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PNPs in Focus: How Canada’s Provincial Nominee Program works

Canada’s Provincial Nominee Program has grown exponentially since its creation in the 1990s and now stands second only to the federal Express Entry system as the leading pathway to Canadian permanent residence for skilled foreign workers. 

Recent weeks have seen nominee streams in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Nova Scotia issue more than 2,500 invitations to workers with a range of skills and professional experience to apply for a nomination for Canadian permanent residence.

The Provincial Nominee Program, or PNP, gives nine Canadian provinces and two territories the power to select immigrants who meet local labour market needs and priorities.

Quebec is the only Canadian province that does not take part in the PNP. It has a separate agreement with the federal government that gives it sole responsibility for the selection of economic-class immigrants.


Since the PNP’s first year in operation in 1996, when only 233 people were admitted to Canada through the program, it has evolved to the point where its admissions target for 2019 is 61,000.

Looked at over the next three years, Canada could receive as many as 213,000 new permanent residents through the PNP alone.

The reasons for this expansion are clear: Canada’s population is ageing, its birth rate is declining and labour shortages are expanding as a result. This trend is especially heightened in smaller provinces, which are also struggling with the loss of residents to other parts of Canada.

Canada’s immigration ministry, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), spoke to this rising need for international labour in its annual report to Parliament in 2018: “While many jobs can be filled by Canadians, gaps remain … Recent projections indicate that existing labour shortages, particularly in health, sciences, skilled trades, transport and equipment, are expected to persist into the future.”

How the PNP works

IRCC provides each province and territory with an annual allocation of nominations for Canadian permanent residence that is disbursed through streams tailored to their specific labour market needs.

Combined, the 11 provinces and territories that take part in Canada’s PNP have more than 70 nomination streams that range in focus from international graduates of local universities to workers with skills listed as in-demand in the province, among other examples.

Each provincial nominee program also has at least one ‘enhanced’ nomination stream that targets candidates in the federal Express Entry system, which is Canada’s most important source of skilled foreign workers.

Express Entry manages the pool of candidates for Canada’s three Federal Skilled immigration categories the Federal Skilled Worker Class, Federal Skilled Trades Class and Canadian Experience Class.

Eligible candidates in these three classes are entered into the Express Entry pool and are issued a score under what’s called the Comprehensive Ranking System, or CRS.

The Government of Canada invites top-ranked candidates to apply for Canadian permanent residence through periodic draws from the Express Entry pool, which typically occur every two weeks.

Express Entry candidates with a provincial nomination receive an additional 600 points toward their CRS score and move to the front of the line for an invitation to apply for Canadian permanent residence.

A number of provinces have multiple Express Entry-aligned streams and a rising number of nominations have been going to Express Entry candidates in recent years. IRCC statistics for 2017 showed a 73 per cent increase in the number of provincial nominations that went to Express Entry candidates over 2016.

Streams that are not aligned with the Express Entry system are known as ‘base’ nomination streams. Base streams are of use to persons who may not be eligible for Express Entry and are particularly useful to intermediate or entry-level skilled workers who wish to permanently immigrate to Canada.

Express yourself

Beyond the enhanced/base distinction, there is considerable variety within the different provincial nominee programs when it comes to how their various streams operate.

Like the Express Entry system, many provincial nominee streams require that the applicant register a separate Expression of Interest (EOI) profile detailing among other factors their education, work experience, proficiency in English or French and, in some cases, connections to the province in question such as work or study experience.

EOI profiles are then scored according to a points grid and entered into the pool of candidates, and the highest-scoring are drawn through regular invitation rounds.

Other Express Entry-linked streams employ a so-called ‘passive’ approach that allows provincial immigration officials to search the Express Entry pool for candidates who match specific criteria and invite them to apply for a provincial nomination.

There are also streams like Category B of Nova Scotia’s Express Entry: Demand Stream that open occasionally to new applications and employ a first-come, first-served approach to accepting them.

Another key variation among PNP streams is whether they require a job offer.

While a job offer is certainly an asset, there are a number of enhanced and base nomination streams that do not require one.

Selection through these streams is based mainly on so-called human capital factors, such as work experience, language proficiency and education.

Invitation, application, nomination

Many of Canada’s most popular PNP pathways issue invitations to apply as a first step in the nomination process.

Only immigration candidates who receive an invitation can apply for a provincial nomination and complete applications must be received within a given time frame or they will not be considered.

As previously mentioned, candidates who are invited to apply for a provincial nomination through an Express Entry-aligned stream and whose application is approved are awarded an additional 600 points and will be issued an invitation to apply for Canadian permanent residence in a subsequent draw from the Express Entry pool.

Candidates nominated through a base stream apply directly to the federal government for Canadian permanent residence.

Constant innovation

Canada’s PNP streams are constantly innovating and creating new opportunities for workers who match their evolving needs.

This was the case with recent draws in Ontario and Nova Scotia that saw two key Express Entry-linked streams issue invitations to immigration candidates with work experience in specific occupations.

On May 31, Ontario’s Human Capital Priorities Stream held an unprecedented draw for Express Entry candidates with work experience in 10 occupations.

A total of 1,072 invitations went to candidates with work experience ranging from corporate sales managers and financial auditors to registered nurses.

This was followed by a June 3 draw through Nova Scotia’s Labour Market Priorities Stream for 312 Express Entry candidates with eligible work experience in early childhood education.

This was the fourth draw through the Labour Market Priorities Stream since its creation in August 2018 and the second to target early childhood educators.

These are just two of many examples of how nominee programs are constantly being adapted to meet the changing labour needs of Canada’s provinces.

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