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PNPs and Intent to Settle—Is it Time for Provinces to Think of a Better Option?

Provincial nomination programs or PNPs allow Canadian provinces to determine immigration eligibility norms suited to their individual and unique needs and requirements.

An immigrant qualifying for provincial nomination just has to fulfill standard federal norms related to health, admissibility, funds etc. to qualify for Canadian permanent residence.  

Understanding Intent to Settle

One requirement that is common to all PNP streams is the intent to settle in the province. You must intend to live, work, and settle in Manitoba to qualify under any of its PNP stream. The same is true for Ontario, British Columbia, Saskatchewan and every other province in Canada.

Does this mean you cannot move to another province after becoming a Canadian permanent resident? This is where things get complicated. Section 6 of the Canadian Charter says every citizen and permanent resident can move and work in any province in Canada.

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This means a PNP nominee can be disqualified for lack of intent to settle until grant of PR status. So, an entrepreneur who gets a work permit and will get permanent residence only after fulfilling the Business Performance Agreement cannot move to another province and expect to avoid deportation.

But once an immigrant becomes a permanent resident, receives the Certificate of Permanent Residence, and legally enters Canada through a Port of Entry, then Section 6 overrides everything and he/she is free to move, work, and live anywhere in Canada.

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Intent to Settle in the Post-Covid-19 World

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Even before the pandemic, provinces were struggling to enforce the ‘intent to settle’ rule without falling foul of the Canadian Charter. The Covid-19 pandemic has further complicated the matter by forcing employers and employees to setup work-from-home policies and to adapt to remote working.

So, how will the intent to settle work if a tech professional qualifying under Ontario’s PNP decides to start remotely working for an employer in British Columbia? Or, what if he or she decides to become a gig worker and simply takes up contracts for employers across Canada?

Can the province question the worker’s intent to settle since he/she is working for employers in other provinces? But will any action be justified considering the worker would not have moved out of the nominating province?

Replace Intent to Settle with Intent to Contribute?

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Perhaps the pandemic is a good reason to revisit the whole ‘intent to settle’ rule. In any case, provinces find it impossible to enforce this rule except for that short period of time between nomination and grant of permanent residence.

Requiring immigrants to show intent to contribute to the province, in terms of job creation, demand for goods and services, or even annual tax payments can be a better option. This can ensure the nominating province can claim due benefits even if the immigrant chooses to quickly move to another province.

If remote working becomes the norm ahead, provinces may end up gaining by nominating immigrants to may work remotely for employers across the country without ever leaving the province.

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