OTTAWA, Canada (AFP) — Canada's immigration minister yesterday invited more foreign students and temporary foreign workers to apply to stay in the country next year, though immigration levels will remain unchanged.
Up to 10,000 foreign students and temporary foreign workers will be allowed to apply for permanent residency, up from 6,000 in 2011, under new immigration rules.
However, total immigration levels will stay frozen at 240,000 to 265,000 for the seventh straight year.
"Newcomers bring their skills and talents, contribute to our economy and help renew our workforce so that Canada remains competitive on the world stage," Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said.
He said Canada is especially courting younger immigrants who come to study and could be hired locally after graduating.
They are "the immigrants of the future," Kenney added. "They are young. They have Canadian degrees or diplomas. They have strong Canadian language skills. They are set for success."
Critics, however, say targeting foreign students deprives poorer countries of talent desperately needed to grow their own developing economies.
Some nations pay to send young people to study abroad and then they don't return in a brain drain scenario that has dragged down their own development.
At the press conference, Kenney acknowledged high overall unemployment among immigrants to Canada, at 14 per cent compared to the national rate of 7.4 per cent, and increasingly negative attitudes toward record high immigration levels.
Some critics see newcomers as competitors for scarce jobs while the economy still struggles to rebound from the 2008-2009 recession.
"I am concerned about it... I understand what Canadians are saying. That's why we are not increasing (total) immigration levels," Kenney said.
The minister also stressed that Canada would not accept "barbaric cultural practices" from migrants, citing honour killings, female genital mutilation and domestic abuse.
"These practices are condemned and punished harshly under our law," he told reporters.