What is the demanding points program with which thousands of Latinos seek to live and work in Canada?

Today one million Latinos live in Canada.

According to government figures, between 2007 and April 2021, around 92,000 Latinos were admitted as permanent residents, most of them from Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and Venezuela.

These are usually professionals who usually apply to a program designed to attract qualified workers.

In the process they must undergo a rigorous evaluation, through a points system, to receive permanent residence in Canada.

And that legal status guarantees access to free health, subsidized education, labor market, in addition to allowing them, after a while, to obtain Canadian citizenship.

But what is the points program that evaluates them? how effective is it? And how have Latinos fared in the northern country?

BBC Mundo spoke with two experts and several people about their experience.

the point system

“My parents had always wanted to live outside of Colombia, they thought of several countries, but finally they decided on Canada because they saw in the newspapers the typical announcement that they are looking for immigrants,” says María Peña*

Announcements like the one Maria mentions are frequent because Canada, for decades, has been facing a major demographic challenge: its population is aging and reaching pension age, but at the same time not so many people are being born who can take over from generation to generation.

“It is estimated that in the next five years, 20% of the Canadian population will retire. There is a lack of labor and labor force to maintain the economy, ”explains Vilma Filici, a professor at Seneca College and an advisor on migration and refugee issues, to BBC Mundo.

That is why regulated migration makes it possible for families like María’s to settle in Canada.

“My parents are engineers, at that time (2008) they were in their 40s and age gave them points, also having a master’s degree and children added to them.” Maria is referring to the point system that evaluates potential migrants and has been in place in Canada since the 1960s.

“Let’s say that the idea behind the origin of the points system was to attract the best of the best, generate knowledge, boost the local economy and support demographics,” explains Alejandro Hernández, a sociologist and professor at Concordia University.

Since then, depending on various factors, points are assigned for age, profession, education, work experience, family composition and language level.

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The official point system dates back to the 1960s.

How is the proccess?

“I remember that my parents had to fill out a lot of forms, get a lot of documents, and also raise a certain amount of money. That didn’t take them that long and they managed to send the request, but the response took about seven years. They applied when I was 13 and we moved when I was already in my 20s,” says María.

It is not easy to unify the experiences of Latinos because each case depends on particular circumstances. For example, just as Maria and her family waited years for permanent residency to move to Toronto, Arturo Lima*, a Cuban who immigrated to Quebec, only had to wait 11 months.

It is that the program and the selection system has been changing over time, its evolution depends, in part, on the government in power and the priorities established by each province.

From which countries did the majority of skilled workers come to Canada?  Between 2015 and February 2022. .

Today, to enter Canada as permanent residents under the skilled worker program, applicants must go through two scoring evaluations.

“One to enter as a qualified worker in which points are given for age, work experience, studies, knowledge of English and French, if they have a family in Canada, if they have worked or studied in Canada and if they have a job offer. ”, explains Filici.

But, even when applicants have the necessary score for the program, they cannot start the official process unless they receive an invitation from the Ministry of Migration.

This invitation is known as express-entry (express entry) which is a request processing system or methodology that also establishes how many points are assigned to each variable and what minimum total score is required to pass the filter.

But the most complex thing is that every two weeks the Ministry of Migration updates these criteria depending on the political and economic context. So the result of those who apply depends on what measurement will evaluate them at the time they apply.

woman with suitcase and canada flag

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“Actually the express-entry it’s like a valve, when they need more immigrants they lower the score and when the numbers budgeted for the year are achieved, then the score goes up. It’s a lottery,” says Filici.

A clear example occurred in the context of the pandemic. There was a demand for workers and to meet the migration quota, “the minister dropped from 465 points (which is the typical required score) to 75 and in that draw almost 28,000 people qualified, when normally between 2,500 and 3,000 qualify,” he adds.

expectations vs reality

“We weren’t painted with little birds in the air, we knew we were coming to start from scratch,” says Luisa Ríos, who emigrated to Montreal in 2012.

She is a financial marketer and traveled with her partner at the time, who is a mechanical engineer, and their daughter, who was 4 years old.

“I came with the idea of ​​continuing to work in the financial area, but not only French but also English were required of me and that was a stone in the shoe.”

Although there are people who, upon arriving in Canada, have found a job similar to the one they dream of in their first year, others have had to study again to strengthen or change their professional profile and thus respond to the job offer.

That has been the case of Maria. She came to Canada with a graphic design degree, but she had to study another degree and is starting a master’s degree. She made that decision after several years in which she only got short contracts that prevent her from having stability.

The other issue is that many migrants have had to do unskilled jobs in order to support themselves, at least for a while, while they manage to compete in the labor market.

“I got a job very easily, but always cleaning. That was like a doctorate in humility, it is incredible what one lives, but they are experiences that form one”, says Luisa.

She once held three jobs at the same time: as a supermarket cashier, as a sales clerk in a department store, and as a substitute for a secretary at a school.

And that is, perhaps, the main criticism of the program. Latino migrants invest time and resources applying, but when they arrive in Canada it is not so easy for them to be immediately employed in their profession because their degrees and experience end up being discarded in front of those who have local credentials or those from developed countries.

“We call it a brain drain (brain drain), we bring in people who are super qualified to waste them. It’s very sad,” says Filici.

And the situation is even more complex for those who have certain professions such as engineering, architecture, medicine, which are regulated by professional orders in Canada. This means that in order to work they must belong to the order, but this process is not easy because it involves homologating the title and that can take up to five years.

“On the one hand, the system, in theory, privileges knowledge and rewards it by offering permanent residence, but at the same time, once the border is crossed, it becomes a punitive system with these professions because it does not recognize neither international experience nor the education that these people obtained abroad. It forces them to enter their own classification and discrimination system,” explains Hernández.

take time

“I thought it would take us six months to adapt, my husband thought it would be a year and a half, but the reality is that it takes about five years,” says Dolly Valbuena, who has lived in Canada for ten years.

And he is not mistaken, since studies carried out by the Canadian government itself estimate that for a migrant to achieve full integration in his new society, it takes five years on average.

Hence, they offer orientation programs and subsidies to support newcomers with the settlement, in case they require it.

people in a classroom

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The Quebec government, for example, offers French courses to new immigrants

“The Canadian immigration system is very robust and cultured. Immigrants have access to countless resources upon arrival and the guidance system is very efficient,” says Arturo Lima.

“In Cuba I was a musician and in Canada this was my hobby because the chances of it being sustainable were slim. I knew that from the beginning, so I worked in the banking and technology industry” and although he managed to obtain Canadian citizenship, after several years he decided to settle in the US to be able to be closer to part of his family .

Luisa also managed to establish herself in her field after a few years. One day she ran into a friend who told her about a possibility at the bank she worked for that they were going to do group interviews. She did well and was hired as a cashier.

“I have been here for four years, I have had two promotions and I hope that the next one will be for the position I had in Colombia. I am happy, I really like my work and my life here.”

But… what if the score is not enough?

“Most of the people who are outside Canada do not reach the necessary score to be invited to apply because they do not have postgraduate studies or do not handle languages ​​well,” says Filci.

And it is that, according to her, the ideal applicant is a person who is up to 29 years old (currently after 29 years, they begin to lose five points per year and after 40, 11 points per year), who has at least six years of work experience in skilled jobs, have a master’s degree, and be fluent in English and/or French.

That is why there are more and more Latinos coming to Canada with international student status.

That is the case of Adriana Perez, “I came from Mexico with my husband, we are both business administrators with extensive work experience.” They decided to travel on a student visa in order to improve their English level and gain Canadian work experience that would help them raise points for their profile.

They were able to do this for two reasons, first, when someone arrives as an international student in Canada, their legal partner receives a work permit, and second, because when someone studies in Canada and graduates, they receive a work permit after graduation for the same duration of the studies that he studied.

“My husband had to study for one more year in a public school. He then received a work permit after graduation and I had a work permit for two years. With that we managed to have work experience in Canada and thus collect the necessary points. We got permanent residency after five years.

“Sounds easy, but phew.”

The big difference with those who manage to process everything from their country of origin is that students must live with temporary status and depend on the process progressing in their favor in order to remain in Canada. This is not to mention that postgraduate study is three times more expensive for international people than for those who are residents and citizens and who must pay for private health insurance.

For Filici, “since 2015, when they implemented the mechanism of express-entry, became a super class system. It is difficult to qualify because the language level has to be advanced, they need higher education, they have to have money, there are a lot of factors that exclude a lot of people.”

The government has said in recent years that the ideal immigrant to Canada is an international student. “The reason is that it maintains the economy of the areas where the universities and institutes are, also because when they study in the country it is easier for them to find work and by the time they get permanent residence they are already established, so they do not have to offer them subsidies or aid”, he adds.

However, Canada announced that in July of this year it will reopen applications for skilled workers, and surely thousands of Latinos will continue to apply.

“In recent years we have seen an increase in professionals from Venezuela, Mexico and Colombia. I believe that this is due to the need to leave the country, due to the problems that exist there and they are looking for a way to be able to immigrate”, concludes Filici.

*We change your name at the request of the person

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