Ontario will create a new immigration stream for tech workers and a new immigration pilot initiative with the goal of attracting highly skilled immigrants to smaller communities around the province, the province’s government announced April 11 in its 2019 budget.
The initiatives are among four immigration-focused priorities outlined in the province’s new $163.4 billion budget, which was unveiled Thursday afternoon in Toronto.
“The Province is responding to the needs of Ontario’s employers by attracting the skilled workers they need through enhancements to the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program (OINP),” the budget says.
“Through modernization of the OINP, and in tandem with its other initiatives, the government will continue to ensure that Ontario’s workforce remains among the most highly skilled for the modern economy.”
Dedicated stream for tech workers
To this end, the budget says the government will create a “dedicated stream to help Ontario’s technology sector attract highly skilled employees,” though no details were provided beyond this.
CIC News has asked the OINP for more information on this and the other immigration plans outlined in the budget and will provide updates when they become available.
The new dedicated tech immigration stream would feed Ontario’s booming tech sector in cities such as Toronto, Ottawa and Waterloo, which have all seen significant high-tech job growth in recent years.
The OINP has targeted foreign tech workers in the past through its Human Capital Priorities Stream. The stream is linked to the federal Express Entry system, which manages the pool of candidates for three of Canada’s main economic immigration categories — the Federal Skilled Worker Class, Federal Skilled Trades Class and Canadian Experience Class.
Immigration pilot for smaller communities
The budget says the government will also begin a pilot initiative “to explore innovative approaches to bring highly skilled immigrants” to smaller communities around the province.
The government said the pilot’s purpose will be to “spread the benefits of immigration to smaller communities.”
The proposed pilot follows calls from community leaders in Northern Ontario for a program similar to the Atlantic Immigration Pilot (AIP), a joint federal-provincial initiative that allows designated employers in Canada’s four Atlantic provinces to recruit skilled foreign workers for jobs they haven’t been able to fill locally.
Canada recently unveiled a Northern and Rural Immigration Pilot similar to the AIP that will help small or isolated communities in provinces and territories outside Atlantic Canada to recruit foreign workers.
Expanding eligible in-demand occupations
Ontario’s new budget also says the government will seek to include truck drivers and personal support workers under the occupations that are eligible for the OINP’s Employer Job Offer: In-Demand Skills Stream.
Among other criteria, the stream allows the OINP to nominate foreign workers with a permanent and full-time job offer from an Ontario employer in one of its eligible occupations to apply to live and work permanently in Ontario.
Eligible occupations under the stream are classified by Canada’s National Occupation Classification (NOC) as Skill Level C or D.
The fourth immigration-related innovation in Ontario’s 2019 budget is the government’s promise to “recalibrate” investment and net worth thresholds for the OINP’s Entrepreneur Stream.
The government said doing so will “make Ontario more competitive with other provinces” and expand the province’s base of prospective candidates.
The current minimum net worth under the stream’s eligibility requirements varies depending on where the business will be located:
$1,500,000 minimum net worth for entrepreneurs hoping to locate within the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).
$800,000 minimum net worth for entrepreneurs hoping to locate their business outside the GTA.
$800,000 minimum net worth for entrepreneurs in the ICT/Digital Communications sector regardless of where they want their business to be located.
The current minimum personal investment thresholds are:
$1,000,000 minimum personal investment if the proposed business will be located within the GTA.
$500,000 minimum personal investment if the proposed business will be located outside the GTA.
$500,000 minimum personal investment if the proposed business will be in the ICT/Digital Communications sector regardless of location.
“Fair” OINP allocation
The budget calls on Canada’s federal government to work with Ontario to ensure the OINP’s annual allocation through Canada’s Provincial Nominee Program is “fair.”
The OINP receives an allocation each year from Canada’s federal government that allows it to nominate a set number of economic immigration candidates for permanent residence in the province.
The OINP’s 2019 allocation is 6,900, which fell short of Ontario’s request for an allocation of 7,600 nominations.
The allocation represents a small part of annual immigration to Ontario, which totalled 137,410 newcomers in 2018.