Common Sense Changes Needed For The Temporary Foreign Worker Program

By Andy Semotiuk | April 7, 2015

US and Canadian Immigration Lawyer Andy SemotiukOnce in a while a high profile public figure has an issue with immigration policy. It’s then that many people uninvolved with immigration can get a peek under the hood:

The last time Henry Burris missed a football game was way back in 2007.

But that has nothing to do with why the Canadian citizenship and immigration department deems the Ottawa RedBlacks quarterback a part-time worker, therefore making it difficult for the 39-year-old to secure landed immigrant status or full-blown citizenship…

Approaching his 40th birthday with two years remaining on what he’s called his last CFL contract, Burris is simply trying to get his post-playing-days ducks in a row.

The Spiro, Okla., native first moved to Calgary in 2005 and has called Canada home since, moving to the nation’s capital prior to last season, his first with the then-expansion RedBlacks.

“Here it is almost three years later and we’re still just spinning our wheels,” said Burris, whose CFL debut came way back in 1998.

“We’re still at Square One. I guess there’s this whole points process now … all the attributes you bring to the table qualify for a certain amount of qualification points, and for some reason we don’t qualify.

“Everything we’ve done in the community and how long we’ve lived up here and started our own pizza franchise out in Calgary, all these different things don’t even give us any points towards getting us into the system of being a landed (immigrant).”

Burris and his wife hired an immigration lawyer, but $7,000 later they’re still searching for an answer.

The key to the success in any immigration program is a pragmatic application of the rules while allowing for exceptions that make sense. This case presents such an opportunity. Will the federal government adjust its policies affecting sports personalities like Burris? They should.

Similar frustrations from the sports front can be seen in the crackdown on horse racing personnel. Employers at Woodbinein Toronto and Assiniboia Downs in Manitoba are facing a shortage of grooms and exercise riders who aren’t allowed to come north with their teams.

The government needs to step in and bring some common sense to the temporary foreign worker situation. If an employer needs a particular person with a desired set of skills to help run their business, arbitrary rules shouldn’t hinder them from doing so.

Andy Semotiuk is a Canadian and US immigration lawyer with immigration law firm Pace Immigration. You can learn more about Andy at My Work Visa.