Canada admits record-high number of immigrants

Canada admitted a record-high number of immigrants last year, with more than 280,600 new permanent residents welcomed into the country, a report released Sunday shows.

That’s the highest number admitted into the country in 57 years and 6 per cent above Ottawa’s maximum 265,000 target, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney told a news conference in Toronto.

In 2008, Kenney introduced new selection criteria to limit the eligibility to 38 qualifying professions only and found that skilled workers who already had a job offer when they applied for permanent residence fared best of all, making on average $79,200 annually three years after arriving in Canada.

In order to enable a more successful integration for skilled immigrants, Kenney said Ottawa is set to change the “points grid” of the immigrant selection system to bring in newcomers who don’t have university degrees or language proficiency, but whose job skills are in demand in Canada.

The federal government also plans to further raise the language requirements for those who apply to immigrate here with professional designations such as doctors, engineers, accountants and scientists to ensure their success in the country.

Kenney said he hoped to make those changes later this year.

“We need to be more flexible . . . skilled trades people who don’t have university degrees or who have very limited English or French language proficiency typically cannot make it through the points grid, but we have a huge and growing need for skilled trade people,” said Kenney.

“Rather than locking them out of the skilled worker program, I’m looking at ways we can accommodate people who don’t have university degrees, who don’t have full language proficiency to come through that program.”

Currently, a skilled immigrant applicant is assessed based on education levels, language skills and work experience among other factors, and must earn 67 points to qualify for the federal skilled worker program.

“Foreign trained professionals find the biggest barrier to employment is limited language proficiency, so we may look at additional ways to encourage foreign trained professionals with high levels of English or French proficiency,” said Kenney.

He said the aim is to “select the people who are most likely to succeed and give them the tools to succeed once they get here.”

Skilled immigrant applicants currently must pass a mandatory language test in writing, listening, speaking and reading in English or French.

About two-thirds of the newcomers admitted to Canada last year were economic immigrants and their dependants; an additional 21 per cent came under the family class, who were predominantly spouses and children of a Canadian citizen or permanent resident. Only 15,322 parents and grandparents were let in to reunite with their families.

More than 182,000 temporary foreign workers and 96,147 foreign students were also admitted in 2010, along with 12,100 United Nations sanctioned refugees from overseas.

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