Quebec’s new immigration application system already popular, ministry says

The immigration ministry again invited candidates to take advantage of the system, which it says has drawn 91,000 users in six months.

Immigration Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette (pictured in October) was criticized in the National Assembly Thursday as being «more heartless than Stephen Harper.» Jacques Boissinot / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES

QUEBEC — Despite its critics, the user-friendly immigration application system the Quebec government is promoting has proved to be popular, with 91,000 users in the six months in which it has been operating.

On a day when more stories emerged of the chaos its reforms are sparking, Quebec’s immigration ministry released numbers showing the new system, known as Arrima — launched by the former Liberal government in September 2018 — is running and ready to handle applicants.

And the ministry again invited candidates to take advantage of the system, including those stuck in limbo amid the 18,000 files languishing in the system (which the government wants to shred).

Described as the Tinder of immigration, the online system is supposed to marry a person’s skills with an available job.

It starts with the applicant making what is called a declaration of interest on what they have to offer.

The system then creates a pool of potential workers based on the statements ministry officials use to determine who should be invited to apply to the Regular Skilled Worker Program.

That is when an immigration candidate actually fills out the detailed forms and pays the hefty fees.

Once the invitation process is underway, Quebec promises a candidate will know, one way or another, whether they have been granted a Quebec selection certificate within six months.

The current system is based on the first-come, first-served principle. An applicant can wait three years or more to get an answer. As many as 50 per cent are rejected.

“The new system which links the needs with the candidates will fix this,” a ministry official said.

The data reveals that 23,080 people applied within the first month in which the system was operating, and the influx has been steady ever since.

Of the total, 5,260 people applied for work in administrative fields, 2,160 for a nursing job and 720 in the field of mechanical engineering.

None of the 91,000 applicants have gone beyond the initial sign-up stage, so it is impossible to say how many have actually been processed, officials said.

The data emerged following another raucous day in the legislature, as the opposition cranked up the pressure on Immigration, Diversity and Inclusiveness Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette to cancel the mass shredding of the applicant backlog.

Interim Liberal leader Pierre Arcand refuted government claims that some of the files in the pile of 18,000 applications are 13 years old. Having checked himself, there are only six files that old, Arcand said.

Liberal house leader Sébastien Proulx then waded in, accusing the government of “crushing” the dreams of many immigrants by refusing to process the 18,000 before the adoption of the reform package, Bill 9.

That won’t happen until June, which means three months of uncertainty and stress for people.

“How can you be more heartless than (former prime minister) Stephen Harper?” Proulx fired across the floor at Jolin-Barrette.

“I could present a litany of ways the Liberal Party hurt the population,” Jolin-Barrette responded.

Earlier, the association of lawyers working in immigration law also called on the government to unplug the shredding machine.

The Association québécoise des avocats et avocates en droit de l’immigration released a letter to Jolin-Barrette saying the people represented by those 18,000 files — including the estimated 5,500 already living, working and paying taxes in Quebec — deserve answers.

“It is time to reassure the thousands of persons and foresee changes to Bill 9,” states the letter, signed by 100 lawyers. It adds the government is deluding itself if it thinks the untested Arrima system will miraculously solve all the problems.

The lawyers write that “18,000 files are ready and complete. All they are missing is the minister’s stamp to respond to the needs of entrepreneurs.

“Quebec’s international reputation will take a serious hit if this situation drags on.

“Instead of spending $19 million on the adminstrative fees necessary to get rid of thousands of files, would it not be more intelligent to spend the money fast-tracking them?”

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