Immigration to Canada’s biggest province is on the upswing again as the latest wave of COVID-19 wanes in Canada – and Ontario is eager to welcome even more immigrants in its bid to rebuild its economy.  

In September, the number of new permanent residents to Ontario jumped by almost 19.6 per cent, to 21,730 from 18,170 in August. 

That’s still down from the immigration levels in Ontario prior to the pandemic. 

In 2019, the last full year before the pandemic hit Canada, Ontario saw 153,395 new permanent residents. That level of immigration plummeted, falling by 45.9 per cent, last year to only 82,960 new permanent residents in Ontario. 

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But, this year, immigration is gradually coming back up again.

It now looks like immigration is poised to surpass pre-pandemic levels in Canada’s most populous province. In the first nine months of this year, 75 per cent of the way through the year, the number of new permanent residents in Ontario had already reached 85.8 per cent of the heady 2019 level.

Ontario has steadily increased the number of new permanent residents it welcomes every year, from 103,625 in 2015 to 110,035 the following year, to 111,955 in 2017, and 137,440 in 2018.

Immigration Minister Monte McNaughton wants to do even more and is asking Ottawa to double the number of skilled newcomers that Ontario can welcome.

“We are facing a historic labour shortage,” McNaughton has tweeted. “Our government wants to build back a better, stronger Ontario – but we need the people to do it.”

Employer Job Offer: In-Demand Skills Stream

Through the Employer Job Offer: In-Demand Skills stream of the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program (OINP), the province gives foreign workers with a job offer in specific in-demand occupations the opportunity to apply to permanently live and work in Ontario.

The jobs can be anywhere in Ontario (inside and outside the Greater Toronto Area) and must be in one of the following occupations in National Occupational Classification (NOC) Skill Level C or D:

  • NOC 3413 – nurse aides, orderlies and patient service associates;
  • NOC 4412 – home support workers and related occupations, excluding housekeepers;
  • NOC 7441 – residential and commercial installers and servicers;
  • NOC 7511 – transport truck drivers;
  • NOC 7521 – heavy equipment operators (except crane);
  • NOC 7611 – construction trades helpers and labourers;
  • NOC 8431 – general farm workers;
  • NOC 8432 – nursery and greenhouse workers;
  • NOC 8611 – harvesting labourers, and;
  • NOC 9462 – industrial butchers and meat cutters, poultry preparers and related workers.

Other jobs that qualify must be outside the Greater Toronto Area (City of Toronto, Durham, Halton, York and Peel regions) and can be any of the following occupations:

  • NOC 9411 – machine operators, mineral and metal processing;
  • NOC 9416 – metalworking and forging machine operators;
  • NOC 9417 – machining tool operators;
  • NOC 9418 – other metal products machine operators;
  • NOC 9421 – chemical plant machine operators;
  • NOC 9422 – plastics processing machine operators;
  • NOC 9437 – woodworking machine operators;
  • NOC 9446 – industrial sewing machine operators;
  • NOC 9461 – process control and machine operators, food, beverage and associated products processing;
  • NOC 9523 – electronics assemblers, fabricators, inspectors and testers;
  • NOC 9526 – mechanical assemblers and inspectors;
  • NOC 9536 – industrial painters, coaters and metal finishing process operators, and;
  • NOC 9537 – other products assemblers, finishers and inspectors.

Ontario operates the OINP in partnership with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), the federal immigration department in Canada.

The OINP has three immigration categories: Human Capital; Employer Job Offer, and; Business Immigration. Each category is further divided into several streams.

Human Capital Category

The Human Capital Category allows the OINP to nominate candidates who have the skills, education and work experience to contribute to Ontario’s economy and labour market. It is comprised of three Express Entry streams and two international student streams:

  • the Express Entry French-Speaking Skilled Worker Stream;
  • Express Entry Human Capital Priorities Stream;
  • Express Entry Skilled Trades Stream;
  • Masters Graduate Stream, and;
  • PhD Graduate Stream.

The Employer Job Offer Category allows applicants only if they have the support of an Ontario employer who has extended to them a full-time, indeterminate job offer. It is broken down into four streams:

  • the Foreign Worker Stream;
  • International Student Stream;
  • In-Demand Skills Stream, and;
  • Regional Immigration Pilot.

The Business Category has only one stream, the Entrepreneur stream, directed to applicants with a successful business background.

Expression of Interest System

Ontario operates an Expression of Interest system to manage the intake of five streams: Employer Job Offer (all three streams) and International Student (Masters and PhD Graduates).

The province also operates three Express Entry streams targeting applicants who have the requisite qualifications, including education, experience, language proficiency and ability to successfully establish in Ontario and contribute to the province’s economic development.

The OINP issues periodic Invitations to Apply (ITAs) through its Expression of Interest system and Notifications of Interest (NOIs) to candidates in the Express Entry pool, allowing them to apply for nomination under one of the targeted streams. The details and methodology used are published after the draws are done.

Processing times are divided into two periods: how long it takes for the province to issue the nomination and then how long it takes for the permanent resident visa to be processed and issued.

Ontario currently estimates its processing times between 60 and 90 days for most streams.

The Express Entry Skilled Trades applications are being processed within 30 to 60 days. The Business applications’ processing times depend on the complexity of each file.

The Express Entry process is simple.

  • Submit profile and enter Express Entry Pool;
  • Get issued an Invitation to Apply if the minimum points requirement I met;
  • Submit an application in 60 days;
  • Get a decision in target processing time of six months, and;
  • If successful, move to Canada.

Under Express Entry, candidates score Comprehensive Ranking System points for core factors such as age, education, work experience and language ability.

At the federal level, IRCC currently processes provincial non-Express Entry nominee applications within 15 to 19 months. For the Express Entry streams, the general average of six months applies.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, anyone entering Canada needs to have these items before they can cross the border:

  • their ArriveCAN receipt;
  • pre-entry test results;
  • proof of vaccination, and;
  • other travel documents. 

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