On February 16, 2022, Alberta announced several changes to its Provincial Nominee Program. These changes are part of the “Alberta Advantage Immigration Strategy” to attract global skills and talent, diversify the provincial economy, and support newcomers in Alberta.

The first change announced was the renaming of the Alberta Immigrant Nominee Program (“AINP”), a federal-provincial program that nominates individuals for Permanent Residence in Alberta based on stream-specific requirements, to the Alberta Advantage Immigration Program (“AAIP”). Similarly, three existing entrepreneur streams were renamed:

    • The International Graduate Entrepreneur Immigration Stream is now the Graduate Entrepreneur Stream;
    • The Foreign Graduate Start-Up Visa Stream is now the Foreign Graduate Entrepreneur Stream; and
    • The Self-Employed Farmer Stream is now the Farm Stream.

Program eligibility criteria for existing streams and pathways remain unchanged. However, moving forward, candidates who have applied to be nominated by the province via Alberta’s online portal must now submit any future nomination extension requests using the portal. All other post-decision steps remain the same.

In addition to the above, Alberta announced the creation of two new rural immigration streams to Permanent Residence – the Rural Entrepreneur Stream and the Rural Renewal Stream. These new streams aim to promote population growth, reduce workforce shortages, and spread immigration to aging rural Albertan communities. Eligible rural communities are those outside the Calgary and Edmonton Census Metropolitan Area, with a population of less than 100,000.

A Breakdown of the New Streams

The Rural Entrepreneur Stream was designed for foreign entrepreneurs who want to start a new business or buy an existing business in participating rural Alberta communities. To be eligible, interested foreign entrepreneurs must meet the following criteria:

    • Within the past 10 years, have a minimum of three (3) years of work experience as an active business owner/manager OR four (4) years of work experience as a senior manager;
    • Have completed the equivalent of a Canadian secondary (high school) or higher-level education. If studies were completed outside Canada, an Educational Credential Assessment is required;
    • Have scored at least a Canadian Language Benchmark (“CLB”) 4 for each language skill area in a designated Official Language Exam. The AAIP only accepts these language tests:
    • Have a minimum net worth of CAD 300,000.00 equivalent. All assets must be the candidate’s own personal holdings or spouse’s or common-law partner’s;
    • Make a minimum investment of CAD 200,000 equivalent from own (and/or spouse/common-law partner) equity. Higher levels of investment receive more points;
    • If starting a new business, must have minimum ownership of 51% (Business Partners must be Canadian Citizens or Permanent Residents) OR if continuing an established business, must have 100% ownership. *Business must not be on the list of ineligible businesses; and
    • New businesses must create at least one full-time job that lasts for a period of at least 6 months for Canadian Citizens or Permanent Residents (not including relatives). If continuing an established business, job creation is not required.

To proceed through this stream, eligible foreign entrepreneurs must first conduct exploratory visits to the rural Albertan community they wish to establish or purchase a business and present a designated community representative with a Business Proposal Summary. If the business is considered a benefit to the community, the summary will be endorsed and a Community Support Letter will be issued. With this letter, an eligible foreign entrepreneur can submit an Expression of Interest (“EOI”) to be nominated by the province via the AAIP portal. Once the AAIP receives an EOI, it is placed in a pool of qualified candidates for up to 12 months. EOIs with the highest-ranking points may be contacted directly by the AAIP to submit a Business Application. If their Business Application is approved the candidate will receive an Approval letter and/or nomination certificate, with which they can then apply for Permanent Residence.

The Rural Renewal Stream aims to empower rural Albertan communities with meeting their labour needs by recruiting newcomers to live, work, and settle there. As such, this stream is community-driven and consists of a two-step process:

1. Community Designation Process

      • Rural communities wanting to participate must fill out a Community Designation Application form and apply to become a designated community. Once a community is selected to participate, they will be represented by an economic development or similar organization to work with employers and settlement-providing organizations to recruit/endorse newcomers and help them settle.

*For the first year, only a limited amount of communities will be selected to participate as designated rural communities.

2. AAIP Application Submission Process

      • Eligible candidates apply through the AAIP Portal. If the application is approved, a provincial nominee package will be sent to the candidate by email.

The minimum eligibility requirements for interested candidates are:

    • Have an Endorsement of Candidate letter from their designated community;
    • Have a bona fide full-time (30 hours per week) and permanent job offer or employment contract from an Alberta employer to work in an eligible occupation in your designated community;
    • Have the required licences, registration or certification to practise their current occupation in Alberta or the occupation listed in their job offer in Alberta;
    • Before submitting an application, have a minimum of 12 months of full-time work experience in an eligible occupation in the 18 months,  gained in Alberta, in Canada (outside Alberta) or abroad;
    • Meet the following official language test scores in English or French from an approved official language test provider:
National Occupational Classification (NOC) Skill Level Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) test score required Niveaux de compétence linguistique canadiens (NCLC) test score required
If job offer is for NOC 0, A or B occupation Minimum of 5 for each English language skill Minimum of 5 for each French language skill
If job offer is for NOC C or D occupation Minimum of 4 for each English language skill Minimum of 4 for each French language skill
    • Have completed the equivalent of a Canadian secondary (high school) or higher-level education. If studies were completed outside Canada, an Educational Credential Assessment is required; and
    • Have sufficient funds readily available to support themselves and accompanying family members to settle in the designated community if not residing in Canada or if in Canada but not working.

 Closing Thoughts

The Alberta Government’s continued commitment to creating immigration streams intended to drive local economic growth and provide expedient pathways to Permanent Residence for skilled and talented professionals and entrepreneurs around the globe is commendable. As such, foreign workers and entrepreneurs interested in contributing new perspectives, business ideas and innovation to rural Albertan communities may wish to consider these new streams. Other provinces/territories may also benefit from re-examining their existing programs, revamping them, and introducing new programs that address community-specific challenges that can be resolved through strategic immigration initiatives.

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