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Immigration Changing: Provinces Need More Skilled Workers

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Earlier this month, discussions were held between federal and provincial authorities regarding improvements to the country’s Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs). These discussions have been part of a larger move away from the current PNP system to one that will more effectively bring immigrants to provinces in need of their specific knowledge and skills.

Many provinces want to increase their annual Provincial Nominee quotas, which are allocated by the Federal government, in order to address widespread labour shortages. Saskatchewan is lobbying to increase its annual quota from 4,000 to 6,000. Ontario wants to raise its quota from 1,000 to 5,000, while British Columbia wants to take in 6,500, up from 3,500 this year.

The PNP System Today

The PNP system was implemented to allow provinces greater authority in choosing the Permanent Residents who arrive and settle within their borders. While provinces nominate individuals for Permanent Residency, the Federal government remains responsible for issuing visas and screening nominees for health and security.

PNPs benefit provinces throughout the country, as they are able to target workers who are most likely to succeed in their labour markets. Most PNP categories place an emphasis on work or study experience in the province, as well as training or skills in an in-demand profession. They may also develop special categories to help bolster targeted industries. British Columbia, for instance, offers an immigration stream exclusively for long- and heavy-haul truck drivers, whereas Alberta recently created a pilot program targeting trades such as ironworking and carpentry.

Despite its success, restrictions to the current PNP system have resulted in some provinces struggling to fill quotas while satisfying Federal government regulations. New Federal rules have also been implemented that require many PNP applicants to show proficiency in one of Canada’s two official languages.

PNPs in Transition

Ontario is one example of the need for PNP reform. The province receives more Permanent Residents per year than any other in Canada. The vast majority of these arrive through the popular Federal Skilled Worker Class (FSWC), while only 1,000 are currently channeled through the Ontario PNP.

The FSWC has been undergoing a number of changes that are part of the government’s goal of creating a faster and more flexible immigration system. These new changes are promising for Canadian provinces, as they will better target immigrants who are well-placed to thrive in Canada’s economy. Unlike most PNP programs, a job offer is not needed to apply to the FSWC, and successful applicants may settle in any province of their choosing, except Quebec. While applications are not currently being accepted for the Skilled Worker category of the FSWC, changes to program regulations are expected to come into force in January 2013.

The FSWC will help attract immigrants with the education and experience needed to excel in Canada. However, provinces such as Ontario wish to complement this program with PNPs that can bring in immigrants whose profiles are particularly sought after in their province. During a recent meeting in Halifax, premiers from across the country urged the Federal government to allow their provinces greater flexibility in achieving their immigration goals.

“We want more space to be able to make our decisions about which immigrants will come to our provinces, where they will be settled and how many we’ll get,” said one premier.

The Federal government has been working with provinces to help them do so in a more efficient manner. One important proposed plan is the creation of an Expression of Interest (EOI) system. This system, which will be modeled on ones already in place in Australia and New Zealand, will create a pool of skilled applicants from which provinces may select candidates. Greater details regarding an EOI system and other changes to PNPs are forthcoming.

Options for Applicants Today

There are a number of options currently available for Permanent Residency applicants. Because every PNP is different, interested applicants may find themselves more suitable for some provinces than others. In addition, they may consider the FSWC and Quebec Skilled Worker programs as a path to Permanent Residency.

For the FSWC (opening in 2013), applicants must:

  • Have at least 1 year of full time work experience in the last 10 years;
  • Demonstrate at least an Adequate-Intermediate language proficiency in English or French (Canadian Language Benchmark: 7);
  • Obtain at least 67 points on the new point grid (based on language proficiency, age, work experience, education and adaptability etc.);
  • Have their foreign education credentials assessed, authenticated and given an equivalent value in Canada

For the Quebec Skilled Worker (currently open and accepting applications), applicants must:

“Individuals who are committed to settling in a specific province should pay close attention to any changes being made in upcoming months,” said Attorney David Cohen. “However, they should also be aware of other popular options, such as the FSWC and Quebec Skilled Worker programs. The Quebec Skilled Worker program is currently accepting applications for Permanent Residency, while proactive applicants are already preparing their files in anticipation of the FSWC opening soon.”

With provinces more than ever seeking to attract newcomers to their cities and towns, it appears that Canada has never been more welcoming.

To learn more about Provincial Nomination or one of Canada’s 60-plus immigration programs, please fill out a free online immigration assessment.