Immigrant Access Funds help people avoid “survival jobs”

Nathan Liewicki
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Character-based loans growing in popularity across Saskatchewan

The Immigrant Access Fund (IAF) is still gaining traction, but it’s been successful in its two years in Saskatchewan.

“We’ve had over 130 loans approved and the average loan is about $7,900,”said Julie Yu, marketing director with IAF.

Those numbers reflect IAF micro loans distributed between February 2012 and December 2013.

The IAF program has been in existence since 2005, but it only made its way to Saskatchewan in February 2012.

A non-profit group funded by the provincial and federal governments, as well as by donations, IAF provides micro loans to immigrants who need assistance with funds associated with training accreditation, licensing and helping them get back into their respective professional field.

“It's a smaller loan and they are character-based loans,” Yu told the Times-Herald from Saskatoon. “They don't require the same sort of hoops to jump through, like collateral or you that have to have a credit history.”

The maximum loan that can be allotted is $10,000.

Persons eligible to tap into Immigrant Access Funds are permanent residents, Canadian citizens who at one time were immigrants and convention refugees.

“It's so the immigrants coming to Canada can work at full capacity, contribute to the economic success of Saskatchewan and Canada and not resort to working in a survival job just to get through,” Yu said of the micro loans. “A lot of immigrants are going to pursue the fields they were working in.”

Following the application process, people approved for a micro loan could potentially receive money in their bank accounts in two weeks. There is, however, interest associated with repaying these loans.

A committee who doesn’t work with or for IAF reviews every micro loan application.

Informing more Saskatchewanians about the IAF program has been challenging, but why Yu travels the province promoting the fund.

“More people know about it, which is really good,” she said. “It's just taking a long time to get to some of the rural areas.”

Her next visit to the Friendly City is slated for March 11 at 7:30 p.m., at the Moose Jaw Public Library.

Stefanie Palmer, executive director of the Moose Jaw Multicultural Council, noted that there have been lots of questions about Immigrant Access Funds.

She said the Newcomer Welcome Centre has hosted a couple of IAF presentations in the past, which has detailed information about what the program is all about.

“There's a lot of skilled workers out there that don't have the ability or means to be able to get into their field of expertise and this provides a really good opportunity for them to do so.”

Nathan Liewicki can be reached at 306-691-1256 or follow him on Twitter @liewicks

Organizations: Times-Herald, Moose Jaw Public Library, Moose Jaw Multicultural Council

Geographic location: Saskatchewan, Canada, Saskatoon Friendly

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