Canada opens first round of Express Entry invitations to foreign health workers

By Terry Davidson

Law360 Canada (June 29, 2023, 1:48 PM EDT) -- In a bid to address the ongoing strain on the healthcare system, Canada’s government will now enter the first phase of a “dedicated round” of permanent residency invitations to foreign healthcare professionals.  

On June 28, the first round for applications for “category-based selection” will open for 500 workers, according to a federal government news release. A second round will begin July 5, inviting 1,500 to apply.

“Now the government of Canada can issue invitations to apply for permanent residency in Canada to candidates from particular fields or with specific skills, training or language ability,” states the release.

Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Sean Fraser

Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Sean Fraser

The invitations are part of recent changes to Express Entry, the government’s “flagship economic immigration program.” Overall, invitations will be put out to doctors, nurses, dentists, pharmacists, physiotherapists and optometrists.

“By focusing on candidates with health care expertise and by bringing in the talent the country needs, this measure will help improve access to health care services for Canadians and their families,” states the release. “Additionally, the first-ever category-based selection rounds support Canada’s commitment to welcoming in-demand professionals and skilled workers into communities across the country. Alongside general invitation rounds, these category-based selection rounds will continue throughout the year, and more details will continue to be announced in the coming weeks.”

Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Sean Fraser acknowledged the need to ease the current strain on the system.

“Health professionals have been working around the clock to provide world-class care to individuals in communities across Canada, but it’s no secret that our health system needs more workers to continue delivering the quality care that people in Canada deserve,” said Fraser in a statement. “I’m excited to … announce the first health care category-based selection round, which will increase access to permanent residence for skilled workers with health care experience.”

According to the release, 21,656 newcomers arrived in Canada between 2017 and 2022 to work at health-care jobs. According to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, those who arrived during those years included 10,051 nurses; 4,449 doctors, including specialists; 2,552 dentists; 2,054 pharmacists; 218 dietitians and nutritionists; and 222 X-ray technologists.

The Express Entry program is in addition to existing immigration initiatives, including the Economic Mobility Pathways Pilot project, which creates opportunities for skilled refugees and “other displaced individuals to use their education, training and experience to continue their careers in Canada.”

As of June 28, the greatest “uptake” the pilot project had seen was in the health-care sector. Applications came from candidates such as nurses’ aides, orderlies and “patient service associates.”

In addition to this, changes were made in April to Express Entry that saw the issuing of permanent resident visas for foreign doctors so they could provide medical services. And in December, Ottawa pledged $90 million on projects to help eliminate barriers preventing “qualified and skilled newcomers from gaining work experience in their own profession or field of study.”

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