The Edmonton Journal contains a story today about an Edmonton family that faces deportation (or at the time of writing has just been deported) from Canada after living in Alberta for ten years. The family arrived on the principal applicant’s student visa, and then continued to stay when the principal applicant obtained a work permit.  According to the article,  there was never an opportunity for the parent to apply for permanent residence due to the lack of a program for low-skilled workers.  Throughout the article, the notion that there are no immigration programs for people with low-skilled jobs is frequently repeated.

Though this is generally the case, there are notable exceptions. In addition to the family class stream and the availability of an exemption to a visa requirement based on humanitarian & compassionate grounds,  it is possible for low-skilled workers to immigrate under provincial programs designed to facilitate permanent residency for people in certain “low-skilled or semi-skilled” occupations.

In British Columbia, low skilled workers can apply for permanent residency through the “Entry-Level and Semi-Skilled Pilot Project.  This program is available until August 31, 2011 (although it may be extended).

Under the program, individuals in select occupations in the tourism/hospitality, food processing, and long-haul trucking industries can apply for permanent residence. Eligible jobs include:

  • Hotel front desk clerks
  • Tour and travel guides
  • Outdoor sport and recreational guides
  • Casino occupations
  • Hosts/Hostesses
  • Bartenders
  • Food and beverage servers
  • Food counter attendants, kitchen helpers, and related occupations
  • Light duty cleaners
  • Specialized cleaners
  • Janitors, caretakers, and building superintendents
  • Doorkeepers, hotel guest services attendants
  • Dry cleaning and laundry occupations at hotels
  • Ironing, pressing and finishing occupations at hotels
  • Attendant, Sauna room at hotels
  • Long haul truckers
  • Process control and machine operators
  • Industrial butchers
  • Meat cutters
  • Poultry preparers
  • Fish plant workers
  • Testers and graders
  • Labourers in food, beverage, and tobacco processing
  • Labourers in fish processing.

Additional requirements are that:

  • The applicant must have worked full-time for their BC employer for a period of nine consecutive months;
  • The applicant must have continuing full-time employment with the same employer at the time of the application to the BC PNP;
  • If the applicant was hired under a Labour Market Opinion, the offered wage must be equal to or higher than that in the employment contract;
  • Applicants must have basic proficiency in English; and
  • The employer must have five or more paid full-time staff.

Alberta, and many other provinces, contain similar programs.

The message is clear: People employed on temporary work permits in a “low-skilled job” (or a “stepping stone” or “non-career job” – as a client recently described her job to me) should not assume that they are ineligible for permanent residence.

However, the rules for this program are stringent. I frequently receive e-mails from people who either think they qualify for the program and don’t, or don’t think they qualify for the program and do.  If you are at all unsure, you should seek advice before you start the process.