Alberta includes U.S. international student graduates in immigration reforms

Shelby Thevenot
Published: July 13, 2020

Alberta is accelerating two previously-announced immigration streams aimed at foreign graduates from U.S. universities as part of an overhaul of the province’s immigration system.

The Foreign Graduate Startup Visa Program and the Student Entrepreneur program will be heavily promoted to “graduates of U.S. universities who are not welcome in the United States,” the Alberta Recovery Plan says.

The report was published on June 29, which is one week after the Trump administration announced the immigration freeze for 2020 and one week before they announced that international students enrolled in a fulltime online study program would have to leave the U.S.

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“One of the key factors holding back Alberta’s technology sector is a lack of people with relevant skills,” the Alberta Recovery Plan states, “At the same time, the United States has further closed its border to some of the world’s most talented information technology workers and start-up entrepreneurs.”

Growing the technology sector is one of the strategies in Alberta’s economic recovery plan following the coronavirus lockdown. The government plans to create capital investments for tech startups, support to develop artificial intelligence, enhance 5G initiatives, and create an Innovation Employment Grant program.

The Foreign Graduate Startup Visa Program is still a “go” though jobs in Alberta have taken a hit from the coronavirus crisis, the program is poised to support technology and innovation in the province.

Coronavirus effect on Alberta immigration

Following the economic shutdown in March, Alberta is reducing its immigration targets for 2020 by a third from 6,250 permanent resident nominations to no more than 4,000.

The province also says it is requesting that the federal government remove most occupational categories under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) for Alberta, this is part of the government’s overriding goal of “getting Albertans back to work.”

The government does not specify which occupational categories it plans to add to the “refusal to process list” but says they aim to remove the vast majority of occupations from the TFWP. A few specialized occupations experiencing acute and proven labour shortages will be exempt.

"We know job creators have a hard time filling vacancies in areas such as caregiving, emergency response, hospitality positions in the mountain parks, and agriculture, that is why these sectors will be exempt from these changes," a spokesperson from the Government of Alberta, wrote to CIC News,  "Employers in these sectors will be able to access TFWs to fill vacant positions."

The province also said that as of December 2019, the total number of TFWs in Alberta was 10,188.  The service industry accounts for 62 per cent of all TFWs in Alberta.  TFWs who are currently working in Alberta will not be affected by these changes.

The government will enhance services to connect employers with available workers and increase training opportunities in occupations where there is a persistent skill shortage.

The province also says that newcomers will be needed in the future to create jobs and bring specialized skills to the Alberta labour market. As such, the Alberta Immigrant Nominee Program will become the Alberta Advantage Immigration Program, and four new streams will be launched to spur entrepreneurship, tech start-ups, and to boost economic growth in rural communities.

The province did not say when these changes would be implemented but said more details will be announced in the coming weeks.

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