How IRCC determines if a PNP candidate can economically establish in Canada
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has updated its processing instructions to provide guidance about how they assess a principal applicant’s ability to become economically established under the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP).
The PNP is main pathway for economic class immigrants in Canada. Each year, IRCC releases an Immigration Levels Plan, in which permanent residence admissions targets are outlined by immigration class and program. In 2023, the plan targets 105,000 new permanent residents through the PNP.
Under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (IRPR), there are conditions that an applicant must satisfy to be eligible for provincial nomination. The candidate must:
- have the ability to become economically established in Canada.
- be named in a nomination certificate issued by the government of a province or territory.
- intend to reside in the province or territory that nominated them.
The family and dependents of a PNP candidate may also be able to obtain permanent residency if the principal applicant meets the criteria outlined to become economically established.
When IRCC says a candidate must be able to economically establish, this means the candidate needs to be able to support themself (and any eligible dependents) financially.
Getting a provincial nomination is usually considered sufficient proof of this ability because PNP applications contain much of the same information and have some similar eligibility criteria as an application for permanent residence to IRCC, even though they are two separate applications.
In instances where an immigration officer questions a candidate’s ability to become economically established, they may need to look beyond the provincial nomination and examine other factors. For example, the candidate’s current job (or job offer), language ability (test results, language of work experience, how they communicate in an interview), overall work experience and education. If the officer discovers anything that raises red flags, it can lead to further questions.
Officers will examine a candidate’s ability to economically establish on a case-by-case basis. For example, IRCC may have questions for a highly educated person who is nominated for a low or intermediate-skilled occupation. IRCC says this can be perceived as a bit of a mismatch, but it may adequately explain the candidate’s application. If the same candidate was offered a position that they were not trained for or experienced in, the officer can question the candidate’s labour market intentions.
Officers will compare the candidate’s occupation, based on the National Occupational Classification (NOC) code, with the information provided to determine their ability to retain the job. If the officer has concerns, the candidate will be invited to address them.
Another example would be if an applicant is relying exclusively on the financial guarantee of a relative already residing in the province.
Intention to reside in a province
Intention is a key factor for applicants who wish to obtain permanent residence through a PNP. The immigration officer must be satisfied that the applicant intends to reside in the nominating province or territory before issuing the permanent resident visa.
The province or territory will assess this before nominating the candidate. Still, in cases where IRCC has cause to question the intent to reside, they will allow the candidate to address the concerns. This is in accordance with the principles of procedural fairness.
The growth of the PNP
Immigration is a shared responsibility between Canada's provincial and federal governments. PNPs were established in 1998 to help spread the economic benefits of immigration throughout the country. Provincial governments can target local labour shortages and find candidates they believe are best suited to contribute to the provincial economy.
In its first year, Canada’s PNP admitted only 400 new permanent residents. The program has since been successful, and 117,500 will be admitted to Canada each year by the end of 2025.
Base and enhanced nominations
There are two types of PNP applications: base and enhanced.
Candidates apply for a base nomination by applying directly through a PNP stream that is not aligned with Express Entry. If a candidate is approved, they need to submit their provincial nomination certificate to IRCC with their application for permanent residence.
Enhanced nomination occurs when Express Entry candidates receive a nomination from a provincial government to apply through an Express Entry aligned PNP stream. Express Entry candidates may get invited even if they did not apply for the PNP because provincial governments can view their profile within the federal Express Entry pool.
If they see a candidate they feel is well-suited to economically establish in the province, they may extend an invitation to apply for a PNP.
Express Entry is an application management system that oversees the Canadian Experience Class, the Federal Skilled Worker Program and the Federal Skilled Trades Program. Candidates in these programs are evaluated using the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) and awarded points based on factors such as language ability, education, work experience and other human capital factors. Those with the highest scores are the most likely to receive an invitation to apply for permanent residence
If a candidate is invited to apply for a provincial nomination, and their application is then approved, they now have an enhanced nomination and an additional 600 CRS points. These points make it highly likely that a candidate will receive an invitation to apply for permanent residence.