BC AS CAN BE
Last May, the University of the Philippines Alumni Association in British Columbia (UPAABC), in partnership with the Philippine Consulate General in Vancouver and Vancity had its first outreach program for 2013 by holding a free seminar for temporary foreign workers (TFWs) titled “Options and Opportunities for Becoming a Permanent Resident”. The function room at the Holiday Inn, Burnaby, the event’s venue, was packed with 70 or so attendees—live-in caregivers, food service, hospitality, IT and other TFWs—all eager to find out the ways and means by which they could make their stay in Canada a permanent one and eventually bring their families over.
The seminar’s topics were a wealth of information for a TFW: immigration updates and programs, labour market trends and information; job search strategies as well as labour and employment standards and foreign credential recognition and certification.
Immigrating to Canada
Four Filipino licensed immigration consultants—Jose Angelo Ledesma, Rene Bahena, Agatha Roldan and myself, delivered the seminar topics on immigration trends and the current programs for becoming a permanent resident or PR in Canada and how TFWs could build on their language and other skills or acquire professional/ trades certifications to improve their chances of qualifying for PR status.
The moderator, Agnes Tecson, a Human Resource practitioner and UP alumna who headed UPAA’s committee on TFW gamely challenged the participants to count the ways to make sure the consultants would come up with a hundred and one options as stated in the poster blurb.
Recently, many changes in immigration laws and policies were implemented to make it consistent with the Canadian government’s priorities of jobs, economic growth and long-term prosperity. Thus, currently, selections of immigrants are geared toward improvement of economic outcomes by selecting those who are “best positioned” for success or are able to integrate more rapidly and successfully into Canada’s economy. Therefore, we see language proficiency and age becoming 2 of the most important factors in the selection process and foreign credentials are evaluated based on their true value in Canada so that newcomers are able to make informed decision before migrating. The improved selection grid for the Federal Skilled Worker Program, the new priority list of eligible occupations and the cap on applications are designed to meet Canada’s economic goals. As well, the introduction of the Federal Skills Trades Program, the Parent and Grand Parent Supervisa Program which was launched in December 2011 were aimed at eliminating the backlog on immigration applications and speeding up the application process.
The consultants outlined and discussed the ways by which a TFW could become an immigrant to Canada through the following: Canadian Experience, Federal Skills Trades and Federal Skilled Worker Programs; Business Class (Investor, Self-employed, Entrepreneur); Provincial Nominee Program (PNP); Live-in Caregiver Program and Family Sponsorship. Indeed, there are 101 ways and more, if we count each of the categories under the PNP for every one of Canada’s 10 provinces and 3 territories.
Two Filipinos— Cherry Bajamundo, whose pathway to immigration to Canada had been as a TFW and who is now a manager at Burger King, and Needa Queano, a social worker who moved to Canada as a Live-in Caregiver and is now a manager at Crius Financial Services, an insurance brokerage company, shared their interesting and colourful adventures and gave the audience an insight into Filipino tenacity, dedication, hard work and creativity – factors that make for a successful life as an immigrant.
Options and Opportunities
The participants were given an overview of the many employment opportunities available in BC as well as tips on job search strategies by Tiana Vekic, facilitator and Edith Magtibay, employment counselor, both from the Settlement and Integration Program at ISSofBC, a non-profit organization that focuses on providing services to new immigrants including live-in caregivers. On the other hand, Rod Bianchini, Regional Manager of the Employment Standards Branch of the Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training made an enlightening presentation regarding a worker’s rights under the Employment Standards Act, the prevailing minimum wages, overtime, hours of work and the complaint process.
The Philippine Consulate, represented by Deputy Consul General Anthony Mandap also discussed the various services offered by their office such as passport and visa services, notarization, authentication of documents and application for dual citizenship, one or all of which would be needed by a Filipino TFW.
In closing, Labour Attache Bernie Julve, whose office, the Philippine Overseas Labour Office or POLO is in charge of authenticating jobs before a Filipino contract worker could depart from the Philippines to take on a job in Canada, informed the audience of POLO’s efforts towards recognition of professionals in Canada and how our training facilities in the Philippines are being upgraded and the skills trades programs improved to make them world class and to meet Canadian standards so that Filipino workers could get the necessary Canadian certifications.