February 26, 2019
Quebec Poised to Cancel 18,000 QSWP Applications
The province of Quebec has broad powers to select who immigrates to the province through multiple streams, each with its own criteria. Once an individual is chosen, they receive a Quebec Selection Certificate (CSQ) from the Ministry of Immigration, Diversity and Inclusion (MIDI), through which they can apply to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) for permanent resident status. IRCC’s role in these CSQ-supported applications is mainly to assess potential inadmissibility grounds.
Through Bill 9, the Government of Quebec announced earlier this month its intention to cancel 18,000 applications for permanent residence from its Quebec Skilled Worker Program (QSWP), citing backlog as the primary reason. These applications are from the first-come first-served immigration system which existed prior to the arrival of the expression of interest scheme (similar to the federal version) in August 2018. The new system, accessed through the “Arrima” portal, allows MIDI to match applicants with employment needs in various regions of the province and send invitations to apply for a CSQ accordingly.
Applicants will be refunded their processing fees of $1000, a move that is expected to cost the province approximately $19 million. Needless to say, this decision has been controversial.
However, this strategy is not unprecedented; in 2012, the Government of Canada expressed its intent through Bill C-38 to eliminate the backlog in the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP). As a result, FSW applications submitted before February 27, 2012 for which a decision had not been rendered by March 29, 2012 were eliminated. Approximately 300,000 applications were returned and refunded in this exercise.
There are multiple benefits to this strategy, primary among which is that it is expected to reduce waiting times under the QSWP to around 6 months. As stated by MIDI, some applications have been sitting for more than 3 years. The adverse effect from the returned applications is minimized because those applicants can simply re-apply under the new Arrima system, and may benefit from reduced wait times. Additionally, in theory the province will be able to match applicants with the employment needs of the province, addressing an economic need and ensuring applicants have a higher chance of becoming employed in their field quickly.
However, on the other hand, while cancelled applicants can re-apply under Arrima, they will incur additional costs for a new application, such as legal representation, translation services (if applicable), document notarization, etc. They may also need to re-take language evaluations if they are no longer valid or if higher scores are required. Furthermore, there may be an issue of work experience that may no longer be valid, which may prevent applicants from receiving an invitation under the new system. Finally, there are the issues of fairness with regards to applicants who planned for their life in Quebec believing that their applications were well underway, making investments into their future in Quebec such as buying a house, who suddenly find themselves in limbo.
As of February 20, 2019, the Quebec Association of Immigration Lawyers (AQAADI) has reportedly filed an injunction against MIDI in the name of a Korean woman, Seeun Park, to stop the implementation of this policy and resume processing older applications. The hearing is to take place on Friday, February 22, 2019.