the number of international graduates who are working in retail, as servers, and customer services representatives – this is a large group who will be interested in applying on May 6th. While some will have access to the other TPP, not all well (many times due to the lack of one-year of work experience) and perhaps significant self employment experience.
Unlike traditional programs that require perhaps first a registration of intent and then a submission process, this appears to be set to do the entire process of eligibility and application all at once. like a full-day exam, this has the potential to be a few hours of absolute stress and anxiety. The reality is many will be on the outside looking in. Certainly, preparing and predicting for what can go wrong will go along way.
Still, I don’t see a way that demand for this program does not at the least slow down or crash the server, and at the very worst lead to many unable to access the forms, validate, submit, sign, and do all the logistics that permanent residence applications require. It seems almost counter intuitive that a process professionals charge and properly take weeks and in some cases months for is being jammed into several hours. Mistakes will be made. The call centre lines will be jammed up with those stuck, and at the end of it 40,000 names will be in the queue but not necessary become permanent residents.
As someone who co-spearheaded the parent and grandparent litigation in 2019, this has all the markings of that process repeated – perhaps without the Charter breach if a suitable process is created for persons with disabilities. Yet, so many were caught on issues outside of their control on the technology side. All it takes is one bad form for the system to derail or one server issue. I am hoping it does not happen but I am not holding my breath.
I am also not going to be registering anyone, directly or indirectly. Not only has IRCC indicated that this is the way the portal will be made (shutting out authorized reps), but the reality is one cannot do competent accurate work on a speed basis, let alone without access to the actual forms being held by both applicant and representative. Furthermore, representatives will be at a conflict of interest trying to register multiple clients.
When we do permanent resident applications for clients, we specifically (and often advise) for patience. That doing a good job requires time, review, double checking, and perhaps legal submissions to clarify inconsistencies. None of these appear to be either promoted or supported in a ‘typing race’ type process.
Possible Solution (although it is likely too late): While everyone hates the random draw, perhaps in a circumstance like this with demand sure to exceed space it is a fairer way to give everyone ample time to be eligible and put in an interest of the program. The other option is to push the start date a bit (to a date that clearly gives applicants (and third parties) at least a little more time to get their materials ready. Another option is to stager the intake so rather than one shot at 40,000, it could be 10,000 spots over four months allowing those who perhaps are not fully complete with their documents a bit of time to participate. My third suggestion is a vaccine approach. Are there certain graduates you want (STEMs? those who hold graduate degrees first before degree-holders and then diplomas?) – it would be entirely justifiable to start with a group first and then expand the pie until the spots are filled and thereby also controlling the flow. Yet, as I write above, it is likely too late to rethink it.
2. The Requirement for Employment Only at the Time Application Received is Both Bizarre and Ripe for Misuse
One of the requirements of the international graduates TPP is that an eligible applicant must hold employment at the time of the receipt of their application for permanent residency under the policy.
While I have a bone to pick with the self-employment bar as well (frankly an area the Government would be best to better resource with PR program and/or encourage the Provinces to step in), it seems rather arbitrary that an employee has to be working as an employee on the particular day their application is submitted, not any day before, not any day after. Indeed, this type of requirement does open the possibility of abuse: employment for a short-term period just to gain eligibility. As an aside, I had a consultation client ask today if I could hire them as an employee for my Law Firm so they could be eligible for this – to which I answered, no.
Especially during COVID when individuals, many of whom sacrificed and were employed in the past year, but perhaps less than a year or not in categories eligible under the essential occupation TPP, are possibly now on leave – it does not quite make sense that employment occurs in such a small vacuum. How does IRCC later assess it when someone who obtained employment for a two week period in order to submit the application, then quits to resume their self-employment (for example). It seems very arbitrary to require employment in this nature. One could (and presumably should) sign up for a temporary agency just to meet these requirements, and while good for the economy during these difficult times certainly inexplicable from a rational perspective why one would need to do this to meet an immigration program requirement. These are the same types of decisions that many fraud/arranged employment/inadmissibility cases are built under.
Possible Solution (although it is likely too late): Rather than require employment on that one particular day, require employment (or ongoing efforts to regain employment) until an eligibility decision is made. Perhaps consider extending exceptions to those who are on short-term leave but were otherwise employed. IRCC should clarify (well in advance) what type of employment letter would be needed to meet this requirement.
3. Refusals Will Happen in Droves + Possibly Misrepresentation Risk Increases
Applicants will be refused in droves over issues with documentation. Even in the current iteration, it is unclear what words such as ‘attestation‘ mean in terms of proof of completion of studies or whether someone’s proof of completion of studies or unofficial transcript will be good enough appear up in the air. On strict reading, it is very likely that a simple confirmation of employment and pending final transcript will be good enough to get in the door of eligibility.
One might ask why refusal and not return of incomplete application?
Because this program falls under a temporary public policy, Regulation 10 IRPR does not apply and therefore there are two options. The first, is a tightened eligibility screen, where Applicants must enter documentation to show they are indeed eligible. By controlling the content of this screen, it may limit the number of individuals who are able to access the permanent residence portion (for example if they do not have a final language test result). However, given the process is again speed based, Applicants presumably need to have all their materials ready to go/or else
Putting out information early (or even delaying the start date a little bit) doesn’t hurt to make sure everyone has the same ground rules would be advisable. Furthermore, those who may need to make applications due to disability (which presumably will be by paper), should understand what type of medical evidence they will need and to ensure that they have enough time to obtain it.
Also – what will happen if an individual manages to answer in a way to get them past the proverbial first screen, but then when submitting the actual application, things auto-populate (perhaps even incorrectly) and or things will need to be corrected? The benefits of the Express Entry ITA system is it does allow for both amendments before an invitation, as well as ways to update corrections. Many times, as counsel, these were the types of issues we were engage on.
I do suspect that what Applicant’s rush to submit may itself create problems. Failures to disclose memberships, previous refusals, arrests, or even clarify overlaps and gaps. These were the usual things we would advise clients to hold up and wait for, but now are things that an Applicant may be better off submitting first and explaining later. How does this then play into inadmissibility, misrepresentation, and other complications that can arise?
There are also possibly unique opportunities. I do have a gut sense that automated decision-makers are somewhere involved in the process, but if there are no R.10’s (IRPR) are applicants going to rush to bolster their files after (presumably also when they realized they submitted incomplete information). This information, if it makes it to the Officer before a decision is made presumably has to be considered and added to file. This is a high-wire strategy but not unexpected to occur given the Government’s choice of vehicle.
I won’t start on the Case Specific Enquiry delays in this piece – I’ve said enough of these recently.
Possible Solutions (this one is not too late): IRCC should throw up all the warning signs that speed should not mean inaccuracy and both prevent the process of trying get into the application page with misinformation, but also not punish with impunity the honest mistakes that are sure to come out of this.