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Marked drop in immigrant applicants to Canada from Gulf

Gulf News

A marked drop has been reported in the number of new applicants for immigration to Canada from the UAE and other Gulf countries.

Immigration consultants here have confirmed their businesses have been hurt but declined giving specific figures. They echoed similar complaints of some immigration lawyers about the drastic declines in applications.

"It means less business for the whole immigration industry and more rejections of potential skilled worker immigrants," said Imran Farooq, director of Premiers Immigration Consultants, based in Dubai.

The decline has been blamed on a higher passing mark and language proficiency for those applying under the skilled worker category.

"The majority of the applicants from China, Pakistan, the Philippines, Iran, Korea, Romania and Sri Lanka would not be able to score full points on English proficiency. This has already caused a big decline in the number of applicants and would eventually change the composition of immigrants to Canada in the near future," Farooq added.

In recent years, a steady stream of about 15,000 to 20,000 Asians and other nationals have turned the Gulf into a stepping stone to Canada, Australia and New Zealand each year. Of these, about 3,000 come from the UAE.

In 2002, the number of immigrants to Canada declined by nine per cent to 228,575 in 2002 from previous year figures, according Farooq, citing latest industry statistics.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) is targeting between 220,000 and 245,000 new immigrants for 2003, up from between 210,000 and 235,000 targeted last year.

"The new eligibility criteria would result in a big shortage of trade persons and other technical professionals in the next five to 10 years. Doors have opened up for medical professionals and doctors as Canada is facing a big shortages of doctors and other medical professionals," said Farooq.

Under the new rules, applicants must pass the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). But unlike the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), IELTS measures reading, writing, listening as well as speaking abilities.

Many immigration consultants have criticised the new system because accent plays a huge part - even if it has nothing to do with someone's intellectual capabilities or technical skills.

Farooq, however, remains optimistic for potential immigrants from the UAE. "We believe that there's a market of 3,000-plus immigrants per year from this part of the world. Gulf-wide, it's about 15,000 to 20,000," he said.

A former CIC official who works for a Dubai-based immigration consulting firm said that the language test is indeed discriminating against non-Anglophones, people whose mother tongue is not English.

Carter Hoppe, managing partner of Carter Hoppe Legal Consultants in Dubai, confirmed the decline in the volume of applicants.

He cited four ways an applicant can get the minimum requirement of 75 points under the new rules. According to Hoppe: "One is to have master's degree. Another is to have a close relative in Canada. A third way is to learn French. The fourth is to have an approved job offer in Canada."

But if the decline in applications continues over time, eventually the CIC will be forced to lower the pass mark, Hoppe said.