Skilled Worker Cap – Curtailing skilled workers by Canada’s Immigration Program

By Author: Admin | December 19, 2010

The skilled worker cap has been filled for the occupation NOC 1122, which encompasses jobs like management consultant and marketing consultant.  The cap mandates that only 1000 applicants per year (the year ending June 2011) on the occupation list are permitted to be processed by the Centralized Intake Office in Sydney Nova Scotia.  The cases received after the cap has been reached are returned to an applicant unprocessed.

The logic of a cap may be tied to the idea that Canada’s labour market can’t reasonably accommodate a vast amount of marketing consultants in a single year; this is a plausible rationale for putting a cap on each occupation  (so as to not have a bunch of unemployed marketing consultants working in low level service jobs in Canada).

However, the imposition of the cap requires fair and efficient processing.  An applicant for immigration approached me who possessed the experience as a marketing consultant and provided all necessary documents to the Centralized Intake Office in Sydney, Nova Scotia.  At the time he submitted his application, he had all required documents such as an original IELTS language test.  At that time, his intended occupation of NOC 1122 had no cap.  After following up his application, the CIO told him that his application was missing the filing fee and IELTS result, and that his application was returned to him.  In fact, his application was not returned until some four months later after making many more inquiries with the CIO.  By the time he received his returned application (which, in fact, was returned with the filing fee and original IELTS), the occupation of NOC 1122 reached its cap.

The redress in this situation is limited to going to federal court or trying to debate with the CIO, or, if possible, to re-file, assuming the applicant can still make the  minimum points next year.  However, at the very least, a delay has occurred in processing owing to a mistake by the immigration department.  This type of delay can conceivably lead highly skilled applicants to immigrate to other countries that have more competent immigration processing systems, making Canada’s economy less competitive.

The more conspiratorial view of the current skilled worker system is that it is simply window dressing and no longer the basis for skilled workers to enter Canada (the idea is that the Canadian government prefers people to enter on work permits which address more specific and pressing labour market needs).

There is some merit to this view given the shrinking occupational demand list (from 38 occupations in 2008, to 29 occupations in 2010).  In other words, the skilled worker program is making a slow, graceful exit.  This is also consistent with the fact occupations like cook and chef which have survived onto the current list are nowhere near the cap (as of December 15 2010 both have less than 100 applications pending at the CIO).  The reason there are so few cooks and chefs applying as skilled workers are that those occupations are being filled in Canada by chefs and cooks who have entered Canada on temporary work visas.  Similarly, the CEC (Canada Experience Class) provides a path for permanent residence for such work permit holders after completing a sufficiently long stint of legal employment in Canada.

The future of skilled foreigners into Canada will probably be characterized  by an even smaller occupation list consisting of nurses, physicians, and resource extraction jobs only.


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I was born and raised in Toronto, Ontario Canada. I am an accomplished author and lecturer and am consulted by the media and other immigration lawyers and consultants on immigration matters and challenging immigration cases, appeals, and federal court matters.

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