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Immigration Implications of Alberta Recovery Plan

As Alberta looks to the future and re-energizing the provincial economy in the face of COVID-19 and the ongoing shocks to the oil and gas sector, immigration will be at the forefront. While appreciating the impacts of a triple threat to the province and the road ahead to recovery, Alberta has released a Recovery Plan to aid in the re-build and growth. 

In particular, Alberta will create a new provincial sub-agency and program entitled “Invest Alberta.” This new provincial agency will aid in an aggressive worldwide campaign to attract job investment and provide assistance to prospective investors. Although no announcement has been made to amend the Provincial Nominee Program to aid in immigration programs in this regard, we anticipate that the details will be hammered out in short order. 

For now, Alberta has identified that one of the key factors holding back Alberta’s technology sector is a lack of individuals with relevant skills. While recognizing the deep crisis that the province is in, Alberta will advocate the federal government to remove most occupational categories under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program for work permits in Alberta. The Minister of Labour and Immigration will use Alberta’s authority under the Temporary Foreign Worker Annex of the Agreement for Canada-Alberta Cooperation on Immigration to add dozens of additional occupational categories to the “refusal to process list,” effectively removing the vast majority of occupations from the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. A small number of specialized occupations experiencing acute and proven labour shortages will be exempted, and the government will enhance services to connect employers with available workers.

As committed to in last year’s provincial election, the Alberta government will complete policy work to reform the Alberta Immigration Nominee Program into the Alberta Advantage Immigration Program, creating at least four new streams to spur job-creating entrepreneurship, tech start-8-ventures, and boost economic growth in rural communities. The province will accelerate the implementation of two new Alberta Immigrant Nominee Program (“AINP”) streams committed to in last year’s platform: the Foreign Graduate Startup Visa Program and the International Student Entrepreneurship Program. The launch of these programs will be matched by an aggressive promotional campaign to attract newcomers to Alberta.

Alberta will also help connect employers to unemployed Albertans and aim to make job training programs more responsive. As international travel is still heavily restricted and with the continued high unemployment numbers, Alberta will also reduce its nominee target by a third, from 6,250 permanent resident nominations this year to no more than 4,000. The government of Alberta has also pledged that it will request the federal government to reduce levels in its immigration plan, as Canada did in response to the 1981 recession.

For 2020, Alberta will focus on connecting unemployed Albertans – including thousands of new Canadians who have arrived in recent years – with available jobs and will reduce the number of unemployed newcomers struggling to find work in a very tough labour market. The government will look to increase AINP levels again once durable economic growth has returned, unemployment has declined significantly, and international travel is normalized.

At the same time, the Government of Alberta will accelerate the implementation of its Fairness for Newcomers Action Plan, supported by the recently adopted Fair Registrations Practices Act. This will reduce barriers to employment for newcomers by streamlining recognition of their skills, credentials, and education getting new arrivals work that makes the most of their skills and education.