On February 6, 2014 Canada’s Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander launched a “Blueprint for Citizenship Improvements“ as a part of the government’s introduction of Bill C-24 (Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act).
While the new rules and requirements specified in the bill make much sense in terms of strengthening the value of Canadian citizenship by requiring more commitment from individuals expressing interest to become Canadian citizens, it unfairly targets and devalues the contributions made by one specific group of immigrants, namely, former foreign workers and international students who became Canadian permanent residents in the recent years.
Unlike other new immigrants, families and individuals who gained their permanent residence under the Canadian Experience Class or Provincial Nominee Program have been living and working in Canada for several years (the vast majority residing in Canada for 3-5 years and even as long as 10 years in case of international students). This group of immigrants has already fully integrated into the Canadian economy and social life long before they became permanent residents. They have been paying taxes and contributing to the Canadian economy for several years before they earned the right to become permanent residents. The above facts have been acknowledged by Canadian government numerous times in various publications, in general media, and on the website of the Department of Canadian Immigration and Citizenship. As recognition of the success of the temporary residence programs, the current citizenship requirements allow to count each day spent in Canada on an authorized work or study permit as half day towards the residency requirements for citizenship applications. Overall, up to 365 out of the required 1095 days of residence could be gained under temporary residency status.
Nevertheless, with the introduction of Bill C-24, the achievements, contributions, and rights of these individuals are being stepped over by the Canadian government. Under one of the bill provisions, the time spent in Canada on temporary study and work permits will no longer be counted towards citizenship applications. Effectively, the residency requirement for a former foreign worker or student who lived in Canada for at least 2 years before becoming a permanent resident is going to be extended twice as much as for the rest of the immigrant population (by 2 years instead of 1). Not only is this contrary to statements made by the Canadian government about the importance of integration and the success of temporary residence programs, it also is contrary to practices of many other countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Germany, France and many more who count temporary residence in full towards citizenship applications. Retroactive introduction of such rules will make an unreliable reputation to Canadian immigration system and will turn away thousands of prospective students and specialists whose annual contribution to Canadian economy estimated at more than 7B$ annually!
By signing this petition you will help tens of thousands of former foreign workers and international students to reach politicians’ ears and help them understand that the introduction of Bill C-24 will unfairly treat these people who call Canada their home.
We, the undersigned, citizens and residents of Canada wish to bring to your attention the following:
We welcome the efforts that Honorable 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 that eliminates counting of pre-permanent residence time towards the residency requirement for citizenship application. This amendment 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.
Temporary residence of the applicants under economic classes (e.g., foreign temporary workers, Canadian experienced class, international students) does result in significant social, economic, and cultural ties to Canada, what have been publicly acknowledged by the Government and the Department of Citizenship and Immigration in publications, including the following:
“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 … 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.”
“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.”
“Immigration plays a vital role in our country’s long-term prosperity … 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 . . . ”
“The CEC [Canadian Experienced Class] 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 ... 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 … 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.”
Thus, the government has numerously highlighted 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. Also, the government has repeatedly acknowledged that Canada values immigrants that already have a successful track record or work experience in Canada, which is the case for all those who became permanent residents through economic immigration programs.
Passing the Bill C-24 without careful consideration and duly recognition of the economical impact that has been made by temporary residents, will not only unfairly treat and alienate the foreign temporary workers and international students, but 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.
The government has recognized the importance of expediting the immigration process of immigrants with Canadian ties, which, in the government’s own words, are “set for success”.
“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.”
“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 . . . ”
With stronger economic performance, those classes of immigrants not only benefit to Canadian economy, but integrate easily and faster into Canada.
It has been suggested that the period, during which an immigrant socially and economically adapts to living in Canada, obtains qualifying experience, and becomes integrated in Canadian life and values, is approximately 3-4 years. And there is no better way to build ties to Canada other than to actively participate in the Canadian society as an employee or as a student. However, by eliminating the count of the pre-permanent residency time spent in Canada, the requirement of physical presence will be, effectively, extended in certain cases up to 10 (!) years, which is significantly higher than a time period that would be reasonably necessary to develop strong ties with Canada.
Though other countries also require that to become a citizen an immigrant must establish significant ties with the host country by being physically present there, the best immigration practices recognize that those ties are established while a person lives in that country on a temporary resident basis and, therefore, allow the pre-permanent residency time to be fully credited towards citizenship. Such countries include the UK, Sweden, Germany, France, Italy, Australia, New Zealand, and many others.
The Bill C-24 does not provide any transition period with respect to the current immigrants. However, such transition period has been a common practice in other Western countries, e.g.:
a transition period of 3 years was implemented in the Australian Citizenship Act of 2007;
a transition period of 5 years was implemented in New Zealand's 2005 Citizenship Amendment Act.
Passing a law that retroactively affects current immigrants might negatively impact the image of Canada and Canadian immigration system. As a result, it might also turn away thousands of prospective foreign students and specialists since they would not consider Canadian immigration system as solid and reliable.
Based on the above, it appears that the Bill C-24 disregards strong economic, social, and cultural ties established by large group of immigrants (former temporary workers and international students), does not account for the contribution to Canadian economy made by them, and, therefore, disproportionally affects their interests. We believe that additional consideration needs to be given to the above mentioned facts and to avoid unduly burdening of those groups of immigrants who contributes to the Canadian economy the most.
THEREFORE, we request the House of Commons:
We kindly ask to remove from Bill C-24 the amendment that eliminates counting of pre-permanent residency time towards citizenship requirement for immigrants, who gained their permanent resident status under economic classes.
We kindly ask to amend the Canadian Citizenship Act and recognize up to four years of pre-permanent residency time to be counted towards citizenship requirement.
We kindly ask to give full credit (i.e., 1:1) to pre-permanent residency time spent in Canada.
We kindly ask to implement a 3-year transition period for coming into force of all of Bill C-24.