Ontario Temporarily Pauses Certain Canadian Immigration Streams, Others Remain Open for Applications

CIC News
Published: May 17, 2016

Streams that have been paused temporarily may reopen at any time

The Canadian province of Ontario has announced that it is temporarily pausing the intake of applications for select streams through the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program (OINP), while other OINP streams remain open.

Several streams that have been paused temporarily are expected to reopen at a later date.

In a notice placed on its website, the government of Ontario stated that it has received the sufficient number of OINP applications to meet its federal allocation, and noted that other Canadian provinces have implemented similar measures over recent months.

The OINP: Current status

OINP and Express Entry

Since last year, many candidates in the Express Entry pool have noticed that Ontario — which has for decades welcomed more newcomers than any other province — presents a fast-track immigration pathway. Ontario opened its doors to candidates in the Express Entry pool in mid-2015 through the creation of two new streams: the Human Capital Priorities stream and the French-Speaking Skilled Worker stream.

The popular Human Capital Priorities stream is one of the streams that are currently paused, though the government Ontario is keen to stress that this is temporary. This stream, which has been highly successful at bringing skilled newcomers to the province, is 'passive' in the sense that an Express Entry candidate may only make an application if he or she is contacted by the OINP and issued what is known as a Notification of Interest (NOI). One of the requirements is that a candidate must have already entered the Express Entry pool and be awarded 400 or more Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) points.

The French-Speaking Skilled Worker stream, Ontario’s other enhanced stream, remains open. Candidates must have a minimum of Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) level of 7 in French and CLB 6 in English, as demonstrated by results from standardised language tests recognised by the governments of Canada and Ontario. Candidates who have previously been exposed to French may, with a bit of additional effort and revision, reach adequate-intermediate proficiency and potentially benefit from this Canadian immigration option.

OINP and business immigration

Both the Corporate stream and the Entrepreneur stream remain open for new applications and Expressions of Interest, respectively.

OINP and international students

All applications for the International Students (Masters Graduate and PhD Graduate) streams sent after May 9, 2016 will not be processed and will be returned to the applicant along with the unprocessed payment. These streams are not aligned with the Express Entry system.

The governments of Canada and Ontario, however, have been vocal about their desire to attract and retain more international students as permanent residents of Canada. With this in mind, it is entirely possible that the OINP will begin to accept new applications through these streams in the non-too-distant future. Indeed, the government of Ontario says that, by November, the backlog in certain OINP streams is expected to be whittled down enough to accept applications again.

The International Student with a Job Offer stream of the OINP remains open to eligible candidates whose job offer has been approved through the Employer Pre-screen application process.

The table below outlines the current status of all OINP streams

The changing nature of Provincial Nominee Programs

The statement from the government of Ontario this week noted that, with respect to the temporary pause on the intake of applications, ‘other provinces have also done this in the past.’ For example, Alberta and British Columbia have both placed pauses on certain Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) streams within the last year, only to reopen them at a later date.

Similarly, in 2015 and into 2016 the provinces of Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia had application intake thresholds for certain immigration categories that were replenished during the year, even after initial notices had stated that the annual intake cap for those categories had been reached. Indeed, Saskatchewan’s International Skilled Worker – Express Entry sub-category opened no fewer than four times in 2015, and again in early 2016.

Furthermore, this month the British Columbia Provincial Nominee Program (BCPNP) had its overall PNP allocation increased mid-year. British Columbia also issued a total of 381 Invitations to Apply to the BCPNP just last week, with the majority of those invitations issued under Express Entry B.C. categories (candidates for these categories are required to have already created a profile under the federal Express Entry immigration selection system).

While most observers would be aware that the federal Express Entry system only came into operation in January, 2015, it should also be remembered that PNPs are also a relatively new phenomenon, having only been implemented piecemeal over recent years. With the advent of Express Entry — and the subsequent segmentation of PNPs into ‘enhanced’ streams (i.e. those that are aligned with Express Entry) and ‘base’ streams (i.e. those that are not) — the very nature of PNPs is changing rapidly. Consider the following:

  • Under its Immigration Levels Plan for 2016, Canada aims to welcome around 48,000 new permanent residents through the PNPs this year alone. This represents a larger proportion of Canada’s new economic immigrants than ever before.
  • PNP allocation figures have proven to be fluid rather than fixed, with many provinces having had their allocation increased during the year.
  • The PNPs have become more granular over time, with an increased number of streams opening on a regular basis. Allocation intakes for individual PNP streams typically fill quickly, with streams sometimes reaching their target intake within months, weeks, or even days.
  • The announcement of new PNP streams, or the pausing or reopening of existing streams, is usually made after the fact. Taking this month’s OINP update as an example, candidates only found out that pauses on certain streams had been implemented after those pauses had come into effect. On the other hand, the reopening of Saskatchewan’s International Skilled Worker – Express Entry sub-category, on multiple occasions, came without prior warning.
  • A recent year-end Express Entry report revealed that, in 2015, more candidates with Core CRS scores of less than 450 were issued Invitations to Apply for Canadian permanent residence than candidates with 450 or more points. (Core CRS indicates a candidate’s score without the additional 600 points for a job offer or a provincial nomination.)  Many of these selected candidates entered the pool and subsequently received an enhanced provincial nomination certificate from a province.
  • As the Express Entry system evolves, PNPs are becoming a more significant feature of Canadian immigration. With many ‘enhanced’ PNP streams open over the opening months of 2016, there is every reason to believe that more candidates will receive enhanced provincial nomination certificates in 2016 than in 2015.

“With this in mind, it is apparent that individuals who enter the Express Entry pool as soon as possible are in a far better position that those who first wait to see which PNP options may be available before entering the pool. Indeed, by not entering the pool, an individual reduces his or her PNP options,” says Attorney David Cohen.

“For example, Ontario’s popular Human Capital Priorities stream, one of the streams that is currently paused, is 'passive' in the sense that an Express Entry candidate may only make an application if he or she is contacted by the OINP and issued what is known as a Notification of Interest (NOI). If the individual is not in the pool, it is impossible to be contacted and issued a NOI. Furthermore, if and when Ontario reopens its now paused streams, it is likely that no prior announcement will be made.”

To learn more about your Canadian immigration options through the OINP, or any of over 60 Canadian immigration programs, please fill out a free online assessment today.

To find out if you are eligible to make an application or an Expression of Interest through the Entrepreneur Stream or Corporate Stream of the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program, please fill out a business eligibility assessment form.

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