MY recent trip to Canada and the United States gave me a closer look at the immigration frontiers for most Filipinos.
The US remain the default destination of 1 million immigrants worldwide, including an average of 54,000 Filipinos.
With 4 million Filipinos in the US (based on State Department estimates) and emphasis on Family reunification, the US has the most number of applicants for permanent residency in the Family-based preferences, resulting in long waits of up to 25 years.
With Canada sharing a 5,525-mile border from British Columbia in the West to Ontario in the East, Canada represents a new and more hospitable frontier accepting applicants based on their occupations, skills, qualifications, civil status and English proficiency.
Filipinos facing a 15- to 25-year wait for a Family-based category in the US could explore residency options in Canada either on the Federal or Provincial level.
Currently, Canada accepts qualified applicants for permanent residency through Express Entry encompassing the federal, provincial and employer-based selection process.
To qualify for selection a candidate must submit and complete a profile after meeting the first two essential requirements—an above-average score in the English proficiency exam (IELTS) and evaluation of the applicant’s academic credentials through World Education Services.
After completing the profile, the candidate’s entry is accessible to the Canadian federal and provincial governments as well as to employers seeking qualified workers in specific industries or professions.
The Ministry of Immigration conducts regular drawing (2 – 3 weeks) setting a threshold, minimum number of points that would separate applicants eligible to be invited to apply for permanent residency from those that lack the minimum points. A candidate profile remains valid for a year after which the applicant must renew to be included in future draws.
Express Entry became the default immigrant selection system in Jan. 2015. Before that, there were several programs that an applicant may choose to get into: the Federal Skilled Worker (FSW), Provincial Nominee (PNP) and the Canadian Experience Class (CEC).
Over the years (from 2005 to 2014) Filipinos moved up to the top of the permanent residency ladder by taking the indirect paths: the temporary work visa and international student routes.
In 2011, with immigrants representing 20.6 percent of Canada’s population, one in five people were applicants from overseas directly or through the work or study permit systems.
Official statistics from Citizenship and Immigration Canada show the number of immigrants from the Philippines “almost doubled (95 percent) from 232,665 in 2001 to 454,335 in 2011, ranking Filipinos among the largest foreign-born groups in Canada.”
Where Filipinos are in Canada
In 2011, about half of the Filipino immigrants resided in Ontario—mainly in the Greater Toronto Area (173,495); 21 percent in British Columbia, 15 percent in Alberta and 10 percent in Manitoba. In the same year, Filipinos were the largest foreign-born groups in Winnipeg, Edmonton and Calgary (Census Metro Areas).
Ontario and British Columbia offer more employment opportunities in addition to Alberta and Manitoba, particularly in the hospitality, hotel and restaurant, and food sectors. Alberta hosted most number of temporary workers in the oil and manufacturing industries.
Temporary workers become eligible to apply for permanent residency through the provincial nomination program after six to nine months of legal employment. Other skilled workers obtain permanent residency through the Canadian experience class after working for a year.
Pursuing further studies or completing undergraduate as well as post-graduate education has become a viable alternative for Filipinos who may not qualify directly through the Express Entry or any of the provincial nomination programs.
Canada allows international students to work up to 20 hours a week while in school, then work full-time during school breaks. For students without employment experience before pursuing further studies or completing undergraduate as well as post-graduate education, the said arrangement has become a viable alternative for them or other Filipinos who may not qualify directly through the Express Entry or any of the provincial nomination programs.
Students without employment experience before being admitted into Canadian colleges, polytechnics or universities may work up to three years on the Post Graduate Work Permit (PGWP) and be eligible for sponsorship as immigrants after a year of legal employment.
Enrolled students with at least one year of experience may immediately apply for permanent residency through the Express Entry selection system with a job offer. The arranged employment offer in support of a permanent residency application earns applicant 600 points. The recent draws from late-2015 to date set the minimum threshold at about 450 to 480. Thus, getting a job offer virtually assures invitation to apply for permanent residency.
The table below shows the number of study-permit holders in Canada. While China tops the list among international students, Filipinos overtake their foreign student counterparts in shifting from student to work and, finally, to permanent residency.
From student boarders to homeowners
Official figures show that Filipinos and South Asians both have the highest home ownership rates from the time of admission as permanent residents and the four-year period that follows. “They are followed by Chinese, Latin American and, finally, Black immigrants. The attainment rate appears to be fairly similar in all groups except Blacks, who exhibit a flatter attainment trajectory than the other four groups.”
It should be mentioned that the spouse or partner of an international student in Canada is allowed to work full-time as long as the principal applicant/student maintains academic status. This access to employers and potential sponsors is advantageous to Filipinos with spouses or partners who have experience before pursuing further education in Canada.
Some provinces, such as Saskatchewan, provides a list of occupation in demand that qualified applicants may pursue even without a job offer. Consequently, this “In-Demand Occupations” fill up fast as shown in the Saskatchewan Nominee program, below.
Saskatchewan Application Intake Thresholds as of April 1, 2016
The other countries considered hospitable to international students and temporary workers are New Zealand and Australia—in that order.
Because the US does not offer a points-based migration system, getting permanent residency through one’s occupation is difficult and takes longer.
In the past, the marching order to the frontier was “Go West, young ones.” Now it is literally “Go Further North” from the US to Canada.