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Ontario modifies its Provincial Nominee Program to attract more qualified applicants

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This month, the Ontario provincial government updated its Provincial Nominee Program (PNP), known as Opportunities Ontario, in order to welcome more skilled immigrants to the province. International students who obtain their PhDs at publicly funded Ontario universities will no longer need a job offer to be eligible for an Ontario Provincial Nomination Certificate.

Opportunities Ontario is a largely employer-driven PNP, which means that applicants generally need job offers from Ontario employers in order to be eligible for the program. There are two categories under the program:

Under the General category, eligible Ontario employers and investors can recruit qualified foreign workers to fill permanent, full-time positions in their organizations. The positions must be in a skilled, managerial or professional occupation, identified as Skill Type 0 or Skill Level A or B in the National Occupation Classification. Those foreign workers would then be eligible to apply to immigrate to Canada under the Opportunities Ontario PNP.

The International Students category now has two streams: the With Job Offer stream and the PhD Graduate stream:

  • Under the With Job Offer stream, Ontario employers can extend permanent, full-time job offers (also in skilled, managerial or professional positions) to international students who have completed their post-secondary education at publicly-funded Canadian institutions. Those students would then be eligible to apply for an Ontario Provincial Nomination Certificate.
  • Under the PhD Graduate stream, candidates must have obtained their PhDs from an Ontario publicly-funded university. Applicants who meet this requirement do not need job offers to be eligible for the Opportunities Ontario Program.

Under all PNPs, including Opportunities Ontario, applicants who receive nomination certificates must then submit their applications to Citizenship and Immigration Canada for federal approval (medical and security checks are done at this stage) and issuance of Canadian permanent resident visas.

In February, a report predicting a drastic shortage of skilled workers in Canada as a whole and Ontario in particular was released by Rick Miner, past president of Seneca College and a former management professor. The report described an upcoming discrepancy between the increase in knowledge-based jobs in Ontario and the number of available skilled, experienced workers to fill those positions.

In this regard, the above update in the Ontario PNP is good news both for international students who have obtained their PhDs in Ontario and the economy of Ontario.