Canada looks to ease huge immigration backlog

Wed Mar 7, 2012 3:23pm EST
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - The government of Canada is looking at ways to streamline its immigration system in order to eliminate a backlog of more than a million applicants.

Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said on Wednesday the government was considering a wide range of options to create a more nimble immigration system better able to meet employers' needs for skilled labor.

"The doors are always going to be open. We're planning on continuing to receive over a quarter of a million immigrants per year," he said. "The question is how do we select those who are most likely to succeed and do so on a fast basis."

He stressed that he had not made any decisions.

One idea is to have provinces go through the backlog of applicants and pick out people with the qualifications companies need, such as engineers in the oil business.

"It's about ... matching the immigrants with the jobs rather than just pushing them into the general labor market to sink or swim," Kenney said.

Canada remains relatively open to immigrants, but many newcomers complain it is difficult to get their education and professional qualifications recognized, forcing them to retrain or find work in a different, often unskilled, field.

Kenney said he was considering requiring prospective immigrants who already have credentials to get a pre-assessment from professional associations in Canada of their chances of having their credentials recognized.

(Reporting by Randall Palmer; Editing by Janet Guttsman and Rob Wilson)