Ontario trying to attract more foreign workers with changes

By Paul Russell, Contributor

Proposed changes to the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program (ONIP) should benefit people wanting to become permanent residents and companies in need of skilled employees, says Toronto immigration lawyer Andrew Carvajal.

“Generally speaking, I’m very pleased with the changes put forth by the government,” says Carvajal, partner with Desloges Law Group.

“When there’s a change in government, you never know what’s going to happen, especially in terms of immigration, so we’re happy to see that the province is maintaining most of what existed before, and actually widening the scope of a few of the programs,” he tells

Carvajal says he’s pleased to see that the federal government is offering additional nominations to the provinces this year "for the exclusive use in programs aimed at semi-skilled or low-skilled workers."

According to the MEDJCT document, the federal government has distributed 2,000 additional in-demand spaces across all provinces and territories for 2019, with Ontario receiving 250.

“I’m glad the federal government is incentivizing the idea of bringing in needed workers through provincial programs,” says Carvajal.

A background document from the Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade (MEDJCT) notes that the “In-Demand Skills Stream is the only immigration pathway for individuals with a job offer or work experience in a skilled labour occupation to secure permanent residence in Ontario.”

To increase uptake to this program, Carvajal says the province is reducing the Ontario work experience requirement from one year to nine months, as well as expanding the list of jobs eligible for this program.

Three new proposed job categories are transport-truck drivers, nurse aides or orderlies, and home support workers (excluding housekeepers), he says.

“These are very logical changes,” says Carvajal. “We always welcome new additions to the program, which before was limited to construction and agriculture.”

He says there’s a real shortage of truck drivers in Ontario, forcing employers to go abroad to fill those jobs.

“But once they are here, it is almost impossible for them to transition to permanent residence since truck driving is considered a non-professional occupation,” says Carvajal.

Other provinces have already set up programs for truckers, “so I’m glad to see that Ontario jumped into that as well,” he says.

The province is also making efforts to attract people to technology jobs, in part by selecting candidates in the industry through Express Entry, says Carvajal.

“The federal government has been putting a lot of effort into designing programs to attract these people, particularly people leaving the United States, or those who find that country’s immigration system too difficult to navigate,” he says.

A CBC News story reports that the Information and Communications Technology Council predicts that Canada will be short nearly 220,000 skilled workers by 2021.

“Many tech companies have a need for specific talent to grow their business, which they can’t always find here in Ontario or in Canada,” a MEDJCT spokesperson states in the story.

Carvajal says there are also changes proposed to ONIP’s entrepreneur stream, which assists immigrants who want to set up or buy businesses in Ontario.

“Currently, the minimum net-worth and investment requirement for individual entrepreneurs is significantly higher when compared to other provinces,” he says.

“The province wants to be more competitive and attract more people to Ontario, so I think reducing the minimums makes sense.”

He says Ontario is encouraging newcomers to go to small communities as well. In 2017, for example, 97 per cent of those in the program settled in just five cities: Toronto, Ottawa, Hamilton, Kitchener-Waterloo and London.

“If everyone settles in large cities, it’s going to be difficult for them to find jobs, so the province is imposing fewer requirements on employers or candidates going to the smaller communities, and that makes sense,” says Carvajal.

The ONIP changes have yet to become law, but he applauds the government for realizing that foreign workers are a real asset to the province.

“The fact that the current government is expanding the scope of some streams is really good news. I’m so glad the province is making these changes,” says Carvajal.

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