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Alberta adds two new immigration paths for international students

Alberta Immigrant Nominee Program (AINP) has added two new pathways for international student graduates who want to start a business in the province. The International Graduate Entrepreneur Immigration Stream (IGEIS) is open as of October 26, 2020, while a new Foreign Graduate Start-Up Visa Stream aimed at graduates from U.S. universities will open in January 2021.

The two new streams are directed at assisting Alberta’s economic recovery from the coronavirus crisis by attracting investment and creating jobs in the province. The streams are for recent international student graduates from Alberta post-secondary institutions. The streams operate on an expression of interest system, which is now open to submissions.

Doug Schweitzer, Alberta’s minister of jobs, economy and innovation, said the government wants “the best and brightest talent from around the world” to come to the province.

We’ve heard loud and clear from our technology sector that access to skilled workers has been a challenge…This announcement is a big step towards addressing this talent gap, encouraging the entrepreneurial spirit of newcomers, and helping grow the companies that will diversify our economy.

Hon. Doug Schweitzer

International Graduate Entrepreneur Immigration Stream (IGEIS)

The new International Graduate Entrepreneur Stream (IGEIS) is already open for Expressions of Interest. Candidates must initially establish or operate their business for at least 12 months while in Alberta on a work permit, before being nominated for permanent residence once the terms of a Business Performance Agreement are met.

Eligibility criteria

To be eligible for this stream, applicants must meet the following criteria:

Table 1: Requirements for IGEIS

Work ExperienceHave a minimum of 6 months of full-time work experience that can be a combination of actively managing or owning the business or equivalencies. For example, experience with a business incubator or business accelerator, or completion of entrepreneurship program courses.*
EducationHave completed at least two years of full-time education in Alberta, resulting in a degree or diploma from a designated post-secondary institution in Alberta. Completion of program of study must result in for a Post-Graduation Work Permit.See the list of designated post-secondary institutions in Alberta.
Work PermitHave a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) valid for at least 2 years at the time of your Expression of Interest (EOI) submission.
LanguageHave a minimum Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) level of 7 for each in one of the following: Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking. Official test results must be less than 2 years old at the time your EOI is submitted. Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program (CELPIP) General TestInternational English Language Testing System (IELTS) General Training TestTest d’évaluation de français (TEF)Test de connaissance du français (TCF)
Business EstablishmentMust establish a new business or buy an existing business in Alberta with a minimum 34% ownership. The proposed business type must not be on the list of ineligible businesses.

Factors that increase your IGEIS chances

If you have one or more of the following adaptability factors, this may increase your likelihood of receiving a Request to submit Business Application for IGEIS:

Table 2: Factors that increase your IGEIS chances

CriteriaAdaptability factors
Economic benefitCan provide economic benefit to Alberta through:job creationeconomic sectorbusiness location (for example, rural)business successioninvestmentdeveloped intellectual propertypartnership or support from business incubator/accelerator, venture capital or angel investor
Age21 to 49 years
SpouseYour spouse or common-law partner has at least one of the following:at least 1 year of continuous full-time employment in Albertacompleted at least 2 years of full-time study at a post-secondary institution in Albertaa minimum level CLB 5 in English or NCLC 5 in French in all 4 language abilities (Reading, Writing, Listening, Speaking)
Alberta relativeYou, or your spouse or common-law partner, have one or more of the following relatives living full-time in Alberta: father, step-father, mother, step-mother, child, step-child, sister, step-sister, brother, step-brother

AINP Self-Assessment Tool

Review the Self-Assessment Tool to ensure you meet program eligibility requirements.

Selection from EOI pool

The AINP is currently accepting Expression of Interests (EOI) under the IGEIS. The information provided in the EOI, the Business Proposal Summary and Net Worth Worksheet will be assessed and points will be awarded by the AINP based on the IGEIS Points Grid. Alberta may select candidates with the highest-ranking points and invite them to submit a Business Application.

For more information on the application process, see How to apply.

Table 3: IGEIS Points Grid

Business Establishment Factors (75 points)
Business Management or Ownership or equivalent (equivalencies include work experience with a business incubator or business accelerator or completion of entrepreneurship program courses)(Maximum of 15 points)Mandatory requirement6 months (mandatory minimum)5
1 year10
> 1 year15
Economic Benefit(Maximum of 40 points)Not a mandatory requirementEconomic benefitsEconomic development sector (e.g. energy; agriculture; technology/data/telecom/ aviation/aerospace; financial services/fintech15
Job Creation (max 15 points): 
1 job5
2 jobs10
3 or more jobs15
Rural (outside Edmonton and Calgary Census Metropolitan Areas)5
Total Business Investment(Maximum of 20 points)Not a mandatory requirement$25,000 or less5
$25,001 to $50,00010
$50,001 to $75,00015
$75,001 or more20
Human Capital Factors (25 points)
Language Proficiency(Maximum of 15 points)Mandatory requirementProficiency in English or French: 
CLB 7 (7 for each Reading, Writing, Learning and Speaking) (mandatory minimum)5
CLB 8 (8 for each Reading, Writing, Learning and Speaking)12
CLB 9 or higher (9 for each Reading, Writing, Learning and Speaking)15
Alberta Education(Maximum of 10 points)Mandatory requirementBachelor’s degree or a 2-year Diploma (mandatory minimum)5
2 or more degrees or diplomas7
Master’s degree or higher10
Adaptability Factors (25 points)
Age(Maximum of 5 points)Not a mandatory requirement21 to 49 years5
Spouse/Common-law characteristics(Maximum of 10 points)Not a mandatory requirementYour spouse/common-law partner has one or more of the following:at least 1 year of continuous full-time employment in Albertacompleted at least 2 years of full-time study at a post-secondary institution in Albertaa minimum level CLB 5 in English or NCLC 5 in French in all 4 language abilities10(if one or more characteristics are met)
Alberta relatives(Maximum of 10 points)Not a mandatory requirementRelatives are defined as father, step-father, mother, step-mother, child, step-child, sister, step-sister, brother, step-brother of applicant or spouse/common-law partner10
Maximum Points 125

IGEIS Selection and notification process

Once the AINP receives your Business Application, they will assess it against the eligibility criteria and your EOI Points will be verified. An AINP Official may contact you for more information.

The AINP does not guarantee that all complete Business Applications received will be assessed or that all candidates who meet the assessment criteria will be issued a nomination. Review the declaration for the International Graduate Entrepreneur Immigration Stream available on the AINP Portal and the AINP Terms and Conditions for complete information. Submission of a Business Application or nomination by the AINP does not guarantee you will be issued a permanent resident visa.

Ineligibility for IGEIS

You are not eligible to apply under IGEIS if:

  • You have an active nomination which has not expired and/or is eligible for extension under another AINP stream. Candidates are only eligible for one AINP Nomination Certificate.
  • You have been issued a letter on a previous AINP application that stated you are not eligible to re-apply to the AINP for a specified period of time. If you apply during the specified period, it will be declined.
  • You have had a removal order issued against you by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) or Canada Border Services Agency. The AINP does not intervene in the federal refugee claim, appeal or removal process.
  • You are a foreign national living or working in Canada with no valid temporary resident status.
  • Your business is on the list of ineligible businesses below.

Ineligible businesses

  • Any business in contravention of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and Regulations (for example, immigration-linked investment schemes or passive investment).
  • Businesses without a value-add economic component, including:
    • pay day loan, cheque cashing and related businesses
    • businesses trading in used goods
  • Businesses that would be considered passive investment and/or lack active management, including
    • property rental, investment and leasing activities
    • real estate development/brokerage, insurance brokerage or business brokerage
    • coin-operated businesses, including laundromats and car wash operations
  • Project based or seasonal businesses
  • Home-based businesses, including bed-and-breakfasts and lodging houses
  • Businesses that are part of a succession plan. This includes businesses that:
    • are owned/operated by a close relative of the applicant
    • were previously owned/operated by a current or former AINP entrepreneur stream applicants/nominees within the past 4 years
    • have changed ownership in the past 3 years prior to IGEIS application
  • Businesses involved in producing, distributing or selling pornography or sexually explicit products or services, or providing sexually oriented services.
  • Any other type of business that by association would tend to bring the AINP and the Government of Alberta into disrepute.

Steps to Permanent Residence

1. Submit an Expression of Interest

Candidates who meet eligibility criteria can submit an Expression of Interest. EOIs will be reviewed and scored within 30 days of submission. The highest-ranking candidates will be requested to submit a Business Application.

2. Submit Your Business Application Package

Candidates selected from the EOI pool must submit a Business Application with 90 days. A non-refundable $3,500 application fee must also be paid.

3. Business Application assessment

Once a candidate’s Business Application and supporting documents are received, the AINP will assess the Business Application.

If a candidate’s Business Application is approved, they will be sent a signed Business Performance Agreement (BPA). The BPA is a legal agreement between the candidate and the province of Alberta. It must be signed and returned to the AINP in 14 days. After the AINP receives the signed BPA, candidates will be issued a Business Application Approval Letter.

4. Establish Your Business in Alberta

After receiving the Business Application Approval Letter, candidates can live in Alberta and actively own and operate their business for at least 12 months, with at least 34 percent ownership. 

5. Final Report for AINP Nomination

Once the conditions of the Business Performance have been met, a final report for nomination is submitted to the AINP.

If the final report is approved, the AINP will send a nomination certificate to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and send the candidate a nomination letter.

Candidates can then apply for permanent residence to IRCC.

Foreign Graduate Start-Up Visa Stream

The Foreign Graduate Start-up Visa Stream will be launched in January 2021 to attract talented international graduates from top U.S. universities and colleges to start businesses and settle in Alberta.

More details on the stream are expected later in 2020.

See also Alberta Immigrant Nominee Program (AINP)