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Canada Relaxes Eligibility Requirements For Rural & Northern Immigration Pilot

Immigrants now have a better chance to be eligible for Canadian permanent residence if they choose to immigrate to a rural community. On December 14, 2020, the Honourable Marco E. L. Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship announced changes to make the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot (RNIP) more flexible for applicants and welcomed the first two practical nurses under the Pilot to Sault St. Marie.

The Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot is a community-driven program that spreads the benefits of economic immigration to smaller communities. It helps these communities to attract the workers they need by creating a path to permanent residence for skilled foreign workers.

New flexible requirements for Rural & Northern Immigration Pilot

Applicants for the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot no longer need to accumulate work experience over a continuous period of time. The work experience change means the one year (or 1,560 hours) of experience required in the previous three years no longer has to be continuous. Instead, Canada will count the work experience requirement if it was completed within the three years preceding the application. One year of eligible work experience is still required for the program, but candidates can now qualify for permanent residence through the community-driven program even if there were breaks in their employment.

Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot

The new requirement ensures candidates are not penalized for breaks in employment, including temporary work interruptions or layoffs caused by the pandemic, says Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).

The change is applicable to all applications received under the pilot, which gradually opened in 11 Canadian communities throughout 2020, as well as those who apply in the future.

In addition, the Minister introduced a new temporary measure that allows candidates waiting for a decision on their permanent residence applications through the RNIP to apply for a work permit without being penalized due to pandemic-related processing delays.


Candidates for the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot must still meet all other existing admissibility and program requirements, including the recommendation process in the participating RNIP community in which they wish to settle.

At the same time the Minister announced the first permanent residents accepted under RNIP. Minister Mendicino spoke of how proud he was to welcome Alexander Nangpukin Likilasua and Brilla Mercy Kunjumon, who are working as licensed practical nurses in Sault Ste. Marie, and how grateful he is for their service and dedication to their patients during the pandemic.


“Newcomers have played an outsized role in our hospitals and long-term care homes during the pandemic. They also account for roughly one in four of Canada’s licensed practical nurses—like Alexander and Brilla—and one in three of our family doctors and pharmacists. The Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot, and other pilots, are helping to get the workers we need to places like Sault Ste. Marie, where we need them. We’re going to continue working to ensure that the benefits of immigration are felt in cities and towns across our country.”

– The Honourable Marco E. L. Mendicino, P.C., M.P., Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship

“Strong economies in rural Canada benefit all Canadians. That’s why our government has invested in universal broadband and rural infrastructure, and so strongly supported our growers and producers. Our government has heard from rural leaders across the country. We have heard the call for growing the skilled workforce in rural communities through immigration. The Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot will create jobs and increase Canada’s competitive advantage.”

– The Honourable Maryam Monsef, P.C., M.P., Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Rural Economic Development

Quick facts

  • Immigrants account for 1 out of every 4 health-care workers in Canada.
  • Immigrants make up 36% of all pharmacists and family physicians across Canada, as well as 39% of all dentists, 27% of all licensed practical nurses and 35% of nurse aides and related occupations.
  • More than 40% of all newcomers to Canada between 2011 and 2016 who were working in the health-care sector were employed in the important areas of nursing and residential care facilities, as well as home health-care services.
  • Participating RNIP communities are: Thunder Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, Sudbury, Timmins and North Bay, Ontario; Gretna-Rhineland-Altona-Plum Coulee and Brandon, Manitoba; Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan; Claresholm, Alberta; and West Kootenay and Vernon, British Columbia
  • Communities are responsible for candidate recruitment and the recommendation for permanent residence.
  • RNIP is an example of new community-driven and industry-specific approaches the Government is taking to immigration. Others include the Atlantic Immigration Pilot and the Agri-Food Pilot.

See also:

About Rural & Northern Immigration Pilot

The Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot is a community-driven program. It’s designed to spread the benefits of economic immigration to smaller communities by creating a path to permanent residence for skilled foreign workers who want to work and live in one of the participating communities.

The five-year federal immigration helps smaller communities with aging populations and labour shortages, which struggle to attract and retain new immigrants.

To be included in the pilot, communities must:

  • Have a population of 50,000 or less and be located at least 75km from the core of a Census Metropolitan Area, OR
  • Have a population of up to 200,000 people and be considered remote from other larger cities, according to the Statistics Canada Remoteness Index.

Steps to Permanent Residence

  1. Candidates must check that they meet both the federal government eligibility requirements and community-specific requirements (see below).
  2. Find an eligible job with an employer in one of the participating communities (listed below).
  3. Candidates with a job offer can submit an application for recommendation to the community.
  4. Candidates with a community recommendation can apply for permanent residence.

Rural & Northern Immigration Pilot – Participating Communities

CommunityCommunity website
North Bay,
Timmins, ONTimmins RNIP
Sault Ste. Marie,
Thunder Bay,
Moose Jaw,
West Kootenay (Trail, Castlegar, Rossland, Nelson),

What you can expect from a community

This pilot is community-driven, meaning the communities will

  • assess prospective candidates who
    • best fit the economic needs of these community
    • have a genuine employment opportunity that meets their community requirements
    • have the intention of staying in the community
  • recommend candidates for permanent residence to IRCC for a final decision
  • connect newcomers with settlement services and mentoring opportunities with established members of the community