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International graduates from Canadian universities and colleges say Ottawa’s new skilled immigration system actually hinders their access to permanent residency instead of promoting it

Foreign students left behind in new Express Entry immigration program

Their once prized assets — Canadian education credentials and post-graduation work experience — mean little under the program’s points system.

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Martyna Krezel, an international graduate from Poland, could only score a maximum 444 points without the out-of-reach labour market assessment certificate, a fact that puts foreign graduates like her at a disadvantage in the new immigration system.

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Martyna Krezel, an international graduate from Poland, could only score a maximum 444 points without the out-of-reach labour market assessment certificate, a fact that puts foreign graduates like her at a disadvantage in the new immigration system.

By:  Immigration reporter, Published on Sat Mar 21 2015

International graduates from Canadian universities and colleges say Ottawa’s new skilled immigration system actually hinders their access to permanent residency instead of promoting it.

The scholars say their once-prized assets — Canadian education credentials and post-graduate work experience — have little to no value under the new Express Entry program, which came into effect Jan. 1.

The problem, which the federal government denies, lies in the significance given to a certificate called the Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). It is issued by Ottawa to ensure a candidate’s skills are sufficiently in demand to warrant hiring an immigrant.

Ottawa says applicants for Express Entry, such as international graduates, do not need an LMIA to qualify. But Express Entry acceptance is based on a point system and it’s not possible to earn enough points without an LMIA, immigration experts say.

“The new system is flawed,” said Toronto immigration lawyer Shoshana Green. “We want people who went to school and have work experience in Canada. These people are already fully integrated. And now we are ignoring them. It is just bizarre.”

Under the Express Entry system, an applicant may earn a maximum of 1,200 points. An LMIA automatically earns applicants 600 points. The other 600 possible points are awarded for personal attributes such as education, language skills and work experience.

How many points does it take to qualify for Express Entry? It changes. So far it has been as high as 886, and has dropped to 735 points. Regardless, the qualifying level is more than 600, so an LMIA is necessary.

Currently, international graduates of Canadian schools who are already here don’t need an LMIA to get a work permit up to three years long, under Canada’s Post-Graduation Work Permit Program.

Some foreign workers also don’t need LMIAs to get work permits, including workers covered under international agreements, employees transferred internally within their company, academics and religious workers.

Martyna Krezel got her post-grad work permit in 2012 after she finished an undergraduate degree in psychology and environmental science from the University of Toronto. The 26-year-old, now a hospital research assistant in brain injury and prevention, created a profile on the Express Entry system but only got 444 points.

She’d considered asking her employer to apply for an LMIA, but as a contract staff person, she’s afraid it could hurt her position.

“It’s just so disappointing because I worked so hard to do everything right. I got all my ducks in a row and now it feels like the rug’s been pulled out from under us, all of us international students,” said Krezel, who came from Poland.

Sami Singh came here from India in 2011 and enrolled in the engineering program at Sheridan College. Upon his graduation and $28,000 in tuition later, he received a three-year work permit in 2013 to work at a design company in Toronto.

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