Youth and language proficiency new must-haves for would-be immigrants

OTTAWA – The points system used to decide who can immigrate to Canada is getting a makeover.

The new judging criteria for the federal skilled worker program will award more points to younger immigrants and changes the way the government looks at work experience and education.

The way points are allocated for language ability will also change.

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney unveiled the new system on Wednesday after first introducing a plan for it in the government’s March budget.

“For too long, too many immigrants to Canada have experienced underemployment and unemployment, and this has been detrimental to these newcomers and to the Canadian economy,” Kenney said.

“Our transformational changes to the (skilled worker program) will help ensure that skilled newcomers are able to contribute their skills fully to the economy as soon as possible. This is good for newcomers, good for the economy, and good for all Canadians.”

The government had stopped accepting new applications under the skilled worker program in July in advance of rejigging the system.

That followed a decision in the March budget to wipe out the existing backlog in the program by returning thousands of applications.

The program is expected to re-open in May when the new changes will take effect.

There will also be a cap on the number of applications being accepted, though that number has not yet been released.

The points system sees would-be immigrants graded on a scale of 100, with points awarded for language ability, age, education, work experience and adaptability to Canada.

The pass mark is 67 and that won’t change under the new system.

What is being amended is the way the points are allocated and also how language and education credentials are assessed.

For example, the maximum number of points awarded under the age category was 10 and that was given to anyone between the ages of 21 to 49.

Under the new system, the maximum number of points awarded for age is 12, with 18 to 35 year olds eligible under that category.

When it comes to language, the new system mandates a minimum level of language proficiency and adjusts the number of points allocated accordingly to favour those with a strong command of either English or French.

But being bilingual will have less weight, with the ability to speak a second official language given fewer points.

An analysis of the program changes published in August for public consultation said research has suggested that there’s no evidence indicating speaking a second official language has any bearing on positive economic outcomes for applicants.

Applicants will also have to pass a language proficiency test.

Under the education component, applicants will now have their credentials assessed ahead of time to see how they compare to the Canadian system and then points will be allocated to match.

Meanwhile, the number of points allocated for work experience will be reduced.

“Foreign work experience is largely discounted by Canadian employers when the immigrant first enters the Canadian labour market, and it is a weak predictor of economic success,” the analysis said.

“These changes will reflect the relative value Canadian employers place on foreign work experience, and redirect points to language and age factors, which are better indicators of success in the Canadian labour market.”

The overhaul of the points system is part of a three-pronged review of the skilled worker program carried out by the government over the last two years.

The other two elements are the introduction of a new immigration stream for skilled trades and changes to the Canada Experience Class, which allows people already working or studying in Canada to get permanent residency sooner.

All three are expected to generate some $90 million in increased revenue to Canadian businesses from a system that better meets their needs, the analysis said.