On February 24, 2012 a new simplified process for certain foreign workers seeking entry to the Province of Québec was announced. Instead of applying to only 7 information technology occupations, as before, the simplified process will apply to 44 occupations in a variety of fields. This is an important development. It is important not only for the many companies that want to relocate foreign employees to Québec. It is also a clear departure from the previous system. Other provinces may be interested in following Québec's example to better respond to the needs of regional labour markets.
Employers who make employment offers to a foreign worker in any of these 44 occupations in the Province of Québec will benefit from the simplified process. The main advantage is that employers do not have to prove that they tried to recruit a Canadian or permanent resident to fill the position. The list of 44 occupations has been prepared with the participation of Emploi Québec, a Québec government agency. It is supposed to reflect the occupations for which there is a well-known labour shortage.
The second advantage is that these applications will have priority processing. We can expect that processing delays will be much shorter than those of regular applications processed by Service Canada.
We have discussed in previous issues of the HR Space that employers who extend an employment offer to a foreigner must first obtain a Labour Market Opinion ("LMO") from the Department of Human Resources and Skills Development Canada ("Service Canada"), unless there is an applicable exemption. When the job will be in the Province of Québec, the LMO is issued jointly by Service Canada and Québec Immigration. Before applying for an LMO, it is necessary to follow the job advertisement requirements published by Service Canada. These aim at ensuring that qualified Canadians and permanent residents are given a fair chance to apply for the position before it is offered to a foreigner. In Québec, LMO applications have to be submitted in parallel to Service Canada and to Québec Immigration. The LMO is a condition for issuance of the work permit, unless there is an applicable exemption.
The new simplified process constitutes an exception to this general program. The 44 professions to which it applies include, among others:
- a few management positions such as Human Resources Managers, Sales, Marketing and Advertising Managers, Retail and Wholesale Trade Managers;
- some health-sector professionals such as Medical Doctors (General Practitioners and Specialists), Dentists, Veterinarians, Pharmacists, Physiotherapists, Registered Nurses and Medical Technologists;
- certain Engineers: Civil Engineers and Aerospace Engineers;
- certain professionals in Information Technology such as Information Systems Analysts and Consultants, Software Engineers and Designers, Computer Programmers and Interactive Media Developers and Information Systems Testing Technicians;
- some other lower-skilled professions such as certain mechanics and electro-mechanics.
For these professions, LMO applications must now be sent only to Québec Immigration. It will make a preliminary assessment of eligibility for this program. Québec Immigration will then send the documents to Service Canada for the latter's assessment. Responsibilities will be divided between Québec Immigration and Service Canada.
Among other elements, the Québec Immigration agent should assess whether the salary and working conditions offered to the foreign worker are competitive with those in the Québec labour market. The agent should compare the salary offered to the foreign employee with that offered in Québec for the same occupation. Emploi Québec provides market information on salaries according to region and seniority. The Québec Immigration agent should also confirm that the employer is a genuine employer and that requirements for the position are consistent with those of the occupation according to the National Occupations Classification (NOC).
We fear a too heavy reliance by Québec Immigration agents on NOCs. It would be desirable that their agents understand that the realities of the labour market are much richer than what NOCs tell us, that the needs of employers result in job descriptions that combine two or more NOCs, and that the job description of a certain occupation in a large multinational is different from the one who works in a small shop. If they do not show this openness to the realities of employers' needs, this could constitute a major drawback of the new program.
This program is too new to know how it is going to be applied and how "simplified" and quick the process will be. This is, however, encouraging news.