Tuesday, October 27, 2015

NEW PUBLICATION: Temporary or Transitional? Migrant Wor kers’ Experiences with Permanent Residence in Canada


Delphine Nakache and Leanne Dixon-Perera

Tuesday October 27th, 2015

Although more and more temporary migrant workers are becoming permanent residents in Canada, their experience with immigration opportunities remains under-studied. This study aims to fill that gap by examining the lived experience of migrant workers — in skilled and low-skilled occupations — who transition to permanent residence. Authors Delphine Nakache and Leanne Dixon-Perera rely on interviews and focus group discussions with 99 participants (including current and former migrant workers who have become permanent residents, nongovernmental organizations, employers and public servants) to address the following research questions: What factors lead migrant workers to seek permanent residence? What challenges do they face in their transition to permanent residence, and how do they overcome them? What are the implications of two-step migration for settlement?

A considerable number of the migrant workers interviewed indicated that their decision to seek permanent residence was not made before they arrived in Canada. Their decisions were influenced by recruiters abroad, friends, family, settlement agencies and employers. Federal and provincial governments’ policies have especially important implications for those decisions. For example, the federal policy that allows migrant workers to stay in Canada for no more than four years at a time (the “four-in, four-out” rule) has encouraged workers to pursue permanent residence but has created risks — including seeking work underground — that may outweigh the potential benefits. Once the decision to immigrate is made, however, migrant workers are usually not willing to give up, despite the difficulties they face.

During their transition to permanent residence, migrant workers encounter several types of obstacles. Especially difficult are language proficiency requirements and the often-stringent rules of employer-driven streams that are an important part of most Provincial Nominee Programs. Applying for permanent residence entails challenges such as navigating existing immigration programs and intransigent decisions by some immigration officers. In addition, prolonged family separation during the transition to permanent residence has negative impacts, especially for workers in low-skilled occupations who had to leave their families at home to come to Canada.

Temporary workers do not have access to federally funded settlement services. Some provincial governments and other players are filling this gap, but research participants agreed that migrant worker legal services and language training need to be urgently addressed.

To facilitate linkages between temporary labour migrants’ experience and pathways to permanent residence, the authors recommend removing the “four-in, four-out” rule, extending the right to family accompaniment to migrant workers in low-skilled positions, reassessing language requirements for migrant workers who transition to permanent residence, and providing language training for migrant workers upon arrival. They also put forward two policy ideas for further study and discussion: reconsidering the reliance on employer sponsorship and introducing a federal pathway to permanent residence for workers in low-skilled occupations.

Download the report here: