Immigration policy not working: Devoretz

Jul 11, 2002, vol. 24, no. 6
By Marianne Meadahl

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The implications of China's recent admission to the World Trade Organization (WTO) and what it means for Chinese-Canada immigration sparked critical debate when academics, policymakers and business leaders from both China and Canada met in Beijing June 13-14.

Don DeVoretz (left), director of the centre for research on immigration and integration in the metropolis (RIIM), told delegates that China's admission to the WTO will create bilateral flows of immigrants with the greatest emphasis on temporary movers on both sides. DeVoretz, an SFU economist and international immigration expert, says that fact is raising controversy, and looming questions about whether temporary immigrants will stay, as well as subsequent implications.

DeVoretz argues that current Canadian immigration legislation, as it relates to China, is “totally inadequate” to withstand the pressures of the predicted growth in temporary immigration.

“The evidence that it is not working is the nearly half a million viable applicants which are in the queue,” he says. “These will take more than four years to process. Meanwhile, the highly skilled will have moved on to Australia and family reunification members on application lists will have died or been separated for an inordinate time.”

The real problem arises in the solution, he adds. To shorten the queue, the Canadian government has introduced new rules to raise the qualifications for primary entrants.

While this will reduce the queue, it will also mean that a typical SFU foreign grad student, for example, could no longer enter Canada since the pass level is so high.

DeVoretz points out that China, which makes up nearly half of the queue, sends mostly engineers and other technical people. The new pass level, which now emphasizes English, and Canadian or equivalent job experience, will shorten the queue but eliminate many talented people.

“China is special, since no tourist visa exists, and the student visa rejection rate is twice the average,” notes DeVoretz. His solution is a temporary visa program modeled after Canada's NAFTA visa with the U.S. That would enable China to relieve some of the pressure and explore economic opportunities.

“It would allow Chinese professionals and business people to enter Canada for one year with a valid job offer from a Canadian firm. At the year's end, renewal would be possible under the permanent classification,” he explains.

DeVoretz told the forum that the new visa would increase trade, allow Canadian officials to scrutinize applicants and test their success rate. “This new visa, plus a visitor's visa which would allow Chinese parents to visit their children, would reduce the absurd applicant queue in China,” he says.

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