2020 was a big year for Canada’s PNPs

Alexandra Miekus
Published: December 31, 2020

Canada's provinces continued to be actively involved in strengthening Canada's immigration system in 2020.

Over the past year, and despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, Canada's Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs) have kept the number of provincial nominees constant and continued adding new immigration streams to meet their most pressing and specific needs.

The PNP is an immigration program jointly administered by the federal, provincial and territorial governments. It offers Canadian provinces and territories the opportunity to create their own immigration streams to better meet their labour market needs and economic development objectives. The PNP also aims to spread the benefits of economic immigration more equitably across Canada.

The disproportionate number of immigrants going to Canada's largest provinces, such as British Columbia, Ontario or Alberta, explains why the country introduced the PNP. One of the main objectives of the PNP is to encourage immigrants to settle in smaller provinces and move to less populated regions of the country.

The PNP has grown considerably since its launch in 1998 and now accounts for a very significant share of economic immigration to most provinces and territories in Canada. In fact, many smaller Canadian provinces such as Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Manitoba and Saskatchewan now depend on this program to meet their demographic and labour force needs.

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How do PNPs Work?

If an immigration candidate meets the PNP selection criteria of a particular province or territory, he or she is awarded a provincial nomination that allows him or her to apply to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (RCC) for permanent residence.

The PNP streams are designed to attract immigrants of all skill levels and are administered by the provinces and territories.

Most participating provinces and territories have at least one PNP stream that is aligned with the federal Express Entry system, which is Canada’s principal source of economic immigration.

Express Entry-linked PNP streams, also referred to as ‘Enhanced’ PNPs, allow a province to select Express Entry candidates and invite them to apply for a provincial nomination. Express Entry candidates who are nominated by a province or territory are awarded an additional 600 points toward their Comprehensive Ranking System score.

PNP streams that operate outside of Express Entry referred to as ‘Base’ PNPs, can also nominate candidates, who then pursue permanent residence outside of the Express Entry system.

Provinces and territories may nominate candidates under either the basic or enhanced streams of the PNP.  IRCC determines the allocation of nominations on an annual basis based on its annual immigration levels planning and consultations with the provinces.

2020 PNP Highlights


Ontario's Immigrant Nominee Program surpassed last year's total provincial nominations with 8,050 nominations issued this year across all streams.

Ontario’s three Express Entry-linked nomination streams – Human Capital Priorities, French-Speaking Skilled Worker and Skilled Trades – have issued over 9,000 invitations to Express Entry candidates in 2020.

The province has also announced that it will likely move to an expression of interest system in 2020, a key innovation for Ontario.


The Government of Alberta has announced that it is launching two new immigration streams for international graduates: The International Graduate Entrepreneur Immigration Stream and the Foreign Graduate Start-up Visa Stream.

The province has also launched an online portal for immigration applications under the Alberta Immigrant Nominee Program (AINP).

Despite a higher federal allocation of nominations, Alberta capped its immigration intake this year at 4,000 nominations as part of its economic recovery plan. On December 21, the province announced that it had reached that number and would resume activities in the new year.

Saskatchewan and Manitoba

Saskatchewan and Manitoba could be considered as the top two beneficiaries of the PNP. Both provinces continue to benefit from a high level of attraction and retention under their respective PNPs.

Saskatchewan has two streams that are ideal for international applicants, the Saskatchewan Express Entry stream and the Saskatchewan Occupation In-Demand stream. The province held approximately 30 draws in both streams this year and issued some 8,000 invitations to apply for a provincial nomination.

Manitoba has also been issuing invitations regularly through the following three streams: Skilled Workers in Manitoba, Skilled Workers Overseas and International Education Stream. The province held more than 20 draws through each stream and issued over 5,000 invitations in the last year.

British Columbia

The British Columbia Provincial Nominee Program is one of Canada's largest provincial nominee programs. The province invites the top-scoring provincial candidates on a weekly basis. Express Entry British Columbia, Skills Immigration, Entrepreneur stream as well as the Tech Pilot are some of the most active in the province and in the country. This past year, the province invited more than 9,000 candidates to apply for a provincial nomination.

Nova Scotia

This year, Nova Scotia approved a record number of applications for newcomers in an effort to support population growth and pave the way for economic recovery in the coming years.

In 2020, the province approved 3,517 applications, more than the 3,292 it was allocated, focusing on skilled newcomers in essential services, like health care and transportation, as well as those already living in Canada. The province has stated that of the approved 3,517 applications, 1,617 are from the Atlantic Immigration Program and 1,900 from the Nova Scotia Nominee Program.

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