My eBook, How To Immigrate To Canada For Skilled Workers: The Authoritative Guide To Federal And Provincial Opportunities is available now on Amazon and other online retailers. Get your copy of the essential guide to Skilled Worker class applications today!

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Also available is my new eBook, "How To Immigrate To Canada In The Family Class: The Authoritative Guide Including Qu├ębec And Super Visa Opportunities". Get it at Amazon or the other e-retailers noted above.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Happy Holidays from Canada

2014 wasn't the most eventful year on the immigration front in Canada, but 2015 is shaping up to be a game changer. The biggest change of course will come with the Expression Of Interest program. This will impose a major change not in the application process for skilled workers, but in the actual chances a skilled worker has for immigrating to Canada.

Where Canada has historically had a first-come-first-served approach to immigration in all classes, it is moving toward a very selective, and therefore highly political approach that will bring the "most qualified" to the front of the line - even if they just got in line yesterday. While this approach is currently limited to economic immigrants, don't think for a minute that it wont come to apply to all classes of immigration.

In the future, who knows? Even reunification of families may be prioritized by which families might be more economically successful as immigrants in the government's eyes.

Outside of the immigration front, and on a more personal note, 2014 finds me fully settling in to my Canadian life. America is becoming a crazy memory, where my only remaining concerns are with friends and family. What goes on there - fair or unfair, just or unjust - only matters to me to the extent that it impacts those I love. Beyond that, living in Canada has confirmed what I've long felt about my home country: there's something fundamentally wrong with the United States.

For those seeking to immigrate to Canada, I wish you the best in 2015. More than ever it will be important for you to understand the program options available to you and to seek out qualified advice on the path you set out on. Canada is likely to welcome more immigrants than ever in 2015 - mainly because it's a year in which we will see a federal election, and the Tories are going to want to play the immigrant card has strongly as they can. But to be one of the lucky ones who get through the red tape, be sure you are informed, proactive, and consistent in your immigration strategy.

Have the happiest of New Years and God bless you all, my faithful readers!  

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Half of a change on the way for January 1, 2015 - Express Entry debuts

The CIC announced on December 1st:

In January 2015, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) will launch a new electronic system called Express Entry to manage applications for permanent residence under these federal economic immigration programs:

  • The Federal Skilled Worker Program,
  • The Federal Skilled Trades Program, and
  • The Canadian Experience Class.

Provinces and territories will also be able to recruit candidates from the Express Entry system for a portion of the Provincial Nominee Programs to meet local labour market needs. 

Express entry means that qualified applicants will no longer be processed on a first-come-first-served basis, but instead, be put into a pool of applicants. When an applicant has a job offer from a Canadian company (that cannot be filled by a Canadian citizen), or a job becomes available that matches the applicant's skills (same caveat that the job has to be one no Canadian is available for), then applicants will be matched to the opportunity by the Federal government.

That's right - the Federal government is going into the headhunting business.

Only one hitch though: The job-matching aspect of this new legislation is not ready to roll out yet. Ottawa is going ahead with half a program.

Why? Because it means as of January, they can stop processing applications under the three programs while giving the impression that they are still pro-immigration.

Ottawa says the program will be fully running by the spring of 2015. But this is the same government that brought you the Canada Action Plan - a well advertised jobs program that has generated few new opportunities, despite (according to the Toronto Star) "...spending more than five times as many taxpayer dollars on promoting its economic plan as it is on raising public awareness about the flu pandemic."

Skilled worker program? Read "Killed" worker program.

You can thank the Tories.

Monday, December 01, 2014

What it "feels like"

When we talk about weather in Canada, be it hot or cold, one of the phrases you'll hear is "feels like". This refers to either the effect of the wind in winter, or the humidity in summer. or instance, when I was getting ready to go out this morning, I turned on the TV, and the report was that it was 1C out, "but it feels like -3C"...

What it feels like outside is way more important than the actual temperature. You dress for what it feels like. And it can be dramatically different. It can be -10C outside in the winter, but with a brisk wind from the north or east, all of a sudden it feels like -24C. If you dress for -10C, you're going to be in trouble.

Conversely in summer it can be 24C outside, but the humidity makes it feel like 36C. If you are dressed for a pleasant 24C, you are going to be miserable.

So remember, in Canada, what it feels like matters way more than what it is.  

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

How about "Buy Canadian"?

I'm not terribly political. But when it comes to being fair, I can get that way. You've heard me on this blog when I think the Canadian government is being unfair in some way on the immigration front. Well now that I'm on my way to becoming a Canadian citizen, I think it's important to speak out on fairness for our country in other areas. Today, that's "free trade".

The United States has implemented "Buy American" programs at the federal level. What that means is that certain projects funded by federal tax dollars are constricted in the use of that money when it comes to securing things like materials. When it's an infrastructure project, that means things like steel.

Two cases that have come up recently were a bridge project in Colorado that, when the government discovered that the U.S.-owned company had used steel in the bridge that had been forged and formed in Canada, they wanted the bridge torn town and rebuilt with only American steel: And now, a ferry terminal rebuild IN CANADA (for the State of Alaska that is leasing the terminal from the city of Prince Rupert) will not be allowed to use any Canadian steel in its construction.

To encourage tax dollars in your own country to be spent in your own country is well and good, but for a multi-national (like the first situation above) not to be able to use its own products because they were made in Canada is odd (they did receive permission ultimately, and the bridge was not torn down). And now - a construction project in Canada cannot be built with any Canadian materials? That is just wrong.

U.S. companies bid on and win contracts for infrastructure projects in Canada. U.S. companies build roads and bridges and buildings here. I think the time has come for a "Buy Canadian" program. A program where our tax dollars are spent in this country first. Where Canadian companies get Canadian-funded jobs. Where we encourage the development of business to take advantage of that spending. That's a Canadian Action Plan I could get behind!

Let's stand up for our own country for a change. I'm not talking about being protectionist - just leveling the playing field (like NAFTA was supposed to do, right?). If the policy is good enough to our neighbours across the border, it should be good enough for us too.    

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Want to immigrate to Canada? First check your eligibility

If you are interested in immigration to Canada, one of the first things you should do is use the CIC's own online tool to check if you are eligible to immigrate based on a series of simple questions. Knowing your options is the first step in a long and complicated process. Take that step today!

If you are interested in either coming to Canada as a Skilled Worker, or you are a Family Class applicant, be sure to check out my How To Immigrate To Canada books . The books walk you through the entire application process and help prepare you to conquer all the work required to submit your application.

Good luck! 

Friday, November 21, 2014

Must read - Canadian Experience Class applications

Attorney David Cohen's Canada Immigration Newsletter has an article that will be of interest to anyone applying for Permanent Residence through the Canadian Experience Class. In it he points out that, as with all immigration applications the devil is in the details.

On first glance, the process for a candidate wishing to convert from temporary to permanent resident status appears simple. Skilled workers with good English or French ability intending to reside outside Quebec might think that their positive eligibility for the program makes attaining permanent residence a certainty. The reality, however, is that there have been a growing number of refusals handed out to individuals due to minor discrepancies in their applications. Unfortunately, these people do not become permanent residents of Canada.

While the article deals with Canadian Experience Class applications, the same advice of getting the details right pertains to all immigration applications. In the case of a family class application for instance; if you say you and your partner travelled to Hawaii together in 2013, but the photos you submit are date-stamped 2011, that might cause you a problem. If you claimed to have worked in a certain profession for over a year, but can only produce 9 months worth of payslips, that will cause you a problem.

The bottom line is that the statements of fact that you put on your application have to be supportable by evidence. That's why the gathering of supporting materials for an application is one of the most difficult and critical steps in applying for permanent residence.

Read the rest of the article here.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Globe and Mail - Cold-weather courses break ice for immigrants new to Canadian winters

It's coming, and it's beautiful - Winter in Montreal.
...Each year, Canada throws out a welcome mat to thousands of immigrants. And for many months of the year, that welcome mat is encrusted in snow. So some new Canadians turn to courses like Ms. Perrotte’s: a survival guide to winter.

For 90 minutes, Ms. Perrotte tries to dispel some myths and inspire some enthusiasm about Canada’s most emblematic season, running through a cold-weather curriculum which includes windchill and weather-stripping, tobogganing and the Bonhomme Carnaval.

The session in winter preparedness is part practical. It’s also, fundamentally, about learning to become a Canadian.

Read the rest of the article here

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Ebola and immigration - using any excuse to pause processing of applications

Apparently applications from these countries might be infected with Ebola...
Here's the news from the CIC about a pause in processing visas. Hard to believe that this action is anything but an excuse by the government to stall immigration from countries that are less desirable to welcome immigrants from. After all, it's not the application that would spread Ebola - it's the individual. And the individual either has it, or doesn't. It's a 21-day opportunity. So what's your excuse now, CIC?

October 31 - Canada’s Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander today announced new precautionary measures to protect the health and safety of Canadians.

Effective immediately, Canadian visa officers have temporarily paused the processing of visa applications from foreign nationals who have been physically present in a country designated by the World Health Organization (WHO) as having widespread and intense transmission of the Ebola virus. Discretion will remain for the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration to grant entry on a case-by-case basis in exceptional cases where travel is essential and in Canada’s interest.  Apart from those instances, temporary resident applications already in process that are affected by these new measures will be returned to the applicants.

Canadian citizens, permanent residents, foreign nationals currently in possession of a visa and foreign nationals who do not require visas will continue to be screened at ports of entry in Canada and will be subject to appropriate health screening and other measures under the Quarantine Act.

These changes do not impact Canadians currently in West Africa. All Canadians, including health-care workers, currently in West Africa will be permitted to travel back to Canada. The Government of Canada continues to advise against travel to countries designated by the WHO as having widespread and intense transmission of the Ebola virus.

Ministerial Instructions providing new directions to visa officers worldwide were published in the Canada Gazette today.

The Government of Canada is committed to supporting international efforts to control the Ebola outbreak. Canada has been a world leader in responding to the crisis and continues to monitor the situation in the West Africa region to ensure humanitarian, health and security needs are met.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

The Globe and Mail - Canada to open the door wider to ‘higher calibre’ immigrants

The Conservative government plans to increase immigration levels significantly as it heads into an election year in 2015.

Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander said on Friday that Canada aims to welcome as many as 285,000 new permanent residents next year, which is the highest planned total “in recent history,” according to the Minister.

The last time Canada admitted as many as 280,000 permanent residents was in 2010. A greater proportion, nearly 65 per cent of all admissions, will be economic immigrants and their dependents. That’s up from a target of 62 per cent in the planning for 2013 levels. Mr. Alexander said the goal reflects the government’s view that immigration is crucial to Canada’s economic prosperity.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Globe and Mail - Ottawa to blacklist employers that break provincial labour laws

The Conservative government is beefing up its blacklist of Canadian employers with a plan to include not only businesses found to have broken temporary foreign worker program rules, but also provincial labour laws.

The move is the latest in a series of policy changes responding to allegations of abuse related to the foreign worker program.

The expanded powers are contained in the Conservative government’s latest omnibus budget bill, which was introduced late last week. The enforcement of labour law is primarily a provincial responsibility and enacting the change will require information-sharing agreements between Ottawa and the provinces, something Employment Minister Jason Kenney has recently said he is working toward.

Read the rest of the article here

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Globe and Mail - Statistical black hole opens door to foreign workers

There are more than 30 First Nations reserves in northern Saskatchewan, many of which struggle with exceptionally high levels of unemployment. Yet none of the people living on those reserves are reflected in the regional unemployment rate, a key trigger that determines whether employers can apply to bring in temporary foreign workers for low-skill jobs.

This statistical oddity – reserves are not and never have been included in the labour-force survey – skews Canada’s true picture of unemployment and throws into question one of the government reforms meant to encourage employers to hire aboriginals and other Canadians before looking overseas. Despite a clamp down on the temporary foreign worker (TFW) program, the door to foreign workers remains open on First Nations, as illustrated by a Globe investigation that found a cafeteria owner on an Alberta reserve was granted approval to hire foreign workers even though an estimated 70 per cent of residents don’t have a job.

Read the rest of the article here

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Globe and Mail - Canada-U.S. drifting apart? Blame America

The Nanos poll revealing growing divergence of views between Canadians and Americans should not surprise anyone. But Canada is not to blame for the fact that we are drifting apart on so many issues, as some allege. Partisan sniping, or the well-known proclivity of Canadians to blame themselves when things sour – our ingrained apologist streak – should not blind us to reality. Canadians must wake up to what many of America’s erstwhile allies learned much earlier: The Obama Administration is one of, if not the weakest U.S. administrations on record in terms of global leadership and constructive bilateralism. That, together with a polarized, dysfunctional Congress and, more generally, an America that is turning inwards are among the reasons why the neighbourhood ardor is waning. And it is not simply Canadians who feel that way. Our Mexican friends feel jilted on immigration and border security, two issues that matter greatly to them. So too do America’s allies across the Atlantic and Pacific oceans whose profound sense of frustration with an America in retreat is palpable.

Read the rest here

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving

The year rolls on and here we are again at Thanksgiving time in Canada. While I will not be home (in the U.S. for a couple more days, still), I called my family in Canada to wish them a blessed day and year ahead. I can tell I'm becoming more and more Canadian with each year when I come to think of Thanksgiving in October, rather than November as it is in The Old Country.

I celebrate both Thanksgivings though, and will continue to.

You can't be too thankful after all!

Thursday, October 09, 2014

The Globe and Mail - Poll finds Canadians, Americans moving apart

Canadians and Americans continue to drift apart, souring a relationship that’s likely to get worse as long as Prime Minster Stephen Harper and President Barack Obama remain in power, according to a leading Canadian pollster.

“More of the same,” a relationship adrift, said Nik Nanos, chairman of Nanos Research, adding: “We won’t get a reset until Obama and Harper are no longer leading their respective countries.”

Read the rest of the article here

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

"Buy American" - another bad idea from the people that brought you "Too large to fail"

"Buy American" programs in the U.S. are well intentioned: The idea that the federal government will spend it's money on American products and not foreign ones. But like many good concepts, it can get a bit messy in implementation; especially when you have something called NAFTA. Oh wait - NAFTA is only free trade for the U.S. - my bad.

Here's the story of American protectionism gone wrong: A small public bridge in Colorado was built with American steel, but because that steel was rolled in the American company's Canadian plant, it became "foreign", and no longer qualified for federal dollars.

Buy America ruling reversed on Colorado bridge made with Ontario steel

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

it's official - I've lost touch with the U.S.

Two weeks into my latest visit to 'The Old Country" and I have to say, the overwhelming feeling I am having about the U.S., home, and everything here is that I've lost touch with it. The issues that matter to family and friends don't ring with me; I've lost track of changes around me; but the saddest thing is the state of friends and family.

Most of my friends and family know I only come home a few times a year at best, and know in advance when I'm coming. But I guess leaving is leaving, and they don't seem to make much effort when I'm back to see me. Only my closest friends (count them on a few fingers of one hand) reach out to me when they know I'm coming home.

Maybe it's more of a reflection of how I lived my life when I was here than anything else. Maybe I have a faulty, romantic memory that we were all closer than I believed? I understand that everyone lives their own life, and gets on with it; maybe the issue is I wanted to believe I mattered more than I do. I guess everyone wants to feel that way though.

So, save for my closest family and a couple friends, I might as well not be home at all. Maybe in the future I wont bother to let anyone know I'm coming back. As it is, I mainly feel like a ghost, haunting my old neighbourhood, making sounds no one can hear.

Monday, September 29, 2014

More U.S. madness - Seattle METRO bus cutbacks

Seattle is a tough city to get around in. Water is everywhere and you mainly have to drive around it to get where you want to. There are always a lot of cars on the road. Commutes can be a nightmare, The current drive times during rush hours from Everett to Seattle (28.3 miles) can average over 2-hours. You would think the city would embrace mass transit.


Seattleites don't want to lose their cars and they don't want to pay for mass transit either. When they don't vote to fund these initiatives, the powers that be take things away. This week, they eliminated 28 bus routes. It's one thing if the routes were unused, but METRO, in what can only be seen as a vengeance ploy, eliminated routes in Seattle's busy and densely populated Capitol Hill neighbourhood.

Meanwhile, I personally witnessed four idle articulated coaches in a holding pattern in SW Seattle; part of a "Rapid Ride" system METRO built on top of their core transit system. The build out included a fleet of specially branded coaches and new, premium bus stops. So METRO can't cover the routes they already have, but they can launch an entirely other service?

The citizens of Seattle see this mismanagement and refuse to vote tax dollars to support it, Who can blame them? The bus and train services they do get don't run all the time and the coverage is spotty - maybe that's why ridership isn't as high as it could be.

But it's madness that a city in perpetual gridlock doesn't deal with this priority effectively. They don't. They never did when I lived here, and it's more of a mess than ever.

Oh, and then today METRO decided some of the cuts to service they had announced wouldn't be necessary after all. You can trust them on that.  

Friday, September 26, 2014

Back in the U.S. - Fall 2014 edition

It started on the flight from Buffalo to Chicago. The American sitting next to me was on her way to Paris. "This is my last international flight." she told me. "With those bombings today and the terror alerts, it's just not safe..." What bombings? I asked myself. Terror alerts?

When I landed in Chicago, the TV monitors turned onto CNN told me that the bombings she was talking about had been carried out by the U.S. in Syria. WE had bombed THEM. The terror alerts? Well, when you bomb someone, they tend to get a little upset about it.

Then I listen to the news commentary, and a word has entered the vocabulary of the press that to me is a little disturbing - a little Orwellian.

The U.S. press has followed the government lead like good little propagandists and now refers to the U.S. as "The Homeland". When I hear this term, all that comes to mind is Hitler on a podium, spewing about "der faderland". Protect The Homeland: Threats to The Homeland... Am I the only one who is bothered by this?

So here I am, a few hours into my U.S. visit, and I am not only in another country; I am literally in another world. The U.S., as I see it, is a country living in a perpetual state of fear, involved in a never-ending state of war on an enemy that is not a nation, but instead a political philosophy. And this fear, and this war, keeps the population from noticing how everything that should matter to their own well being is being stripped from them.

And the population drinks the Kool Aid of distraction. They will debate for hours about al-Qaeda (sorry, I meant ISIS), and Ferguson, and the latest mass shooting...all while they go without healthcare, millions live in poverty, bankers get richer after breaking the law, and since 2002, the United States has had the highest incarceration rate in the world.

I thank God every day that I am only visiting the country. I will never live here again.

You people are crazy.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Violence in Toronto - it's personal

All in all, Toronto is a very safe city. I can't really say that there are neighborhoods that I avoid or fear to be in at any hour of the day. In my three years here, "random" acts of violence seem to be very rare.

There is a particular form of violence that was new to me, however. Stabbings. Because of two conditions, it seems stabbings happen almost as frequently as shootings. I think the two reasons are: Gun control in Canada is pretty rigorous and violence is personal.

It's hard to get a gun in Canada in general. Handguns in particular (the favourite guns of the U.S.) are hard to come by legally, which makes them extremely expensive illegally. There aren't many around, so they aren't the weapon of choice. As I noted before, violence is less random here, and more about one person's direct conflict with another. It's personal. And stabbing someone is a very personal act. You can't stab someone from 20-yards; you have to get right up on them to accomplish it.

So while you do hear about shootings here, there really aren't many (and for the population in city of around 2.1 million, there are only around 140-170 incidents each year, 20 of which resulting in death). The total number of stabbings in Toronto each year isn't publicly noted, but deaths from stabbings take 40-60% of the same number of lives as shootings when all is said and done.

So Canada has its share of violence. And in general, it's personal. While no violence is something I'm sure we'd all be happier with, knowing that the random violence of the U.S. just isn't prevalent here does make this country a safer one to live in, and another reason I am thankful to live in Canada.    

Friday, September 12, 2014

A sense of home

In Seattle, where I come from, "home" was the house I shared with my brother and our dogs. I felt at home when I was there. The neighbourhood, the city, Seattle, was "the city". Home city, but not "home"

Here in my new Canadian life, Toronto - the whole city, feels like home to me. I was wondering why this was. As I was walking this morning in the College Park neighbourhood, then later in the St. Lawrence Market/Old Town neighbourhood where I live I think I figured it out.

In the U.S. I drove everywhere. If something I needed was more than a few blocks away - and I mean two blocks away, I'd hop in the car to go there. It's a very American way to get around. We love our cars. But getting in a car isolates you from everyone and everything. You forget what the area just a few blocks away looks like or smells like, or what's on this corner and who lives on that corner...

In Toronto, we don't have a car. We walk or take transit (primarily the subway) everywhere. I am in connection with the city everywhere I go. I have to pay attention. I see it at walking speed, not in the blur of driving speed. I think because I experience Toronto in this way, the whole city feels like home to me - my connection to it is as broad as my walks - and in the city, a 45-minute walk to get somewhere is not all that exceptional. I would never walk 45-minutes to somewhere in the U.S. Don't ask me why, but it just doesn't make sense.

I love this broader sense of where "home" is. I love being in Canada and with my love in Toronto. 

Monday, September 08, 2014

This is how we keep families apart - "dependent" children redefined by Tories

A remnant of the Kenney years passed as a regulatory amendment to the Immigration Act now lowers the age under which dependent children can apply for Canadian immigration under their parent's application.

The cutoff age for dependent children used to be 21 - a not uncommon benchmark worldwide for adulthood, but Kenney, despite objections for immigration experts (and especially those dealing with refugee and humanitarian issues) decided in his omniscient wisdom to lower the bar to 18. Why?

Money. The logic is that those who are over 21 likely have finished their schooling, and government studies (don't get me started on how this government uses so-called "research") imply that those individuals who don't get a Canadian education don't have the best "economic outcomes" compared to those who do. This is despite the fact that with waiting times the way they still are, an 18 year-old has a slim chance of getting any Canadian education either before they are an "adult".

Regardless - are future (and unknown) "economic outcomes" really that a good reason to tear families apart when their children are at the cusp of adulthood?

Canada's own census found that 40% of young Canadian adults lived at home with their parents. What does that tell you about "dependency" in the modern age? That it's real. That we continue to rely on family ties long after some arbitrary age limit. And if you were to set a real age point when children become fully independent, it's more like 25.

I'm hoping that Canadian citizens who were once immigrants themselves will support a new government that encourages family reunification - one of the bedrocks of our immigration programs - and stop supporting the Tories who are literally tearing families apart at our borders. 

Thursday, September 04, 2014

TIFF begins!

The Toronto International Film Festival starts tonight. Each year, over 400 films play for a two week period on screens across the city, including many world premiers. For years, the film voted "Fan Favourite" at TIFF has gone on to win the best picture Oscar. Not a bad record.

Stargazing is a big part of TIFF for city residents. Last year I saw Dustin Hoffman on the streets (he's taller in person), and more ambitious sorts will camp out at bars and restaurants where they think they'll find the A-listers.

The best thing about TIFF is that you can get a few months worth of movie picks lined up for when they officially hit cinemas. Single tickets for movies during the festival have gone from $17 back in the day to around $75 this year. Not for the faint of wallet.

I'd write more, but I have a movie to watch!   

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

First day of school

Labour Day is past. The CNE is closed. Thunderstorms have returned. It must be the first day of school.

This morning CP24 (a local tv station) had parents send in pictures of their kids in their back-to-school outfits and it was just classic. Some excited girls, showing off their new fashions with big smiles on their faces. And then there were the boys who looked put together, but who's eyes betrayed an "are you kidding? Summer's over?" sentiment.

A teacher friend of mine told me how other teachers were calling and texting each other yesterday, asking, "are you ready for this?" Their 9-month countdown begins today.

Construction workers are racing to get those tasks that the coming cold wont bear out of the way too - though there isn't a lot they can't do in even the bitterest of cold.

So happy first day of school from Toronto. How did you spend yours? 

Friday, August 29, 2014

The end of summer

Night time at the CNE
We haven't really had a summer in Toronto this year. Tomorrow promises to bring only the second Heat Warning of the season, where normally we'd have at least a week or two worth of them.

Because the season never really kicked-in weather-wise, I didn't feel as strongly about getting out to the numerous summer festivals: Waterfront Festival, Taste of the Danforth, World Pride, Taste of Asia, Taste of Lawrence (plenty of food festivals, as you can tell!), Caribbean Carnival; Buskerfest and don't forget the Canadian National Exhibition...There are a lot of things to do every weekend.

Maybe my experience last fall of the Nuit Blanche festival coloured my thinking a bit too. During the festival, which runs one night in October from 6PM until 6AM, streets are closed down and interactive art displays are erected. Attendance last year - meaning people flooding the streets of Toronto - was 1 million people. I went out in it. It was crazy. I went to Nathan Phillips Square for a Ai Wei Wei installation. Trying to get through the square was an exercise in having your genitals introduced to 50,000 strangers. Not fun.

I'm going to try and get into the spirit of the festivals again though. May even hit the CNE this weekend. I love the activity in this beautiful city. I need to participate.      

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Crossroads - how should this blog continue?

Hi Readers,
I'm at a crossroads with your favourite immigration blog. Not quite sure how, or if I should continue to write on these big immigration matters, transition this to more of a "life in Canada" or "life in Toronto" blog, or simply call it a day after almost 10 years?

Any thoughts?

I'll let you know my conclusion soon.

- JH

Thursday, August 14, 2014

RT online - No longer welcome: Canada blocks fast-track visa program

Annoyed potential immigrants are planning to sue the Canadian government after Ottawa canceled the so-called ‘millionaire visa’ program, which had allowed tens of thousands of well-off foreigners to gain fast-track visa entry.

The scheme was temporarily frozen in 2012 due to a backlog of paperwork; however, the Canadian government announced in February that it was going to scrap the program permanently.

"This was not a program that was generating jobs, growth, opportunity in Canada and it was certainly not a program that was getting the immigrant investors we wanted," said Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Chris Alexander to CBS.

CBS also reports that around 40 organizations in the Vancouver metropolitan area say they are considering taking legal action against the federal government after it scrapped the Immigrant Investor Program. Vancouver has long been a haven for wealthy immigrants from Hong Kong and mainland China, due to its proximity to the Pacific Ocean and the excellent standard of living in the city.

Read the full article here

Monday, August 11, 2014

Three years in Canada!

As of August 12, 2014, I mark my third year and the start of my fourth in Canada.

Has it passed so quickly? Yes it has. I pinch myself often: Three years as a permanent resident. All and all, it's been pretty wonderful. This is my home. This is my country.

I am content. Am I still adjusting? Absolutely. Do I miss the U.S.? Sometimes. It's mainly family that I miss, and dear friends. But that's the emmigrant's lot in life, and the path I chose. I'm still glad I chose it.

They say time flies when you're having fun, and there's not a lot to say when life is good.

Time is flying. There's not a lot to say.

Friday, July 25, 2014 - A Summary of Quebec Immigration Today

Attorney David Cohen's excellent CanadaVisa site has lots of informative articles and is a great place to stay current on the legal twists and turns of Canadian immigration. Here's his latest on the state of immigration for skilled workers  to Quebec:

"Quebec immigration remains open to a wide range of applicants. In fact, immigrating to Quebec is a popular route to achieve Canadian Permanent Residency. With the goal of reducing processing times for applications, the Government of Quebec has introduced a number of changes to Quebec immigration programs in recent months. Permanent workers, investors, entrepreneurs and self-employed workers looking to apply for a Quebec Selection Certificate should take note; spots are filling up quickly. Here is an overview of where these various programs stand today:"

Read the rest of the article here

Monday, July 21, 2014

Immigration Minister Chris Alexander - quotable quotes

On Express Entry program:
  • "We think we've done more than all other countries to make sure our programs are cutting edge..."
  • "Our doors are open, our programs have integrity (and) we're focusing immigration as never before on our economic needs as a country. And our reputation in the world for doing immigration well, for choosing incredible people and for helping them create successful lives in Canada ... has never been stronger."
  • "This is harder than it sounds to pull off."
  • "Express Entry will transform Canada’s immigration system into one that is faster and more responsive to economic and labour market needs. It will allow Citizenship and Immigration Canada to select the candidates who are most likely to succeed economically in Canada, rather than passively process all applicants in a queue..."
On revisions to program allowing citizens of India to visit Canada: 
  • "Successful applicants will be grouped for bulk processing and put through our visa office on a priority basis...its being launched as a permanent program after a successful pilot program..."
  • "Today's announcement is really about visitors for tourism - family or business...for work permits and study programs and immigration...nothing is changing today but all of that is getting faster as well… (from) January 1, 2015 we will offer six month processing for our economic immigration program...and this is a program that used to take 3­, 4 or more years..."

Monday, July 14, 2014

The National Post - Canada’s immigration enforcement system suffers from ‘orchestrated mismanagement,’ whistleblower claims

A former Canada Border Services Agency manager is blowing the whistle on the alleged “orchestrated mismanagement” of Canada’s immigration enforcement system, revealing a precipitous drop in the number of illegal immigrants deported at the same time as agency overspending and escalating detention costs.

“Simply put, more money was spent to produce less,” Reg Williams, the former director of CBSA’s Toronto enforcement office, says in a whistleblowing letter to the Privy Council that was obtained by the National Post.

The 23-page letter claims CBSA’s immigration enforcement is “unraveling” just as CBSA bosses are being considered for substantial bonus payments for their performance.

“As a retired public servant, taxpayer and citizen, I am deeply concerned … that the downward trend in productivity, if not addressed, will threaten community safety and security,” he writes in the letter, dated June 26.

“Taxpayers deserve to know why the immigration enforcement program has produced significantly less while spending significantly more.”

Read the rest of the article here

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

The Globe and Mail - PEI, Nova Scotia join Alberta in opposing changes to foreign worker program

Employment Minister Jason Kenney’s changes to the temporary foreign worker program are drawing criticism from Maritime labour ministers concerned the lobster and seafood industry will be dramatically affected.

The ministers are comparing the fishery to the agriculture industry, which is exempt, and allowed to employ the temporary workers. They have not asked for an outright exemption for the fishery.

Read the rest of the article here.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Globe and Mail - Scrapping TFW program for low-wage jobs will be on the table in 2016, Kenney says

They never really cared about you...When the political potato becomes too hot, the Tories always bail. Kenney was a huge champion on the Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) program when he was Immigration Minister. He showed up at every ethnic event possible. He was your best friend.

Then word got out that the TFW program was naturally being abused by a few big corporations. So who gets thrown under the bus? The workers themselves. Remember this next time you get a chance to vote (that's for all you immigrant citizens in the blogosphere).

The elimination of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program for low-wage jobs will be on the table in 2016, says Employment Minister Jason Kenney, who is not backing down in the face of business criticism that the Conservative government is already going too far.

From the Canadian Meat Council to the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, business groups are speaking out against Ottawa’s latest plan to cap the number of low-wage foreign workers and impose higher fees.

Read the rest of the article here

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Star - Canadian government’s citizenship bill faces legal challenge

Canadian and international rights groups are poised to launch a legal challenge against Ottawa’s proposed citizenship law, saying it would create two classes of citizens and violate the Charter’s mobility rights.

Under the “Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act,” they say, no one is safe from having their citizenship revoked, even those who were born in Canada if they have the right to dual citizenship in another country because of their immigrant ancestry.

“The new provisions for revocation of citizenship in Bill C-24 violate Canada’s international human rights obligations. They are divisive, discriminatory, retrograde and profoundly unfair,” Amnesty International 

Canada secretary general Alex Neve told a teleconference Thursday.

“The bill buys into and promotes a xenophobic and false narrative about true Canadians and others, a narrative that equates foreignness with suspicions.”

Read the entire article by Nicholas Keung here

Friday, June 20, 2014

Citizenship Act Bill C-24 becomes law

From the CIC:

June 19, 2014 — Ottawa, ON — Canada’s Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander announced today that reforms to the Citizenship Act received final passage and Royal Assent. The reforms will strengthen the rules around access to citizenship to ensure that new citizens are better prepared for full participation and integration into Canadian society, with the goal of fostering in new Canadians a stronger attachment to Canadian values and traditions.

Key reforms include:

Improving efficiency
Canada’s citizenship program is being improved by reducing the decision-making process from three steps to one. It is expected that, by 2015–2016, this change will bring the average processing time for citizenship applications down to under a year. It is also projected that by 2015-2016, the current backlog will be reduced by more than 80 percent.

Reinforcing the value of Canadian citizenship
The government is ensuring citizenship applicants maintain strong ties to Canada. These amendments to the Citizenship Act provide a clearer indication that the “residence” period to qualify for citizenship in fact requires physical presence in Canada.

More applicants will now be required to meet language requirements and pass a knowledge test to ensure that new citizens are better prepared to fully participate in Canadian society. New provisions will also help individuals with strong ties to Canada, such as by automatically extending citizenship to additional “Lost Canadians” who were born before 1947 as well as to their children born in the first generation outside Canada.

Cracking down on citizenship fraud
The updated Citizenship Act includes stronger penalties for fraud and misrepresentation (a maximum fine of $100,000 and/or five years in prison) and expands the grounds to bar an application for citizenship to include foreign criminality, which will help improve program integrity.

Protecting and promoting Canada’s interests and values
Finally, the amendments bring Canada in line with most of our peer countries, by providing that citizenship can be revoked from dual nationals who are convicted of serious crimes such as terrorism, high treason and spying offences (depending on the sentence received) or who take up arms against Canada. Permanent residents who commit these acts will be barred from citizenship.

As a way of recognizing the important contributions of those who serve Canada in uniform, permanent residents who are members of the Canadian Armed Forces will have quicker access to Canadian citizenship. The Act also stipulates that children born to Canadian parents serving abroad as servants of the Crown are able to pass on Canadian citizenship to children they have or adopt outside Canada.

Quick facts

  • Requiring 14-64 year-olds to meet knowledge and language requirements provides an incentive for more individuals to acquire official language proficiency and civics knowledge, which helps them successfully integrate into Canadian society. 
  • Citizenship applicants will need to be physically present in Canada for a total of four out of their last six years. In addition, they will need to be physically present in Canada for 183 days per year for at least four of those six years. These provisions will come into force in approximately a year.
  • Under the new streamlined decision-making model, citizenship officers will decide all aspects of a citizenship application. Under the old model, obtaining citizenship was a three-step process that involved duplication of work.
  • Since 2006, Canada has welcomed over 1,300,000 proud new Canadians. Citizenship and Immigration Canada received 333,860 citizenship applications in 2013, the highest volume ever.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Immigration book updates in process

I am currently updating my two immigration books to account for program changes that have occurred since they were first published. Here's your chance to influence the content!

If there are questions about either family class or skilled worker class immigration you would like to see covered in the books, please let me know as soon as possible. 

I am also planning to offer the books for sale directly to you through this and other web sites, as opposed to Amazon and iTunes. I plan to offer the book in both ePub and MOBI formats.

I also want to announce that the price for these two valuable resources are going to increase with the new versions.

The current versions are still valid if you want to pick them up before the updates and price increases. I will also offer free updates to previous customers with validated copies of the original books. I want you to have the best and most current information on how to complete your application for permanent residence.    

Thursday, June 05, 2014

The Star - Canadian health care better than Obamacare

U.S. President, Barrack Obama
I can't come home to the U.S. without hearing about Obamacare, and how great it is for America. My position: it's a poor compromise for the citizens of America. That a country so rich cares so little for the health of its citizens reeks of a social Darwinism that is evident in almost every aspect of the society. Below is an article from the January 12, 2014 Toronto Star. After hearing all the nonesense praise for Obamacare, I felt it was important to reflect this comparative viewpoint in its entirety:


Ralph Nader points to 22 ways the Canadian health-care system is better than Obamacare in the U.S.

Political activist Ralph Nader recently outlined the advantages of Canada’s medicare system over so-called Obamacare in the United States to an audience at Western University in London, Ont.:

Dear America:
Costly complexity is baked into Obamacare. No health insurance system is without problems but Canadian-style single-payer full medicare for all is simple, affordable, comprehensive and universal.

In the early 1960s, President Lyndon Johnson enrolled 20 million elderly Americans into medicare in six months. There were no websites. They did it with index cards.

Here are 22 ways the Canadian health-care system is better than Obamacare.

Love, Canada

No. 22: In Canada, everyone is covered automatically at birth — everybody in, nobody out.

In the United States, under Obamacare, 31 million Americans will still be uninsured by 2023 and millions more will remain underinsured.

No. 21: In Canada, the health system is designed to put people, not profits, first.

In the United States, Obamacare will do little to curb insurance industry profits and will actually enhance insurance industry profits.

No. 20: In Canada, coverage is not tied to a job or dependent on your income — rich and poor are in the same system, the best guarantee of quality.

In the United States, under Obamacare, much still depends on your job or income. Lose your job or lose your income and you might lose your existing health insurance or have to settle for lesser coverage.

No. 19: In Canada, health-care coverage stays with you for your entire life.

In the United States, under Obamacare, for tens of millions of Americans, health-care coverage stays with you for as long as you can afford your share.

No. 18: In Canada, you can freely choose your doctors and hospitals and keep them. There are no lists of “in-network” vendors and no extra hidden charges for going “out of network.”

In the United States, under Obamacare, the in-network list of places where you can get treated is shrinking — thus restricting freedom of choice — and if you want to go out of network, you pay for it.

No. 17: In Canada, the health-care system is funded by income, sales and corporate taxes that, combined, are much lower than what Americans pay in premiums.

In the United States, under Obamacare, for thousands of Americans, it’s pay or die — if you can’t pay, you die. That’s why many thousands will still die every year under Obamacare from lack of health insurance to get diagnosed and treated in time.

No. 16: In Canada, there are no complex hospital or doctor bills. In fact, usually you don’t even see a bill.

In the United States, under Obamacare, hospital and doctor bills will still be terribly complex, making it impossible to discover the many costly overcharges.

No. 15: In Canada, costs are controlled. Canada pays 10 per cent of its GDP for its health-care system, covering everyone.

In the United States, under Obamacare, costs continue to skyrocket. The U.S. pays 18 per cent of its GDP and still doesn’t cover tens of millions of people.

No. 14: In Canada, it is unheard of for anyone to go bankrupt due to health-care costs.

In the United States, under Obamacare, health-care-driven bankruptcy will continue to plague Americans.

No. 13: In Canada, if you lose your job, you don’t lose your health insurance.

In the United States, you will often hear people say, “I hate my job, but I can’t leave it because I’ll lose my health insurance.” Or people will be forced to get a job they hate just for the health insurance.

No. 12: In Canada, simplicity leads to major savings in administrative costs and overhead.

In the United States, under Obamacare, complexity will lead to ratcheting up administrative costs and overhead.

No. 11: In Canada, when you go to a doctor or hospital the first thing they ask you is: “What’s wrong?”

In the United States, the first thing they ask you is: “What kind of insurance do you have?”

No. 10: In Canada, the government negotiates drug prices so they are more affordable.

In the United States, under Obamacare, Congress made it specifically illegal for the government to negotiate drug prices for volume purchases, so they remain unaffordable.

No. 9: In Canada, government health-care funds are not profitably diverted to the top 1 per cent.

In the United States, under Obamacare, health-care funds will continue to flow to the top. In 2012, CEOs at six of the largest insurance companies in the U.S. received a total of $83.3 million in pay, plus benefits.

No. 8: In Canada, there are no necessary co-pays or deductibles.

In the United States, under Obamacare, the deductibles and co-pays will continue to be unaffordable for many millions of Americans.

No. 7: In Canada, the health-care system contributes to social solidarity and national pride.

In the United States, Obamacare is divisive, with rich and poor in different systems and tens of millions left out or with sorely limited benefits.

No. 6: In Canada, delays in health care are not due to the cost of insurance.

In the United States, under Obamacare, patients without health insurance or who are underinsured will continue to delay or forgo care and put their lives at risk.

No. 5: In Canada, nobody dies due to lack of health insurance.

In the United States, under Obamacare, many thousands will continue to die every year due to lack of health insurance.

No. 4: In Canada, an increasing majority supports their health-care system, which costs half as much per person as in the United States.

In the United States, a majority — many for different reasons — oppose Obamacare.

No. 3: In Canada, the tax payments to fund the health-care system are progressive — the lowest 20 per cent pays 6 per cent of income into the system while the highest 20 per cent pays 8 per cent.

In the United States, under Obamacare, the poor pay a larger share of their income for health care than the affluent.

No. 2: In Canada, the administration of the system is simple. You get a health card when you are born. And you swipe it when you go to a doctor or hospital. End of story.

In the United States, Obamacare’s 2,500 pages plus regulations (the Canadian medicare bill was 13 pages) is so complex that then-speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said before passage: “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.”

No. 1: In Canada, the majority of citizens love their health-care system.

In the United States, the majority of citizens, physicians and nurses prefer the Canadian-type system — single-payer, free choice of doctor and hospital, everybody in, nobody out.

Monday, June 02, 2014

Family time in the USA

Hi Friends,
The Mind is on a brief hiatus visiting family in the US. I'll return to Canada and catching you up with all the latest immigration news and views in a few short weeks. In the meantime, the weather is beautiful out - so why are you sitting in front of that computer?! How do you spend your break? Why not drop me a note and let me know?

Cheers - J

Thursday, May 22, 2014

ADAMS, MACKLIN AND OMIDVAR - Citizenship Act will create two classes of Canadians

"Consider this scenario: A foreign student completes her master’s degree here in three years. She wants to stay in Canada – and is just the kind of highly skilled immigrant Canada needs – but she’s not eligible to apply for permanent residence yet. First, she must find suitable employment and work for a year. Having done so, she applies for permanent resident status, which takes another year to process. She has now been in Canada for five years, but none of it counts toward the four-year permanent residency requirement. Under the old rules, she would have received partial credit for years lived in Canada as a temporary resident. No more.

She is now a permanent resident, just at the starting line of the four years she must spend in Canada to apply for citizenship. Her Canadian employer asks her to work in one of its overseas offices (perhaps to take advantage of her language skills and cultural knowledge). But under the new rules any time spent outside Canada will further delay her eligibility for citizenship and could even jeopardize her permanent residence. She refuses the career opportunity.

Four years later, she has fulfilled her permant residence requirement and applies for citizenship. Based on existing delays (the result of staff shortages, not law), she will have to wait about two years before her application is processed. She’s been here for eleven years, six of them as a permanent resident. Only now can she call herself “Canadian” and vote for the representatives that collect her taxes and make decisions that affect her life."

Read the excellent, entire article here

Monday, May 12, 2014

The Globe and Mail - Canada must see immigration as a competitive edge

Gordon Nixon writes:

Diversity and immigration are important parts of Canada’s past, present and future.

Canadians have built a prosperous and civil society, one rich in opportunity, that people of many different cultures call home. Our economic strength is derived from the combination of what we all have in common and what makes each of us different.

Immigration has become a hot topic in Britain ahead of elections in 2015 but a new report by the Centre for Entrepreneurs shows they are crucial to the economy, responsible for starting one in seven UK companies. Hayley Platt talks to one migrant who came to England as a boy 42 years ago and is now a multi-million pound hotelier.

Canada welcomes almost a quarter of a million permanent immigrants each year – one of the highest rates of all developed countries. It is projected that 28 per cent of Canadians will be foreign-born by 2031 up from 20 per cent today. Canada must remain a destination of choice for skilled immigrants – entrepreneurs, professionals, scientists. Talent is more mobile and potential immigrants have more choices than ever before, with predictions of skills shortages for many developed economies. Simply opening our doors is not enough.

Read more here

Friday, May 02, 2014

Submitting a complete immigration application - a CIC How-To

This tutorial video shows you how to complete your application correctly and avoid common errors that can cause delays. It will help anyone traveling or immigrating to Canada, applying for Canadian citizenship, sponsoring a refugee or filling out other Citizenship and Immigration Canada applications.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Miscalculation! CIC opens up double the categories for Federal Skilled Worker program

Some bean counter must have got his estimations wrong. After years of clamping progressively downward on the Federal Skilled Worker program, CIC announced Wednesday that it is opening the program up to 50 NOC categories (up from 29 in the last iteration of the program) and 25,000 applications.

Here are some details from the CIC:

On April 26, 2014, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) will issue a new set of Ministerial Instructions to immigration officers regarding the processing of applications to the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP), Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP), and Canadian Experience Class (CEC).

Effective May 1, 2014, the following measures will be in place:

Federal Skilled Worker Program:
Federal Skilled Workers are chosen as permanent residents based on their ability to prosper in Canada. They are assessed according to a selection grid made up of six factors, including language, education, work experience, etc.

Overall cap of 25,000 applications in eligible occupations stream.

  • Cap of 500 applications for PhD eligibility stream
  • No limit on applicants who have a valid job offer from a Canadian employer
  • Sub-caps of 1,000 applications for each of the 50 eligible occupations below (their 2011 National Occupational Classification (NOC) code is included in brackets):
  • Senior managers – financial, communications and other business services (0013)
  • Senior managers - trade, broadcasting and other services, n.e.c. (0015)
  • Financial managers (0111)
  • Human resources managers (0112)
  • Purchasing managers (0113)
  • Insurance, real estate and financial brokerage managers (0121)
  • Managers in health care (0311)
  • Construction managers (0711)
  • Home building and renovation managers (0712)
  • Managers in natural resources production and fishing (0811)
  • Manufacturing managers (0911)
  • Financial auditors and accountants (1111)
  • Financial and investment analysts (1112)
  • Securities agents, investment dealers and brokers (1113)
  • Other financial officers (1114)
  • Professional occupations in advertising, marketing and public relations (1123)
  • Supervisors, finance and insurance office workers (1212)
  • Property administrators (1224)
  • Geoscientists and oceanographers (2113)
  • Civil engineers (2131)
  • Mechanical engineers (2132)
  • Electrical and electronics engineers (2133)
  • Petroleum engineers (2145)
  • Information systems analysts and consultants (2171)
  • Database analysts and data administrators (2172)
  • Software engineers and designers (2173)
  • Computer programmers and interactive media developers (2174)
  • Mechanical engineering technologists and technicians (2232)
  • Construction estimators (2234)
  • Electrical and electronics engineering technologists and technicians (2241)
  • Industrial instrument technicians and mechanics (2243)
  • Inspectors in public and environmental health and occupational health and safety (2263)
  • Computer network technicians (2281)
  • Nursing co-ordinators and supervisors (3011)
  • Registered nurses and registered psychiatric nurses (3012)
  • Specialist physicians (3111)
  • General practitioners and family physicians (3112)
  • Dietitians and nutritionists (3132)
  • Audiologists and speech-language pathologists (3141)
  • Physiotherapists (3142)
  • Occupational therapists (3143)
  • Respiratory therapists, clinical perfusionists and cardiopulmonary technologists (3214)
  • Medical radiation technologists (3215)
  • Medical sonographers (3216)
  • Licensed practical nurses (3233)
  • Paramedical occupations (3234)
  • University professors and lecturers (4011)
  • Psychologists (4151)
  • Early childhood educators and assistants (4214)
  • Translators, terminologists and interpreters (5125)

Federal Skilled Trades Program:
This program is for people who want to become permanent residents based on being qualified in a skilled trade.

Overall cap of 5,000 applications.

  • All 90 skilled trades from the following NOC Skill Level B groups are eligible (with sub-caps of 100 applications each): 
  • Major Group 72: Industrial, electrical and construction trades;
  • Major Group 73: Maintenance and equipment operation trades;
  • Major Group 82: Supervisors and technical occupations in national resources, agriculture and related production;
  • Major Group 92: Processing, manufacturing and utilities supervisors and central control operators;
  • Minor Group 632: chefs and cooks;
  • Minor Group 633: butchers and bakers.

Canadian Experience Class:
This program is for people who already have skilled work experience in Canada and want to immigrate permanently.

Overall cap of 8,000 applications.

  • Sub-caps of 200 applications each for any NOC B occupation
  • Six ineligible occupations: administrative officers (NOC code 1221), administrative assistants (1241), accounting technicians/bookkeepers (1311), cooks (6322), food service supervisors (6311), and retail sales supervisors (6211).

The new Ministerial Instructions will also re-confirm the existing pause of applications to the federal Immigrant Investor and Entrepreneur Programs.  

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Globe and Mail - After 40 years, Immigrant Settlement Program needs an overhaul

Robert Vineberg is a Senior Fellow at the Canada West Foundation. He was formerly Director General of Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s Prairies and Northern Territories Region. He is also the author of the book "Responding to Immigrants’ Settlement Needs: The Canadian Response".

Would-be immigrants to Canada continue to face a series of bureaucratic impediments that either delay their status or reduce the effectiveness of integration once they arrive here. Fixing these problems is long overdue.

Read more

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

CIC - Offering "Express Entry" to Qualified Economic Immigrants

April 8, 2014 — Ottawa — Canada’s Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander today announced that Canada’s active recruitment model for economic immigration will officially be called “Express Entry.” Set to launch in January 2015, “Express Entry” is a major step forward in the transformation of Canada’s immigration system into one that is fast, flexible and focused on meeting Canada’s economic and labour needs.

“Express Entry” will allow for greater flexibility and better responsiveness to deal with regional labour shortages, and help fill open jobs for which there are no available Canadian workers. “Express Entry” candidates who receive a valid job offer or nomination under the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) will be quickly invited to apply for permanent residency – a key distinction between “Express Entry” and the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, which is only used to fill temporary labour and skill shortages.

Formerly referred to as “Expression of Interest”, “Express Entry” will be open to skilled immigrants and allow the government to select the best candidates who are most likely to succeed in Canada, rather than those who happen to be first in line. It will also prevent backlogs and allow Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) to better coordinate application volume with the annual immigration levels plan.

Learn more

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Hire a new immigrant - stop discrimination now

Hey Canada, this one's for you:

I would like all employers out there to consider dropping the phrase "Canadian experience" from their vocabularies. This subtle form of discrimination is keeping thousands of immigrants from getting work that they are fully qualified to perform.

By using this phrase, whether in an interview, or in an internal screening process, you are effectively practicing a form of discrimination through exclusion and also a very negative form of nationalism.

Think about this: Canada has one of the highest percentages of permanent residents that become citizens in the world - over 80% at last count. When you exclude a fully qualified immigrant from contributing to your company solely because they haven't worked for a Canadian employers for X-years, you are actually doing a great harm in the long term to your own country.

I've been asked the "Canadian experience" question on a number of interviews, and as soon as it's asked, I know the job isn't mine. I know that the person asking has a built-in bias that somehow all the years of experience I bring to the table mean nothing unless that experience is in Canada.

Think about how crazy that is. Let's say your hiring a Toyota mechanic. You have a choice between someone who has 10-years of experience in Japan, or someone who has two years of Canadian experience. No question of who should get the job, eh? But in Canada, subtle things come into play. Without Canadian experience, will the employee be able to "fit in to the culture"? Do they have the "soft skills" that Canadians possess?

I'm asking all employers out there to expunge the phrase "Canadian experience" from your vocabulary. Think about the long term. Heck - think about the short term too! Simply hire the best person for the job, no matter what.

It's not much to ask. 

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

CIC - New Canadian citizens in March 2014 almost double compared to one year ago

Here's the latest from the CIC, and the really good news is that this is not an April Fools joke!

April 1, 2014 — Ottawa — Approximately 33,700 people from 199 countries became Canadian citizens at citizenship ceremonies held across Canada in March 2014. This is almost twice as many compared to March 2013 when 17,089 people were granted citizenship across Canada.

Canada’s new citizens were welcomed at 312 citizenship ceremonies held across the country, from college campuses to Citizenship and Immigration Canada offices, to special ceremonies at railway stations and designated heritage sites.

These high numbers demonstrate that changes and improvements in effect over the past year have already made the system more efficient and resulted in a decreased backlog, helping more people realize their dream of becoming Canadian sooner. The government’s proposed changes in Bill C-24, the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act, will further reduce wait times by streamlining the decision-making process for citizenship. It is expected that these changes will bring the average processing time for citizenship applications down to under one year and that the current backlog will be reduced by more than 80 percent by 2015-2016.

Quick facts

  • So far in 2014, Canada has welcomed more than 75,900 new citizens at 759 ceremonies across Canada. Comparatively, in the first three months of 2013, Canada welcomed 35,320 new Canadians.
  • In 2013, 128,936 people were granted Canadian citizenship—an average of 10,745 each month.
  • Since 2006, Canada has enjoyed the highest sustained levels of immigration in Canadian history—an average of 257,000 newcomers each year. Accordingly, the demand for citizenship has increased by 30 percent.
  • Canada has the highest rate of naturalization in the world—85 per cent of eligible permanent residents become citizens. Citizenship and Immigration Canada received 333,860 citizenship applications in 2013, the highest volume ever.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Nova Scotia announces new options for skilled workers

If you want to immigrate to Canada, but don't qualify for the Federal Skilled Worker Program because of all of the changes and limitations, Nova Scotia may have a solution for you:

The new Regional Labour Market Demand stream is aimed at selecting individuals who meet the labour market needs, are destined to join the labour market with a full-time and permanent position, and wish to live in the Province of Nova Scotia permanently.

Check out the new program at the province's official site:

Regional Labour Market Demand NOVA SCOTIA NOMINEE PROGRAM

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

First immigration steps and basic information - CIC

Sometimes I forget that some of you may be on your first steps toward immigrating to Canada. If that's the case, you've found a good jumping off point with this blog. You're going to hear it from the horse's mouth here. My immigration was probably a little tougher than most; but you'll never learn much from those who had an easy time of it.

I was once right where you are - looking into what my options were for possible immigration into Canada.

As you're getting started, be sure and look through the materials at the government of Canada's Customs and Immigration (CIC) web site. You'll find it here:

Immigrate to Canada - Customs and Immigration Canada

Also please check out my two ebooks on Canadian immigration. They have already assisted many in working their way through the sometimes daunting immigration process and paperwork. See the "How To Immigrate Books" link on the top of this page for more information.

Friday, March 14, 2014

What the CIC says it's doing to reduce citizenship processing times

Why is it that when I read an official CIC document, it always feels like a Harper campaign press release? This is true of the CIC backgroudner, "Backgrounder — What is CIC doing to reduce citizenship processing times?" Just look at the info-graphic below:

See the use of "Economic Action Plan" - that's Harper campaign-speak. Now, the Tories have been in power since 2006. That's 8 years as either leading a minority or having a majority government in place. And now - now that an election cycle approaches - now they are going to do something about citizenship wait times (which the same infographic explains are currently almost three-years).

So what are they finally doing?
  1. Throwing money at it - $44 million in 2013
  2. Streamlining processing - now a Citizenship Officer will be the sole handler of an application. Judges will only come into play if there are complications or disputes on a file.
  3. Increasing fees - the old, "make it more expensive and less people will use it" school of government service. Harper is great at this. Fees for application will increase from $100 to $300.
  4. Actually defining a "complete application" - believe it or not, what has constituted a complete application has been a little fuzzy over the years. This is a positive change.
  5. Giving judges discretionary grant power - this power to grant citizenship in exceptional circumstances was previously held at the officer level. Now, judges will control this aspect of citizenship.
  6. Dealing with abandonment - there are lots of dead files out there; applicants who aren't responsive to requests for information or interviews. This change would allow those non-responsive applicants to be flushed from the backlog. Another positive step. 
So all in all, not a bad pass at improving citizenship wait times. Now we'll wait to see how they follow through. 

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

One more juxtaposition - the press and politics

I noticed a difference again between the U.S. and Canada related to the press in dealing with politics: See if you agree.

A couple months back, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau brought up in a speech that he thought it was time to consider decriminalizing marijuana in Canada. Of course, the law and order agenda of the ruling Tories were outraged. So much so, that they immediately began an advertising blitz in multiple languages painting Trudeau as a pusher - ready to sell drugs to your children.

In the U.S., this would have been fodder enough for the 24/7 new stations to haul out the pundits to explore the pressing questions of (let me think of a few): Did Trudeau really want to sell drugs to Canadian children? How much would marijuana cost under a Trudeau administration? Would Trudeau's position bring out the youth vote? Was Trudeau a moral man? If the position helped in the polls, would Harper go pro-pot?

But in Canada, the attack ad blitz by the Tories went almost entirely without comment. In Canada, it was understood that Harper would jump at any chance to attack his opponents, and Trudeau had given him one. Beyond that? Meh.

How refreshing that the press in Canada doesn't jump at every bit of propaganda bait thrown their way. How sad U.S. political discourse is so full of such nonsense.     

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Globe and Mail - If Canadian citizenship becomes more ‘exclusive’ it must be more meaningful

Nicholas Rouleau writes in today's Globe:

...Mr. Alexander (the new Minister of Citizenship) rightly observes that “Canadian citizenship is uniquely valuable in the world, a weighty privilege that involves both duty and rights, opportunity and responsibility.” If the duties of Canadians increase, so should their rights. A more exclusive citizenship should also mean a more meaningful one.

Read the entire article here

Thursday, February 20, 2014

February explanation: February observation

It's been a quiet February here at The Mind, and I feel like I owe you all an explanation. I had to return to the States for family business on very short notice, and it has left me little time to address anything else. While there is immigration news to share, my focus this month has been elsewhere. Hopefully March will be back to normal for everyone involved.

And now another observation about the U.S. from my Canadian vantage point. I have come to have so little patience for the political discourse in this country on either side of the aisle. As I see America now, it is a country full of me-firsters of both conservative and liberal persuasion. It is a country where there is only one correct point of view: and that belongs to whoever is speaking. It's is an immature country of people who have no tolerance for each other, or of each other's viewpoints or needs. It is a short-sighted, impatient, greedy country with a fast-food mentality, fully engaged in a Darwinist race to the bottom, where only one person wins, everyone else loses, and it's all the loser's fault.

Obamacare? Just more money for insurance companies as far as I'm concerned. The right to purchase an insurance policy doesn't mean anything if you can't afford it in the first place. But in America, if you are living in the margins, it's your own fault. If you need social assistance, you must be sitting on your ass and gaming the system. Your children should be taken from you, and you deserve whatever suffering comes your way. I hear this nonsense time and time again.

America lacks compassion. America lacks political courage. America does not take care of its own. Land of the free? Hardly. Home of the brave? Possibly. But do I miss it now that I have lived in Canada?

Not at all.  

Thursday, February 13, 2014 - Parent and Grandparent Sponsorship Cap Filled

After only a month, the Parent and Grandparent sponsorship program has reached the maximum number of applications that will be accepted this year. The program, which re-opened on January 2, 2014, had placed a cap of 5,000 on application intake.

“As Citizenship and Immigration Canada has now received 5,000 complete applications, new intake into the [Parent and Grandparent] program will again pause until next year, as we devote our energy to reuniting more families,” said a statement issued by Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC). “By the end of 2014, we expect to welcome an additional 20,000 parents and grandparents to Canada, marking a substantial reduction in wait times for all applicants.”

Read the rest of the article here

Sunday, February 09, 2014

CBC - New citizenship rules target fraud, foreign terrorism

The Canadian government is proposing sweeping changes today in what is being called "the first comprehensive reform to the Citizenship Act in more than a generation​."

Under the Conservative government's Bill C-24, dubbed the strengthening Canadian citizenship act, would-be citizens would have to live in Canada longer before applying for citizenship, but would see their applications for citizenship processed more quickly.

Read the rest of the article here

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The U.S. income tax exclusion you can never use

The U.S. is one of two countries in the world who extract taxes from citizens who live and work abroad. No matter where you live, the U.S. wants its share. That's the cost of being a citizen. There is one tax law you may be able to take advantage of, however - the  Foreign Earned Income Exclusion. Sounds good right?

The IRS tells us that, "United States Citizens and resident aliens who live and work abroad may be able to exclude all or part of their foreign salary or wages from their income when filing their U.S. federal tax return. They may also qualify to exclude compensation for their personal services or certain foreign housing costs."

And there's only one catch: you can almost never leave your foreign home in order to qualify.

To qualify for the foreign earned income exclusion, you must have a "tax home" in a foreign country and income received for working in that country. You also have to meet one of two tests: the bona fide residence test or the physical presence test.

Bona fide residence can only be taken advantage of if you are a "citizen" of the country you live and work in. Permanent resident? No such luck.

The physical presence test is the kicker if you are a permanent resident, and one for those living and working in Canada that makes this an exclusion that is almost impossible to qualify for.

The U.S. tax law states that you have to be present in the foreign country for 330 days in the tax year. Now given that a great majority of Canadian towns and cities are within 100 miles of the U.S. border, it makes it pretty difficult to avoid the country for 35 days a year. And if you travel home to see family, or take a holiday anywhere outside of Canada - forget it - your 35 days are going to pass quickly. You don't qualify any more. Travel for business? Tough. 330 days or no dice.

So thank you U.S. for picking our pockets. Thank you for joining the African nation of Eritrea (a nation who's government has shuttered all privately owned print media, arrested and held without trial all critics of the government and who none other than the U.S. State Department has declared a "Country of Particular Concern" (CPC) for its record of religious persecution (Wikipedia)). Really - good partner in tax policy!

Monday, January 20, 2014

A season of opportunity

Things seem to quiet down a lot in winter time. And it's no different on the immigration front. I notice on the blog that inquiries drop, and things in general get quiet. But let me tell you, if you are thinking about immigration to Canada, winter is a fantastic time to take advantage of the quiet and get your application going. There is always a lot to do in preparation for an application, and you'll find response times to requests for documents from many government offices get handled a lot faster at this quiet time of the year.

An application requires police clearances, proofs of education, language proficiency tests - all these things are much easier to acquire and schedule when offices are quiet following the New Year holidays.

So use this time wisely and get your application rolling for 2014. Luck favours the prepared!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Tax issues for U.S. citizens living in Canada

If you are a U.S. citizen living in Canada, you still have a tax obligation to the U.S. government. One of only two countries that tax their citizens no matter where they actually live, the U.S. is more active than ever in making sure expatriates pay to support their government's ambitions. To keep this from ever becoming a "taxation without representation" issue, they still allow you to vote in your last state, county and city of residence prior to leaving the country. Isn't that nice?

For those living in the U.S., it must gall them that non-residents can vote to impact policies that they will not be subject to living with. For those living outside the U.S., I can tell you it's galling to pay to support governments and programs that I get absolutely no benefit from.

The primary exception here is that when the time comes, I will be eligible for Social Security. Granted, the amount I will receive doesn't nearly match the hit I take on a yearly basis from U.S. tax law, but there you go. Until Congress stops picking the pockets of expatriates, it's just the way it is. The only people the U.S. allows to shelter their income against taxes are those who own and run corporations - and politicians.

There's an old saying that applies here: "It must be nice to be a Roman." 

Thursday, January 09, 2014

The Toronto Star - Canada urged to speed approval of skilled immigrants

Nicholas Keung, The Toronto Star's immigration reporter, filed this story related to the federal government's "Expression of Interest" program:

Ottawa’s new skilled immigrant selection system must process applicants within two months if Canada hopes to outbid other countries in attracting the world’s best and brightest, warns a new report by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce.

Immigration Minister Chris Alexander is set to launch the brand new “Expression of Interest” processing system (EOI) in early 2015 to replace the decades-old “first-in, first-out” mechanism for the federal skilled workers program.

Although Alexander says the system could shorten processing time down to six months, the report points out that comparable systems, such as Australia’s, take as little as 58 days to bring in skilled immigrants.

Read the rest of the story here

Monday, January 06, 2014

Would you like some salt with that?

Happy New Year from Toronto. We are in the midst of a real Canadian winter here, and the arctic air moving into the province today promises wind chill values of -36C by tonight. Yes - that's cold. With the snow we had last night, then the rain that followed it, there is a slushy mess all over the streets and sidewalks. That makes driving and walking treacherous.

The solution? Salt. Not the kind you'd want on your fries, or to enhance that steak you're having for dinner - we're talking anything from liquid calcium chloride, liquid magnesium chloride, liquid salt (salt brine), and rock salt. It's brutal stuff.

I've recommended on this blog that anyone thinking about their winter wardrobe add impermeable boots to the mix - rubber and latex-rubber boots that can take the wet and ice and especially the salt that you encounter everywhere this time of year. I see lots of Bay Street types in their Italian leather shoes heading to the office in this weather and all I think is, "well those are ruined." Because the salt is going to stain them, penetrate the leather, and nothing you can do will bring them back to life as they once knew it.

So the salt months are upon us. It's there for your safety. With a little preparation, you and your shoes will do just fine.