Canada

Canada needs to let in more foreign nationals through its immigration programs to help in the construction of new housing for Canadians, says the president of a British Columbia business group.

“The government’s solution to prioritize construction workers for permanent residency solely hinges on the new category-based selection process to expedite entry for permanent residency applicants with specific trade skills,” Anita Huberman, president and CEO of the Surrey Board of Trade, has reportedly said.

“Despite this program’s utility, it excludes applicants with experience as construction trades helpers and labourers, which is one of the top two residential construction occupations most in need of workers.” 

Under its Housing Action Plan announced in November, Ottawa is trying to jumpstart the construction of rental housing with an additional $15 billion in new loan funding, starting in 2025-26, for the Apartment Construction Loan Program.

“This investment will support more than 30,000 additional new homes across Canada, bringing the program’s total contribution to more than 101,000 new homes supported by 2031-32,” notes the Department of Finance on its website.


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Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has also made it easier for employers in the construction trades to hire foreign nationals for jobs that are going begging for a lack of Canadians to fill them.

Canadian employers who are hoping to bring in foreign nationals to Canada as temporary workers through the streamlined, Recognized Employer Pilot (REP) can now hire them for a greatly expanded list of eligible occupations, including many of the trades such as carpenters, cabinetmakers, construction millwrights, heaving, refrigeration and air conditioning mechanics, and residential and commercial installers and servicers.

British Columbia business leaders say that’s a good first step but more needs to be done to effectively address the residential construction labour shortages.

“Really, it’s making sure that through the various immigration programs – including Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada – that there’s opportunity for a higher number of skilled labour folks as a portion of those immigration numbers that are allowed under the various programs,” Trevor Koot, CEO of the British Columbia Real Estate Association, reportedly told the Business In Vancouver newspaper.

Calls For Easing Of Immigration Program Criteria For Construction Sector

“And to give a little bit more flexibility on requirements like the language requirements, because to offer the skills that are required to build a home are far more important than somebody having a dual language or other requirements that the immigration programs are outlining right now.”

The West Coast province is expected to have a shortfall of 4,500 workers to fill jobs in the residential construction sector this year, notes the Canadian Builders Association of BC (CHBA BC). 

Through its two-tier immigration system, Canada allows foreign nationals to gain their permanent residency through the federal Express Entry system’s Federal Skilled Worker (FSW) program, Federal Skilled Trades (FST) program and Canadian Experience Class (CEC), as well as the Provincial Nominee Programs (PNP) of the 10 Canadian provinces.

Under the Express Entry system, immigrants can apply for permanent residency online and their profiles then are ranked against each other according to a points-based system called the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS). The highest-ranked candidates will be considered for an Invitation to Apply (ITA) for permanent residence. Those receiving an ITA must quickly submit a full application and pay processing fees, within a delay of 60-days.


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Through a network of  PNPs, almost all of Canada’s ten provinces and three territories can also nominate skilled worker candidates for admission to Canada when they have the specific skills required by local economies. Successful candidates who receive a provincial or territorial nomination can then apply for Canadian permanent residence through federal immigration authorities.

Temporary workers come to Canada via a number of channels, including the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) for those who require a Labour Market Impact Assessment and the International Mobility Program for those who do not.

A positive LMIA confirms there is a need for a foreign worker to fill the job at hand and that no Canadian worker is available to do the job.

The IMP allows Canadian employers to hire foreign workers without the need for an LMIA. It includes intra-company transferees, those entering Canada as part of trade treaties, such as the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA) or the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) and those who qualify for an open work permit.

The Global Talent Stream (GTS), a part of the TFWP, can under normal processing situations lead to the granting of Canadian work permits and processing of visa applications within two weeks.

The TFWP is made up of high-skilled workers, low-skilled workers, and the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program.

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