Two lab technicians in white coats

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Manitoba is launching Canada’s first fast-track immigration program for international students who have a degree in Science, Technology, Engineering or Math.

The new International Education Stream is only for international students who have studied in Manitoba and has several tiers. The most generous will allow recent graduates to apply for permanent resident status as soon as they graduate, without a job offer or any work experience. The province will begin accepting applications in April 2018.

Ben Rempel, the assistant deputy minister of immigration and economic opportunities in the Manitoba, says the new stream prioritizes Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) graduates to boost the number of skilled immigrants contributing to Manitoba’s economy.

“While we have provided the opportunity for international students to apply and stay as permanent residents in Canada, we haven’t fully leveraged their potential as contributors to our labour market,” said Rempel. “Our thinking behind redesigning our pathways for international students, and introducing this new International Education Stream is really about how we could better leverage the economic potential of international students coming here with specific labour market goals in mind.”

Headshot of Ben Rempel, assistant deputy Minister of immigration in Manitoba

Ben Rempel is assistant deputy minister of immigration and economic opportunities in Manitoba

Rempel said the province chose STEM in response to a worrying increase in enrolment in low-skill programs.

“We found two things that were not optimum; students were choosing the quickest programs, not necessarily the ones that match their career interests, and they were staying in jobs that weren’t really advancing those career interests in order to qualify for a nomination,” Rempel explained.

According to provincial statistics, international student enrolment at universities in Manitoba rose by 117 per cent between 2009 and 2015, compared to a 154 per cent at colleges.

“Our goal is to shift the balance of our incentives and say, we want you to study in the programs that are relevant and important for your career pathways, and we want you to find and be successful in an employment opportunity to use that training.

“That way everybody benefits; the student is doing what they need to do to advance their career aspirations, the colleges and universities are receiving students choosing programs for the right reasons, the labour market for Manitoba is much more targeted and beneficial.”

Last month, the province announced a renewal of its provincial nomination program. The renewal process includes changes to the online application system, updated requirements of current immigration streams and pathways, and the introduction of the new International Education Stream, which will come into effect next April.

STEM students who have completed an internship or apprenticeship in Manitoba as part of a master or doctoral degree will be eligible to apply for permanent resident status through the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program immediately after graduation.

Recent graduates of undergraduate programs and trades programs in Manitoba may also apply immediately, but only if they have a job offer from a Manitoba employer, the job is related to their degree, and if it is on a provincial list of occupations where there are shortages of workers. There are currently 134 jobs on the in-demand list; they range from floor covering installers to aircraft instrument technician to graphic designers and pharmacists.

Graphic showing enrolment growth in Manitoba

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International students who graduated outside Manitoba are not eligible to apply to this stream, but may apply to the renewed Skilled Workers in Manitoba Stream.

Manitoba’s new immigration program for international students is being launched as Alberta is shutting down its only program for international students. Alberta is now one of the only provinces in Canada without a special program designed to retain international students after graduation.

Provincial nomination programs are a popular route to permanent resident status for international students. Although students may apply for permanent resident directly through the federal government, many do not qualify for federal programs. Provinces can nominate someone for permanent resident status. The federal government then screens them for things like criminal record, health concerns and human rights violations.

Rempel assures students who have already submitted an application to the old program that they will not be affected by the renewal process. He advised interested students to check the MPNP website for changes regularly as it will be updated throughout 2018. An information session regarding the MPNP renewal process has been set for Dec. 6, 2017.

Rempel says the province is also looking into creating more immigration pathways specific to other professions like medicine and agriculture.

“We’re definitely in conversations with our partners in agriculture, and we’re definitely interested in what we could do in a more targeted way for medical and other professions,” says Rempel. “This is the beginning; if we can find innovative and responsive, new pathways that meet the needs of specific sectors or industries, we would certainly do something.”

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