Manitoba is planning to introduce a few innovative measures to attract more immigrants to the rural areas of the province, which are facing a serious demographic challenge because of an aging population and lower fertility rate. As part of these measures, Manitoba will be bringing out a rural immigration toolkit to help the rural communities in the coming weeks. The toolkit is expected to make it easier for employers and community leaders in the rural areas of Manitoba to recruit, welcome and integrate immigrants to the smaller towns of the province.
Data shows that, in the past 20 years, 20 per cent of the 130,000 immigrants to Manitoba have settled in rural areas. However, Manitoba has taken a few important steps to improve that figure by helping employers in rural areas recruit foreign workers. These include:
· Giving input to the employers on selecting applicants and hiring them from applicant pools.
· mproving accessibility of the employers to the Labour Market Impact Assessment-exempt work permits under the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program (MPNP) and thus increasing the direct recruitment of foreign workers.
· Organizing international recruitment events and the hiring workers on exploratory visits.
· Streamlining the recruitment of higher skilled, higher wage workers.
The new measures planned by the province include launching a new rural investment immigration stream in collaboration with the federal government, similar to that of British Columbia. The existing Business Investor Stream of Manitoba is extremely investor-friendly and the investment requirement is comparatively lower. Moreover, Manitoba gives extra points to the entrepreneurs who plan to invest in rural projects.
Another plan of Manitoba is to implement a formal public commitment to invest MPNP application fee revenues in the integration projects for newcomers, including in rural areas. The province is also planning to modernise the existing Canada-Manitoba Immigration Agreement, signed in 2003, with an aim to prioritize rural economic development by improving flexibility.
Manitoba also wants to move away from what it describes as the federal ‘one size fits all’ approach. The province plans to take efforts to reduce the processing time of applications, as it welcomes 90 percent of its economic immigrants through MPNP. Manitoba finds the discrepancy in processing times between federal and provincial candidates as unfair. While the applicants to federal programs receive PR visa within six months, most provincial nominees have to wait for almost 18 months for the same. It affects the arrival of immigrants and employers to its rural communities of Manitoba and unnecessarily delays families joining the newcomers. So, the province is looking for an effective solution to the problem.
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