Canada’s Immigration and Labour Market Transformed By Provincial Nominee Program

August Sees Canada Immigration Rate Fall For Third Consecutive Month
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The Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) was introduced in all Canadian provinces and territories (with the exception of Quebec and Nunavut) between 1998 and 2009.

Over the years, it has become the largest selection program for economic immigrants. In the process, it has played a crucial role in attracting skilled economic immigrants to settle outside major cities and fulfill employers’ workforce requirements, as perceived by each province or territory.

The late 20th century was underscored by a concentration of immigrant inflows in Ontario, Quebec, and British Columbia, especially in their respective major cities of Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver. In fact, 88 per cent of immigrants to Canada settled in one of the three provinces.

This concentration was at the expense of immigration to other provinces, especially those in the Prairie and Atlantic regions.

For some provinces – especially Manitoba – the type of lower-skilled immigrants they required were not being provided through the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP).

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The PNP was thus established, so that the provinces have more control over the type of economic immigrants that enter their provincial labour market. Manitoba was the first to have its own PNP, followed by British Columbia and Saskatchewan. Other provinces followed suit over the years.

The Expansion of the PNP

The unprecedented growth of the Provincial Nominee Program over the last 20 years has revolutionized the way economic immigrants are selected to come to Canada.

While 79 per cent of economic immigrants (including both principal applicants and their dependents) came to Canada through the FSWP in 2000, that rate had fallen to 30 per cent by 2019.

Concurrently, the PNP’s share of economic immigration went from 1 per cent in 2000 to 35 per cent in 2000. It is now the largest program for economic immigration to Canada.

How the Growth of the PNP Impacts the Canadian Labour Market

The expansion of the PNP has contributed to a substantial regional decentralization of economic immigrants.

The share of newcomers intending to settle in Ontario, for example, declined from 61 per cent to 42 per cent. This reflects that fewer immigrants are gravitating towards Toronto, and are instead considering different provinces for calling home.

Further supporting this assertion is the data showing an increase in newcomers to previously neglected provinces. Alberta and the Atlantic provinces count among this category, with their collective share of immigrants rising from 1 per cent to 7 per cent between 2000 and 2019.

The characteristics of provincial nominees have also changed since the program’s inception, with rising shares of immigrants holding pre-immigration Canadian work and study experience, higher educational attainment levels, as well as improved knowledge of official languages.

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There was also a continuous increase in the percentage of provincial nominees aged 20 to 54 who had previously been temporary foreign workers at the time of landing.

In 2002, this proportion was only 6 per cent, but had risen significantly to 61 per cent in 2019 and 72 per cent in 2021. Such a marked change was not observed through the FSWP.

This is an important trend, as earlier research showed that immigrants who had previously been temporary foreign workers had better labour market outcomes in both the short and longer run, compared to those Canadians who did not have pre-landing Canadian work experience.

Furthermore, provincial nominees are relatively younger since the PNP has expanded. The share of 20- to 29-year-olds at the time of immigration went from 24 per cent in 2005 to 38 per cent in 2019.

Lastly, they are also more likely to be principal – rather than dependent – applicants. As principal applicants are primarily selected for their ability to contribute to Canada’s labour force, this trend showcases a likely improvement in the collective economic outcomes of recent economic immigrants.

Continued growth of the Provincial Nomination Program (PNP) is expected to contribute to increased regional decentralization of immigration, which is in alignment with the shared policy objective of expanding immigrant resettlement in different regions.

How the PNP Works

Any one of Canada’s ten territories or three provinces (except for Quebec and Nunavut) can nominate skilled worker candidates who hold the skills required by their local economies. The nominated candidates can then apply for Canadian permanent residence via federal immigration authorities.

When some candidates do not qualify for one of the federal programs, they may be eligible for admission under the PNP.

Each province/territory has its own streams – immigration programs that target certain groups – and requirements.

Provinces and territories may target:

  • Students
  • Business people
  • Skilled workers
  • Semi-skilled workers

The application options depend on the PNP stream one is applying to, and they may need to apply using a non-Express Entry or Express Entry route.

Applicants would also need to pass a medical exam and get a police check (certificate), no matter where they want to live in Canada.

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Colin Singer
Colin Singer is an international acclaimed Canadian immigration lawyer and founder of featured on Wikipedia. Colin Singer is also founding director of the Canadian Citizenship & Immigration Resource Center (CCIRC) Inc. He served as an Associate Editor of ‘Immigration Law Reporter’, the pre-eminent immigration law publication in Canada. He previously served as an executive member of the Canadian Bar Association’s Quebec and National Immigration Law Sections and is currently a member of the Canadian Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. Colin has twice appeared as an expert witness before Canada’s House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration. He is frequently recognized as a recommended authority at national conferences sponsored by government and non-government organizations on matters affecting Canada’s immigration and human resource industries. Since 2009, Colin has been a Governor of the Quebec Bar Foundation a non-profit organization committed to the advancement of the profession, and became a lifetime member in 2018.