Quebec Moves to Terminate Backlog of 18,000 Skilled Worker Program Applications

Cancelling backlog part of government plan to improve processing times and tailor immigration to labour needs

The Government of Quebec is moving to eliminate outstanding applications to the Quebec Skilled Worker Program submitted prior to August 2, 2018.

The plan calls for cancelling all applications submitted before that date that have yet to be approved, refused or rejected, effectively clearing the current backlog of around 18,000 applications and refunding the government processing fee.

Eliminating the Quebec Skilled Worker Program (QSWP) backlog is one of numerous proposals contained in a new immigration bill tabled Thursday, February 7, by Quebec’s new Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) government.

Among other measures, the new legislation introduces changes to Quebec’s Immigration Act that emphasize an immigrant’s “responsibility” to learn Quebec values and French.

The CAQ government also introduced the possibility of imposing conditions on permanent residence — a move that could land Quebec in court.

The goal, the government says, is ensuring that immigrants to Quebec are better integrated and therefore better equipped to succeed in Quebec’s labour market.

Matching immigrants to actual labour needs in Quebec

Quebec’s Immigration Minister, Simon Jolin-Barrette, said eliminating the QSWP backlog is essential to this effort.

Doing so, he said, would allow his ministry to better tailor immigration to actual labour needs in the province through the QSWP and cut application processing times from 36 months to six.

“It’s a strong measure,” he acknowledged, “but it’s the only one capable of breaking a stalemate that we can no longer accept.”

He noted that the backlogged applications were submitted when the QSWP operated on a first-come, first-served basis, which he said was not in touch with Quebec’s workforce needs.

This approach changed in August 2018, when Quebec switched the application process to a more merit-focused Expression of Interest model.

Under this approach, foreign workers register a profile with Quebec’s Immigration Ministry (MIDI) that details their education, training, work experience and language abilities.

MIDI then invites candidates to apply for a Quebec Selection Certificate (Certificat de séléction du Québec, or CSQ) based on a variety of considerations, including labour needs in outlying regions of the province where worker shortages are more acute.

Jolin-Barrette said the Expression of Interest system is a better fit for the government’s efforts to tailor the selection of skilled workers in order to address these shortages.

Individuals affected by the move to cancel pending applications submitted under the old first-come, first-served model can re-apply through the new Expression of Interest system.

Conditional permanent residence?

One potentially controversial amendment in Bill 9 is the introduction of the Minister’s right to impose possible conditions on permanent residence.

Bill 9 says conditions may be imposed on the basis of public health, regional and sectoral labour needs or “the foreign national’s linguistic, social and economic integration,” among other things.

The proposal could spark a showdown with Canada’s federal government, which has jurisdiction over the granting of permanent residence in Canada.

According to Radio-Canada, the Canadian government has already replied that it will oppose conditions that require immigrants to work in a certain region of the province, saying such a move would violate mobility rights enshrined in Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Jolin-Barrette, however, argued Thursday that Quebec has the right to impose conditions on permanent residence.

“Quebec has to exercise — and will exercise — its full rights on immigration, which is an important issue for the people of this province,” he said.

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