An Ecuadorian man who came to the Yukon in a final attempt to attain permanent residency — and whose work permit is about to run out — says he’s frustrated by a lack of information available to foreign workers.

Juan Carlos Escobar Hernandez, 30, flew to Whitehorse from Edmonton earlier this month with the hope of being hired into the Yukon Nominee Program, which offers a pathway to citizenship. So far, he says, he hasn’t had much success.

“I think I applied to 90 per cent of the hotels in Whitehorse. I’ve applied to a few restaurants, a few stores,” he said 10 days after his arrival.

He said one company offered to hire him but didn’t want to have to go through the nominee program.

Escobar Hernandez, who has a diploma in tourism from Ontario’s Fanshawe College, said it’s frustrating not knowing what businesses are part of the nominee program.

“You hear from other foreigners to go to Canadian Tire or to go to different hotels, but it’s not advertised. There’s no way to find out who’s hiring and who’s not. Especially for the nominee program.”

Eight years in Canada

After graduating from Fanshawe in 2012, Escobar Hernandez got a three-year post-graduate work permit, which expires July 24, 2015.

He worked for a hotel in Canmore, Alta., that promised to sponsor him to stay in Canada through the Alberta Immigrant Nominee Program if he worked there for a year. A year came and went, then a year and a half.

Juan Carlos Escobar Hernandez“I like Canada. I love mountains,” says Escobar Hernandez, seen here with the Alberta Rockies. (Submitted by Juan Carlos Escobar Hernandez)

“I didn’t get any sponsorship as promised,” said Escobar Hernandez.

Soon, his time was running out. He figured the Yukon Nominee Program, with a processing time of eight to 10 weeks compared to much longer times in southern Canada, was his best bet.

Since his manager at the Days Inn in Edmonton wouldn’t give him more than five days off work, Escobar Hernandez put all his cards on the table by quitting his job and booking a flight to the Yukon.

Roadblock

Escobar Hernandez went to the office of the Yukon’s Advanced Education division to ask if the soon-approaching expiration on his work permit would give him enough time to apply for permanent residency under the nominee program, should he get hired. Advanced Education administers the nominee program, but Escobar Hernandez said they just told him to look at their website, which he had already done.

He says he had even less success when he tried contacting Citizenship and Immigration Canada to find the same information.

“It’s pretty much impossible,” he said. “You can’t go to their offices, you can’t get a hold of them.” He said he’s waited on hold for 45 minutes to an hour, only to be given “yes or no” answers.

Escobar Hernandez isn’t the first foreign worker to be frustrated by Whitehorse’s lack of immigration services after its immigration office closed in 2012.

Illegal to advertise for foreign workers

Judy Thrower, assistant deputy minister of Advanced Education, said it would be illegal for a business to advertise for foreign workers.

“The program is intended to fill, on a permanent basis, labour market need where there is no Canadian or permanent resident available for the position,” she said.

Thrower said employers need to advertise for four weeks before applying to hire someone under the nominee program.

“The Yukon Nominee Program is an employer driven program. So the application is submitted by the employer,” she said.

Thrower said she couldn’t say for sure if Escobar Hernandez, with three months remaining on his work permit, would have enough time to get into the nominee program and get an extension on his work permit.

Ronuk Modha with advanced education says there are 40 Yukon Nominee applications currently waiting to be assessed. He said a new federal requirement that Yukon immigration staff verify foreign workers’ education credentials and any related work experience may extend the typical eight to 10-week processing time.

One potential clue

Elise Pendlebury, executive director of the YuWIN, an organization providing employment services in the Yukon, says there may be one way to potentially detect which employers are seeking workers through the nominee program.

She says employers who intend to apply for the program must provide proof of advertising for a minimum of four weeks and that this advertising must include a National Occupation Classification (NOC) code.

“I would look for employment postings which contained those specific details, such as a NOC code,” she wrote in an email.

“However, it does not mean the employer definitely intends to use the program. There could be many other non-immigration related reasons they are using those details. It is simply an indication.”

Not safe in Ecuador

Escobar Hernandez, whose parents and three brothers still live in Ecuador, wants to get permanent residency so he can become a Canadian citizen and have all the same rights as other Canadians. He said he loves Ecuador, but he’s wary of the crime levels there.

“It’s a beautiful country, but I just don’t feel safe,” he said.

“I like Canada. I love mountains, I love the weather  — I love everything about Canada. It’s lonely, but at the same time… I just feel safe.”

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CIR:

See photos of mountains in Ecuador

Vilcambumba – Ecuador

 

Cotopaxi

Mount Chimborazo (Ecuador)