Mr. Chair, members of the committee, thank you for the invitation to speak to you today about the subject matter of part 3, division 16 of Bill C-4.
Mr. Chair, and members of the committee, my remarks will provide an overview of the foundational legislation required to implement a new approach to Canada's immigration system. Based on Australia's and New Zealand's experiences with the expression-of-interest model, also known as EOI, CIC is working with partners to develop a similar system for Canada.
As members of this committee are well aware, the Government of Canada has made the reform of the immigration system an important priority. Economic action plan 2013 and the recent Speech from the Throne announced the government's intention to move to an expression-of-interest model. Along with other modernization initiatives, EOI will be a key component in creating a faster and more flexible immigration system.
The expression-of-interest model is a new electronic, fully automated, application management system that will apply to certain economic immigration streams. Creating the new system requires legislative changes to establish a two-step application process, introducing the concept of a stand-alone expression-of-interest pre-application stage, followed by an application by invitation only to the top candidates. The candidates invited to apply will be those with the right mix of high human capital, ability to work in Canada as demonstrated by an offer of employment, and/or nomination by a province or territory.
It is important to be clear that the expression-of-interest system is not a new program, nor does it replace any existing skills immigration program. The EOI system is a new component within an existing Government of Canada system. It builds on our existing IT infrastructure investment and the global case management system.
Before describing the automated processes that are possible with an expression-of-interest system, I will review EOI's key objectives. Primarily, the introduction of EOI is designed to improve application management. By only issuing invitations to apply to the number of applicants we can process, we will prevent the inventories that accumulated in the past and the associated legal risk. The new system will facilitate the arrival of the candidates best suited to Canada's needs, rather than the first person who applied. Aligning these applications to processing capacity and eliminating time spent waiting in inventories will support faster processing times.
A second feature of this system is its ability to increase the immigration system's labour market responsiveness. Evidence suggests that the selection of skilled immigrants with high levels of human capital, such as higher education, strong official languages skills, and relevant work experience, leads to better economic outcomes both initially and over time. We also know that immigrants who come with an offer of employment in hand have significantly better outcomes than those who come without. The expression-of-interest system seeks to combine the strengths of the human capital model with the benefits of having skilled immigrants arriving in Canada with employment and ready to work. Reducing unemployment and underemployment for permanent resident economic-class immigrants will help improve overall economic outcomes for both the new arrivals and the Canadian economy.
The EOI approach also presents an opportunity to strengthen the role of the provinces and territories in immigrant selection. The government is working with provincial and territorial partners to make EOI a success. Provinces and territories are well positioned to bring the benefits of immigration to their regions through their review and nomination of EOI candidates. The ability of provinces and territories to access EOI candidates through an EOI portal will allow for EOI candidates to be invited to apply to a provincial nominee program.
We are also consulting Canadian employers so they will be ready to consider EOI candidates that meet their skills requirements when the domestic labour force cannot. An offer of employment will play a key role in a decision to issue candidates an invitation to apply. We are working with Employment and Social Development Canada to make linkages to a modernized job bank that can be leveraged for EOI candidates. Private sector job sites are also an available platform for job matching between employers and EOI candidates.
To recap, the key objectives of EOI are to improve application management and reduce processing backlogs, to increase the labour market responsiveness of the immigration system, and to strengthen the provincial, territorial and employer role.
These objectives, as well as improved service standards for processing times, have the potential to transform the economic immigration experience and to provide better outcomes for skilled immigrants. To understand how the EOI system will achieve its objectives, I will now describe the processes involved.
The EOI system will create a two-stage electronic process for managing applications. The first stage of EOI will manage applications through an automated scanning of information provided by candidates.
Prospective immigrants will fill in an online form to express their interest in coming to Canada. The information collected in the EOI form, such as the person's language ability, education, and work experience will make it possible to search, sort, and rank applicants. If potential applicants meet certain minimum eligibility criteria, their EOI will be accepted into the system where they will be given a score and ranked by CIC, and will also be searchable by both CIC and the provinces and territories.
Top candidates, in other words, those with high point scores and/or a qualifying job offer and/or provincial or territorial nomination, can be issued invitations to apply for permanent residence. Only candidates issued an invitation to apply, an ITA, will be able to submit an application in certain economic programs.
The specific design features that will allow EOI to be operational will continue to be refined over the next year in time for launch of EOI in January 2015. Further design work and consultations with the provinces and territories are ongoing. Work with Employment and Social Development Canada is also under way to find linkages to their modernized job banks so employers can source EOI candidates to staff positions not met by Canada's existing labour market.
The expression of interest system will be enabled through a combination of legislative changes and ministerial instructions. The bill before us proposes that a new expression-of-interest division be added to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act that will allow for a stand-alone pre-application stage as the first step in immigrating to Canada. In addition, this division will include broad provisions outlining the process of EOI, the required information sharing authority, as well as measures enabling a role for third parties, including provinces and territories as well as employers under this new system.
Alongside these new legislative authorities, EOI-specific ministerial instructions or MIs, will provide precision on how EOI will work. Similar to the approach used in Australia and New Zealand, these instructions will include details such as which economic classes will be subject to EOI, the criteria according to which candidates will be ranked, and the criteria for issuing invitations to apply.
The MIs will also set out the type of EOI candidate information that may be shared and with which entities, such as provinces and territories and Canadian employers, as well as any related conditions required for access to that information.
The use of MIs envisioned for EOI is consistent with their current use under section 87.3 of IRPA, in the same way that they have been used to set processing priorities. EOI-specific MIs that detail stable elements of the system will be published in the Canada Gazette and on CIC's website. EOI MIs that require flexible management, including the frequency and volume of invitations to apply, will also be published on CIC's website. This approach will achieve a balance between transparency and the flexibility to administer efficiently and adjust in future phases of implementation.
In conclusion, Mr. Chair, the government has demonstrated a firm commitment to strengthen the immigration system to make it fast and flexible in a way that will contribute to Canada's economic growth and promote positive outcomes for skilled immigrants.
The expression of interest system is a key part of an overall modernization agenda to achieve those objectives for Canada's immigration system.
My colleagues and I would be pleased to answer any questions.