New immigration system puts greater emphasis on language, age

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney. CBC photo.The end of foreign doctors and PHDs driving our taxi cabs could soon be nigh.

According to the Toronto Star, Citizenship and Immigration Canada has revamped the immigration point grid it's used for the past 10 years to judge skilled-immigrant applications.

The proposed revisions, to go into effect next January, will put more emphasis on age (ie: younger immigrants), language skills and professional credentials equivalent to Canada's — while de-emphasizing work experience abroad.

Foreign nationals applying for immigration to Canada use a 100-point grid, with a pass mark of 67.

The grid takes into account the candidate's official language ability, education, work experience, age, job offers in Canada and their overall adaptability — which awards points for previous work or study in Canada — spouse's education and relatives in Canada.

The problem with the current point system is that those that don't fluently speak one of Canada's official languages, or those whose education credentials don't transfer over to Canada, can still reach the 67 mark.

These new rules are meant to attract immigrants who can, theoretically, be successful in jobs in their field of study.

[Related: Over-educated immigrant cabbies plying Canadian streets, federal study finds]

Immigration attorney Michael Niren welcomes some of the changes.

"The Canadian labor force has changed significantly over the last decade and our aging demographics will be in greater need of a young work force," he told Yahoo! Canada News.

"Favouring younger applicants is a step in the right direction."

Niren, however, disagrees with the government's rigidity on language.

"When it comes to language, we are living in a global, multicultural economy and the narrow bias the government has towards English or French language proficiency is short sighted," he said.

"I know many productive Canadians who do business strictly in Mandarin and in other languages. While English and French remain Canada's official languages, our economy speaks many more."

Nevertheless, the Harper government has continually insisted that language proficiency is the key to success for immigrants.

"For too long the story of immigration to Canada has been summed up by the frustration of the highly trained professional who arrived with the expectation of being able to work at his or her skill level," immigration minister Jason Kenney said during an address to the Canadian Club of Toronto in March.

"The number one factor for success in immigrants is language proficiency. No point in bringing folks here if they don't have language proficiency."

The question now becomes: who will drive our taxi cabs?