Canada: Immigrants, Guest Workers

Canada accepts about 250,000 immigrants a year. Immigration accounts for about two-thirds of Canada’s population growth, compared to 45 percent in the US.

Canada has a point system to select immigrants, awarding immigrant visas to those who score at least 67 points on a 100-point scale of desiderata (desired things). Additional points are awarded for having a Canadian job offer, but such an offer is not necessary to obtain an immigrant visa.

Canada has identified three problems with its immigrant selection system: long delays in processing applications, the disconnect between the qualifications of immigrants and their success in the Canadian labor market, and the concentration of immigrants in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal, cities that have a large share of immigrants, high living costs and often limited employment opportunities.

About 800,000 foreigners are waiting to immigrate. Many wait up to three years for decisions on their applications for employment-based visas. Once they arrive in Canada, many immigrants with qualifications find that their credentials are not recognized in Canada or that employers demand Canadian work experience.

In 2000, about 40 percent of the immigrants arriving in Canada, and 20 percent of those arriving in the US, had a college degree. A May 2007 Statistics Canada study concluded that immigrants reduce earnings inequality in Canada. The real earnings of Canadian college graduates fell seven percent between 1985 and 2000, in part due to the influx of college-educated immigrants, while the real earnings of lower skilled Canadian workers rose.

Guest Workers. The point system’s emphasis on selecting educated foreigners as immigrants has prompted some employers to demand more blue-collar and low-skilled foreign guest workers. Canada accepted 113,000 temporary foreign workers in 2007.

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