Pre-PR Time Counts – Brief – May 7

 

Brief on the amendment of Bill C-24 that proposes the elimination of counting of temporary residence time towards the citizenship residency requirements

Authors:

Maria Smirnoff, MBA Taisia Shcherbakova, BCS

Organization:

Pre-PR Time Counts

Part 1: Petition to amend Bill C-24 (Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act) to recognize former Temporary Foreign Workers and International Students

Our position in regards to Bill C-24:

  • We welcome the efforts that Honourable Minister Chris Alexander and his staff have made to overhaul an outdated immigration system with Bill C-24.
  • We agree with the premise that citizenship should only be granted to applicants that established strong social, economic, and cultural ties with Canada.
  • We strongly object to the amendment which eliminates counting of pre-permanent residence time towards the citizenship residency requirement and effectively “penalizes” former students and foreign workers by extending their wait time for citizenship eligibility twice as much relative to immigrants without previous experience in Canada.
  • We request the government to be conscious of the strong social, economic, and cultural ties that immigrants under economic classes have to Canada and therefore, to amend Bill C-24 to recognize pre-permanent residence time for citizenship applicants.

In the following document we are presenting facts, quotes and research in support of our request, along with the respective references. We close this document by presenting our suggestions for bill amendments.

Supporting Testimonials and Factual Evidence:

Temporary residence, or in our case, pre-PR time for applicants under economic classes does result in significant social, economic, and cultural ties to Canada which is a fact that might have been overlooked by the government. The aforementioned facts are cited by the Department of Citizenship and Immigration (CIC), and are supported as well by public statements made by the former immigration minister Jason Kenney as published on the CIC website:

‘Attracting and retaining the best and brightest immigrants from around the world is part of the government’s commitment to grow Canada’s economy and ensure long-term prosperity,’ said Minister Kenney. ‘The steady growth in numbers confirms that Canada remains a destination of choice for international students because of the remarkable educational opportunities that exist in our world class institutions.’

According to a 2011 report by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) entitled International Education: A Key Driver of Canada’s Future Prosperity, international students contribute more than $8 billion every year to the Canadian economy. In addition to significant economic benefits, international students also enrich Canadian society with their ideas and different perspectives.” [1]

Moreover, the government mentions in [2] that

[i]mmigration plays a vital role in our country’s long-term prosperity,’ said Minister Kenney. ‘Our 2013 Immigration Plan will build on our economic success by bringing in more of the world’s top talent who already have a successful track record in Canada [2],

and points out in [3] that

[t]he CEC helps Canada attract the immigrants our economy requires: individuals who have valuable Canadian work experience and the necessary skills to benefit our country’s current labour market needs,’ said Minister Kenney. ‘These skilled workers are set for success and expediting their transition to permanent residence will help Canada to respond to ongoing labour market challenges.’ . . . ‘The government is committed to creating a fast and flexible immigration system that works for Canada’s economy,’ added Minister Kenney. ‘The CEC has become Canada’s fastest growing economic immigration program and is part of our plan to attract the best and brightest from around the world.’ [3].

  • In [1, 2, 3] the government acknowledges that Canada economically benefits from attracting foreign talent, that this talent is needed for Canada’s long-term prosperity, and that foreign students enrich Canada culturally with their ideas and different perspectives. Further, [2, 3] highlight that Canada values immigrants that already have a successful track record or work experience in Canada which is the case for all immigrants of the CEC and PNP programs
  • In [3] the government recognizes the importance of expediting the immigration process of immigrants with Canadian ties that are in the government’s own words “set for success”. This is supported by research results found in [4] and [5] as provided below:

    Evidence shows that immigrants with Canadian study and/or work experience and who have good language skills integrate into the Canadian labour market more successfully than immigrants without such characteristics. [4]

    Research done on the economic performance of new immigrants to Canada suggests that those who spend time in Canada prior to landing (especially as temporary foreign workers) have a superior economic outcomes as compared to those who do not spend time in Canada prior to landing. [5]

  • Research carried out by Sweetman et al. [6], cited by CIC in [5], also suggest that pre-PR time can be equivalent to as much as 4 years of permanent residence:

    First, controlling for the predicted points that immigrants would obtain based on their observable human capital and all other possible variables that are adjustable under the current points system, we find that TFWs and students initially have better earnings and employment outcomes. However, by 4 years after landing there is no difference between the employment outcomes of students, or the earnings of TFWs, and those of workers with no pre-immigration Canadian human capital. [6]

• Finally, we would like to close this section by quoting the Honourable Francis Creighton Muldoon who defined “Canadianization” in a 1993 court case as follows:

“Canadian citizenship has become, or at least has been compulsorily presented with the everyday opportunity to become “Canadianized.” This happens by “rubbing elbows” with Canadians in shopping malls, corner stores, libraries, concert halls, auto repair shops, pubs, cabarets, elevators, churches, synagogues, mosques and temples – in a word wherever one can meet and converse with Canadians – during the prescribed three years. One can observe Canadian society for all its virtues, decadence, values, dangers and freedoms, just as it is.” [7]

Our recommendations are presented at the end of this brief.

Part 2: What does extra 2 years mean to you?

  1. My professional career is impacted. My work requires a lot of traveling abroad to attend international conferences, talks and workshops, and meeting with customers. The company I work for prefers to send my other colleagues who do not require a visa to avoid visa expenses.
  2. I will not be able to easily visit my family who live outside of Canada. Each time I travel outside the country my Residency Time Calculator is stopped and furthermore, every trip outside the increases the possibility to receive a Residency Questionnaire, that, as you know, might increase processing time of the application for another many years.
  3. Ability to adopt kids. We have members of our group who are personally dealing with these situations and without having Canadian Citizenship it is impossible for them to achieve their goal.
  4. Ability to be enrolled into Canadian Forces unless by a special permission by the Defense Minister. Today, only 15 permanent Residents serve in Canadian Forces
  5. And most importantly – not being a Canadian citizen prevents us from living full social and political life in Canada: being able to be elected at school-boards, or being hired to jobs that require high security clearance, or to be able to work for some government jobs. And, above all else, we want to lead a full social and political life through being able to vote at municipal, provincial and federal elections

Part 3: Additional Information To address comments made by previous committee witnesses

On April 28, 2014, Min. Alexander said there needs to be a clear distinction made between someone who is a Permanent Resident of Canada and someone who is a temporary resident. This view ignores the fact that, in many cases, the decision to become a permanent resident happens years before permanent residency is received.

For international students, this view:

  • Disregards that a student might make the decision to become a Canadian citizen early on after his arrival to Canada, after living here, making friends here, meeting a life partner here and establishing his life in Canada.
  • In a student’s case, the immigration system precludes him from applying for and becoming a permanent resident for a number of years; years during which he continues to integrate into Canadian society and strengthen ties to Canada by – among other things – paying taxes, buying property, embarking on entrepreneurial ventures, etc.

For temporary foreign workers, this view:

  • Does not take into account that they cannot apply for permanent residency until after they’ve entered Canada
  • It’s been proven multiple times that a number of obstacles outside of these individuals’ control can occur that prolong their application processing times. Examples of obstacles include:
    • Closing of visa offices, such as what happened in Buffalo in January 2013, impacting approximately 10,000 applications.
    • Legislative changes to the immigration system, such as the passing of Bill C-38, which adversely affected 280,000 applicants for permanent residence in the Foreign Skilled Workers category.

Findings of our group (Pre-PR Time Counts) with regards to who stands to be most impacted by elimination of the pre-PR provision of Bill C-24

Our group administered a survey to those individuals who will be immediately impacted by this legislation.

The survey was answered by hundreds of prospective Canadian citizens from all over Canada. The margin of error is ± 5%, 19 times out of 20. Below is the key take-away from the survey.

  • 44% of international students (either current or former) said that the PRIMARY reason they chose to study in Canada was because they wanted to immigrate here eventually.
  •  70% of current students declared that have already decided that they will be staying in Canada and get a job after graduation.
  • 63% of Foreign Temporary Workers (either current or former) said that the prospect of immigrating to Canada in the future was a driving factor for them when choosing to move to Canada.

Both groups were asked “If you had known that the temporary time spent in Canada prior to becoming a permanent resident would not count towards your citizenship resident requirement, would you have still chosen to come to Canada?”

  • 73% of students said they would have chosen to study elsewhere
  • 63% of foreign temporary workers said they would have looked for work in another country.

The Government of Canada acknowledges that many of those who choose to come to Canada on a temporary basis do so with the intent of eventually immigrating here. The existence of “dual-intent” provision in Canadian Immigration Law supports this. This concept recognizes that “having both intents–one for temporary residence and one for permanent residence–is legitimate” (CIC Operational Bulletin #131 – July 6, 2009). This concept exists because

Government of Canada has expressed its commitment to attract more international students and temporary foreign workers to Canada, and to tap into this source for the selection of highly skilled workers as permanent residents who will contribute to the Canadian labour force in the long term.

This statement confirms that Government recognizes that students and temporary foreign workers are great candidates for citizenship. This is supported in numerous documents published by the government, including the “Canadian Economic Action Plan”. It states that we need to “ensure that Canada retains talented and motivated individuals who have demonstrated a strong work ethic, have an ability to contribute to the economy, and will easily integrate into Canadian life”.

How the proposed legislative changes affect Canada’s attractiveness as an immigrant-accepting country

On April 30, Mr. Martin Collacott, spokesperson for the Centre for Immigration Policy Reform, pointed out that no other immigrant accepting country has as short a residency requirement as Canada does in present. This may be true. However, many of the peer countries cited both by the Minister and other witnesses have provisions which are not addressed in Bill C-24; their exclusion will make Canada much less attractive to prospective immigrants.

The recognition of temporary residence time towards citizenship residency requirement is one such provision. Some examples of countries that do this are as follows:

  • Australia allows 3 years of temporary residence time to be counted towards the 4-year citizenship residency requirement.
  • UK allows up to 4 years of temporary residence time to be counted towards the 5-year citizenship residency requirement.
  • Finland allows one half of the time spent as temporary residents to be counted towards the 5-year citizenship residency requirement.
  • Germany allows all temporary time to be counted towards the 8-year residency requirement.
  • Many of these countries also acknowledge that time away of up to 2 months per year for purposes of business or personal travel also counts towards residency requirement; that is, this time away does not mean that an individual has ceased to be a resident.
    • In Norway, up to 2 months’ of annual absence is permitted [10].
    • In Finland, up to 1 month of absence is allowed without penalty [11].
    • This is not the case in Canada given the “physical presence” requirement. This provision means that each time a prospective citizen absents himself from the country – be it for a week-end or for longer periods – his total wait time for citizenship is increased by the number of days absent.

Part 4: Our Recommendations

We kindly ask the government reconsider the provision of Bill C-24 that eliminates the counting of pre- PR time towards citizenship applications for immigrants who gained their permanent residence status under economic classes such as CEC and PNP. Passing a law of this nature will not only unfairly treat and alienate the current population of former and existing temporary residents, it will also put Canada in a relative disadvantage when trying to attract foreign students, scientists and specialists whose contribution to Canada stands on more than 8 billion dollars annually.

Instead, we suggest the following solutions which will allow the government to achieve its vision of a strengthened Canadian citizenship :

  1. First and foremost, we ask that the Government implement a transition period for the coming into force of the new residency requirement proposed in Bill C-24. Transition periods are practice that has been common in other Commonwealth countries:
    1. E.g., a transition period of 3 years was successfully implemented in the Australian Citizenship Act from 2007 (see [8]) and similarly a transition period of 5 years was implemented in New Zealand’s 2005 Citizenship Amendment Act [9].
    2. Passing a law that retroactively affects current immigrants will leave a bad mark on the Canadian immigration system and may turn away thousands of prospective foreign students and specialists.
  2. In addition,
    1. In the case of current permanent residents, we ask that the government recognize up to 2 years of pre-PR time in full – day for day – based on practices of other countries previously cited. AND,
    2. In the case of future permanent residents, we ask that former international students and foreign workers are allowed to count up to 4 years of pre-permanent residency time at 0.5 days towards their citizenship residency requirement, in the same way that it is calculated now.

These demands are based on practices of other countries such as Australia, Sweden, Germany, France, Italy and many others , which is also supported by the quote of Canadian judge, the Honourable Francis Creighton Muldoon in 1993 [7].

In asking for these amendments to the proposed Bill C-24, we would like to stress that: individuals who chose to study and to work in Canada on a temporary basis, before making the decision to immigrate here, have not only made invaluable contributions to Canada, they have also established winning economic, social and cultural ties in our country. In doing so, they have had the opportunity to fully “Canadianize” themselves, which is arguably the most important element of consideration when the grant of Canadian citizenship is considered.

References

  1. “Canada welcomes record number of international students in 2012” (Press release), Department of Citizenship and Immigration Canada. Ottawa, February 26, 2013. Retrieved February 18, 2014: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/department/media/releases/2013/2013-02-26.asp
  2. “An Immigration Plan that works for Canada: More immigrants who are already working in Canada to be admitted through Canadian Experience Class” (Press release), Department of Citizenship and Immigration Canada. Ottawa, October 31, 2012. Retrieved February 18, 2014: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/department/media/releases/2012/2012-10-31.asp
  3. “Attracting the best and brightest skilled workers” (Press release), Department of Citizenship and Immigration Canada. Ottawa, December 11, 2012. Retrieved February 18, 2014: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/department/media/releases/2012/2012-12-11.asp
  4. “Regulations Amending the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (Canadian Experience Class)”. Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement. Canada Gazette Vol. 142, No. 32, August 9, 2008. Department of Citizenship and Immigration, September 4, 2008. Retrieved February 18, 2014: http://www.gazette.gc.ca/rp-pr/p1/2008/2008-08-09/html/reg1-eng.html
  5. Kustec S., “The role of migrant labour supply in the Canadian labour market,” (Research report). Department of Citizenship and Immigration, June 2012. Retrieved February 18, 2014: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/resources/research/2012-migrant/documents/pdf/migrant2012- eng.pdf
  6. Sweetman A. and Warman C., “Temporary Foreign Workers and Former International Students as a Source of Permanent Immigration”. Canadian Labour Market and Skills Researcher Network, Working Paper No. 25, May 2009. Retrieved February 18, 2014: http://www.clsrn.econ.ubc.ca/workingpapers/CLSRN%20Working%20Paper%20no.%2025%20 -%20Sweetman%20Warman.pdf
  7. Muldoon F., “Pourghasemi ( Re ), [1993] 2 F.C. 0” (Federal courts report), March 11, 1993. Referenced in : http://archive.is/Mr5H7#selection-1385.71-1395.367
  8. “Australian Citizenship Act 2007 and the Australian Citizenship (Transitionals and Consequentials) Act 2007”. Department of Immigration and Border Protection, Australia, July 1, 2007. Retrieved February 18, 2014: http://www.immi.gov.au/legislation/amendments/2007/070701/lc01072007-05.htm
  9. “Citizenship Amendment Act 2005”, Parliamentary Counsel Office, New Zealand, April 20, 2005. Retrieved February 18, 2014: http://www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/2005/0043/latest/whole.html#DLM346747
  10. “Regulations on the acquisition and loss of Norwegian nationality”, The Norwegian Directorate of Immigration. September 1, 2006. Retrieved May 7, 2014: https://www.udiregelverk.no/no/arkiv/Sentrale-lover-og-forskrifter/statsborgerforskriften- engelsk/
  11. “Trips outside Finland – effect on continuous residence.” The Finnish Immigration Service. 2014. Retrieved May 7, 2014: http://www.migri.fi/finnish_citizenship/applying_for_citizenship/requirements/residence_period/ trips_outside_finland

About Pre-PR Time Counts

Pre-PR Time Counts is a group of Canadian permanent residents (PR) and citizens campaigning against a provision of Bill C-24 that gets rid of the current practice of giving partial credit to the temporary time spent living and working in Canada towards the citizenship residency requirement. This proposal to eliminate the counting of pre-PR time towards the citizenship residency requirement effectively disregards the economic, social and cultural contributions of former students/temporary foreign workers.

 

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