Understanding 2020 PNP Trends to Plan Your Canada Immigration Strategy for 2021
Provincial nomination is the most unique feature of Canada’s merit-centric immigration system. Canadian provinces can create immigration programs, set their own eligibility rules, and nominate eligible candidates for permanent residence.
Assessing a candidate’s eligibility in terms of education, work experience, occupation, language skills, and adaptability is the province’s right and responsibility.
A candidate nominated by a province will be denied permanent residence only if he/she does not fulfill federal admissibility rules related to criminal history, medical record, and funds to support self and family in Canada.
Why Provincial Nomination Programs (PNP)?
Provinces were given the right to create their own immigration programs in 1999 and this move was prompted by the lopsided distribution of immigrants, especially skilled workers, settling in Canada.
Historically, more than 80 percent of all immigrants entering Canada preferred to settle in Ontario, Quebec, and British Columbia. This meant smaller and less-preferred provinces found it very difficult to attract skilled talent even if they were open to relaxed eligibility requirements.
PNPs solved this problem and gave provinces the freedom to create immigration programs with unique eligibility rules.
Now, Prince Edward Island can identify occupations facing shortage of workers and modify its Critical Impact category accordingly.
Or, Saskatchewan can create a program with relaxed work-experience or job-offer requirements for Francophones to attract French-speaking skilled workers into the province.
The Federal government sets the annual quota of applicants for each province and the rest is to be managed by the provinces.
The impact of PNPs is such that provinces admit majority of foreign skilled workers and entrepreneurs through these programs despite the Express Entry-linked streams that allow provinces to select candidates from the Federal pool.
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How PNPs Fared in 2020?
2020 will always be remembered for the disruptive impact of the pandemic. However, a look at how different provinces managed their nomination programs during the year highlights the stability and resilience of Canada’s immigration system.
Exceeding 2019 Nominations—Ontario
Despite all the disruptions, Ontario issued 8,050 nominations and exceeded the 2019 figure. These nominations were over and above the 9000-odd ITAs issued under the Express Entry-linked streams of the OINP i.e. the Human Capital Priorities stream, the French-Speaking Skilled Worker stream, and the Skilled Trades stream.
Changes Galore in 2020
The flexibility to make changes as and when required is one of the biggest pluses of the PNP system and this was evident during 2020.
Ontario announced that it will move to an Expression of Interest system. This is a major change since the province will no longer have to sift through applications to find the right candidate. Instead, the province will switch to the more efficient system of expressing interest (by issuing an EOI) in qualified applicants.
Alberta launched two streams aimed at retaining international graduates in the province. Albertan students can look forward to PR nomination through the International Graduate Entrepreneur Immigration Stream and the Foreign Graduate Start-up Visa Stream.
PNPs allow provinces to not just admit more but fewer immigrants as well. Alberta chose not to use its federal quota and capped its PNP admissions at 4,000 nominations in an attempt to protect jobs for native residents.
British Columbia has extended its extremely-popular PNP Tech Pilot to 2021.
This program is probably the best example of how a province can not just tackle labor shortages but also boost an entire sector of its economy by making it easier for foreign talent to live and work in the province.
Since the province defines the occupations to be included in the 29 in-demand occupations, the industry is assured of the right talent with minimal processing delays.
New Brunswick created a separate pathway for truck drivers under its Skilled Worker stream. This was done based on feedback from businesses in the province. This seamless linkage between demand and supply is perhaps why skilled immigration is a non-controversial and rhetoric-free affair in Canada.
Achieving Demographic Goals—Nova Scotia
The four Atlantic provinces of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland have benefited from not just PNPs but the Atlantic Immigration Pilot as well.
This program operates over and above the federal quota and Nova Scotia has made full use of its options to boost its population to all-time high levels in July 2020. From a province struggling with the twin disadvantage of unfavorable demographics and lack of immigration, Nova Scotia is attracting immigrants in large numbers primarily through the decentralized immigration options.
It has focused on skilled workers in essential services occupations like healthcare and transportation and preferred to issue ITAs to those already in Canada.
Lessons for 2021
- Look beyond Express Entry. Federal Programs may make headlines but but the real opportunity may be hidden in a PNP program, stream, or pathway designed just for workers like you.
- Look beyond top two -three favorites and focus on provinces that get fewer immigrants. A province popularity hardly matters as long as you are assured of a good career and a happy life in Canada.
- Be nimble because provinces can, and often do, make frequent changes through the year. Nothing could be worse than losing at PR just because you were not aware of a new stream or favorable change made to a existing pathway.
- For students, analyzing the province’s nomination programs is as important as assessing the reputation and credibility of college of university. A province with an international graduate stream in its PNP can help you qualify for PR with a job offer in hand after graduation.
- Make clear future plans because some provinces have just an entrepreneur program for international graduates while others have options for entrepreneurs as well as skilled workers.
The PNP route is just one of the many options to work and settle in Canada. With Express Entry, pilot programs, work permits—LMIA exempt as well as employer-specific—also to be considered, seeking professional immigration assistance is the smartest way to chart your future in Canada.