Changes needed to boost skilled trades immigration

By Staff

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) should consider regular special Express Entry draws to boost the number of skilled tradespeople invited to apply for permanent residence, says Toronto immigration lawyer Robin Seligman.

“The number of tradespeople being pulled from the Express Entry pool has been diminishing, despite a huge demand for them,” says Seligman, principal of Seligman Immigration Law, explaining that the group was disproportionately affected by the federal government's major change to the scoring system in 2016.

“If there were special draws for trades, that may solve the problem,” she tells

The Express Entry system was introduced in 2015, based on methods already in use in Australia and New Zealand, and was designed to speed up the process for obtaining permanent residence. Under the system, potential immigrants register their names on a central pool, where they are then assigned a score out of 1,200 and ranked in order. After setting a points cutoff, IRCC then invites the top candidates to apply for permanent residence.

Following criticism about high cutoff scores, the 2016 alterations to the scoring system dramatically cut the points available to candidates with qualified offers of employment and boosted the number available to those with Canadian degrees.

Under the old rules, workers with job offers supported by a positive Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) got a 600-point bump added to their score, virtually guaranteeing selection. But the 2016 changes reduced the LMIA bonus to just 50 points unless the candidate is up for an executive or senior management role in Canada, where they can get 200 extra points.

“Typically tradespeople don’t have higher education or strong language skills, which makes it very difficult for them to get pulled from the pool,” Seligman says.

She suggests another alternative to regular special draws would see skilled tradespeople awarded bonus points in order to make them more competitive.

“In my opinion, we should be giving them at least 300 extra points if they have an LMIA or have been working in Canada for a year,” Seligman says.

She says tradespeople have the option of pursuing a provincial nomination under the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program. However, Seligman says the employer requirements can be hard for businesses involved in the trades to meet. For example, they must have been in business for at least three years, have at least five employees on staff, as well as $1 million in gross sales.

“Many companies in the construction and other industries make heavy use of subcontractors. They can be solid companies, but only have a few people on staff, so they don't qualify,” Seligman says.

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