Canada's Provincial Nominee Immigration Programs: Securing Greater Policy Alignment

By Seidle, F. Leslie | IRPP Study, December 2013 | Go to article overview

Canada's Provincial Nominee Immigration Programs: Securing Greater Policy Alignment


Seidle, F. Leslie, IRPP Study


Summary

Over the past two decades, as a result of a series of agreements with the federal government, Canada's subnational governments have acquired a major role in the selection of immigrants. The first of these agreements was with Quebec government, which since 1991 has selected all economic immigrants seeking to settle in the province. Starting in the late 1990s, agreements based in part on Quebec's led to the launch of provincial nominee programs (PNPs) in all the other provinces, Yukon and the Northwest Territories.

PNPs have grown to the point where they admit about one-quarter of economic immigrants. Consistent with one of their initial goals, PNPs have led to a shift in the destinations of newcomers, to the benefit of smaller provinces such as Manitoba. There has also been a multiplication of entry streams, including for temporary foreign workers with experience in the province, business investors, families of immigrants admitted under a PNP, and international student graduates. Drawing on recent interview research, this study examines the evolution of PNPs in four provinces - Manitoba, British Columbia, Alberta and Nova Scotia - and assesses the implications for policy coherence and coordination in the context of multilateral governance.

Under their agreements with Ottawa, provincial governments have had considerable leeway to shape their nominee programs to respond to specific economic and labour market needs. However, major program integrity issues have emerged in a number of provinces, particularly with business investor programs (a number of which have been closed or suspended due to inadequate application of eligibility and admissibility requirements, and fraud). In recent years, the federal government has reasserted its role - notably to press for greater program integrity - and introduced policy changes that apply to all PNPs (such as minimum language requirements for candidates). Since these policy changes were introduced in 2009, there have also been significant tensions over the caps on the number of nominees each provincial government may accept.

The federal government has addressed these issues in large measure with each of the individual provinces concerned. As a result of this bilateral dynamic, some decisions may not be sufficiently informed by broader policy perspectives and experience in other provinces. Moreover, some program innovations may not take sufficient account of the implications for the immigration system as a whole - as demonstrated by the growing use of PNPs as a channel to permanent residence for temporary workers (who are not screened as fully as applicants for the Federal Skilled Worker Program). In light of these developments, the author proposes that the federal and participating provincial and territorial governments jointly develop a vision and framework for PNPs, including shared objectives, in order to encourage greater coordination and chart future directions for these important programs.

Résumé

Dans la foulée d'une série d'accords signés avec Ottawa depuis 20 ans, les gouvernements sous-nationaux du Canada en sont venus à jouer un rôle majeur dans la sélection des immigrants. Le premier de ces accords avait été conclu avec le gouvernement du Québec, qui choisit depuis 1991 tous les immigrants économiques désireux de s'y établir. À partir de la fin des années 1990, d'autres accords en partie inspirés par celui avec le Québec ont mené à la création de programmes des candidats des provinces (PCP) dans toutes les autres provinces, au Yukon et dans les Territoires du Nord-Ouest.

Depuis, les PCP se sont développés au point qu'environ le quart des immigrants économiques sont admis au pays à titre de candidats des provinces. Et conformément à l'un des objectifs initiaux des programmes, les destinations d'établissement des nouveaux arrivants ont changé au profit de provinces plus petites comme le Manitoba. Les PCP ont aussi multiplié les volets des programmes, en en créant notamment pour les travailleurs étrangers temporaires ayant une expérience dans une province donnée, les investisseurs, les familles d'immigrants admises en vertu d'un PCP et les étudiants étrangers diplômés. …

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