Over the last few years, more immigrants are gaining permanent residence with Canadian work and study experience. As indicated by Statistics Canada, the number of temporary foreign workers and students grew exponentially between the year 2000 and 2018. In 2000, 12% of new economic immigrant principal applicants had worked in Canada before obtaining permanent residency while this share increased to 59% in the year 2018.
The introduction of the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) in 2009 and increasing Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs) has led to more temporary foreign workers becoming permanent residents of Canada. In 2018 CEC admitted 20% of all economic-class principal applicants while the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP) and PNPs admitted 25% and 46% respectively.
The advent of Covid-19 pandemic and global travel restrictions have reduced the flow of immigrants to and from Canada, which has increased Canada’s reliability on temporary foreign workers already residing in the country to fulfill their immigration needs. This has also increased the importance of temporary foreign workers in the selection and labour market outcomes of new immigrants in Canada. In 2018, 46% of new economic immigrants were former temporary foreign workers, up from 8% in 2000 according to Statistics Canada.
The “two-step” immigration selection process accounts for the journey of immigrants who arrive in the country as workers or students and then become a permanent resident. In this process
- Firstly, students or skilled migrants get temporary residence and gain valuable Canadian experience.
- Secondly, the temporary residents apply for immigration and are selected based on the criteria outlined in Canada’s federal or provincial immigration programs.
This 2-step process improves the match between immigrant skills and labour market demands as employers can directly assess the skills and intangible qualities of the temporary worker. It is evident that the coronavirus pandemic has highlighted potential issues related with dependence on temporary foreign workers, such as labour supply uncertainty, and poor working conditions for employees.
The two-step immigration selection has evolved from 60,000 to 429,300 number of temporary foreign workers between 2000 and 2018.
According to a study conducted by Statistics Canada, it was discovered that the percentage of new immigrants who were hired in the first full year after immigration rose substantially from 81% to 87% between 2000 to 2016 among men in the age group of 20 to 54 years and among women from 61 % to 67 %. The study also recognized this increase in employment relevant to the growing share of new immigrants with Canadian work experience, who having worked and lived in the country as either temporary foreign workers or international students.
Immigrants who have worked in Canada before immigration had considerable benefits in labour market outcomes over immigrants without Canadian work experience, especially when it comes to high earning positions. Comparably, economic immigrants who landed from 2000 to 2005 and had Canadian experience before immigration earned 4.2 times more than immigrants without Canadian work experience in the first full year after immigration, 2.6 times more in the 5th year, and additional 2.1 in the 10th year.
In a holistic view, immigrants with Canadian experience are finding more employment options and making more annual earnings due to initiatives taken by federal governments in creating more pathways for foreigners with Canadian experience.
Lastly, the COVID-19 pandemic has compelled policymakers to re-evaluate what kind of immigrant workforce the country needs, as people who were previously not considered as highly skilled or essential, are deemed as the frontline workers today.