The Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program: Base Stream. A Program of Last Resort

Ontario employers considering seeking approval under the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program: General Category (“OINP: General Category” or “base program”) should carefully consider whether the program would in fact meet their objectives. The OINP: General Category is intended to be an employer driven process with a two-step program to allow employers to recruit foreign workers either from abroad or from within Canada. The first step is a Pre-Screen Application wherein the employer is evaluated against the programs criteria. The second step is the Nominee Application wherein the foreign worker is evaluated against the program’s criteria.

Once the Employer and the foreign workers successfully complete the first and second, the foreign worker may be eligible for a temporary work permit and will be eligible to apply for permanent residence as an OINP nominee. This particular OINP program operates outside of the Federal Express Entry System and as such is not subject to Express Entry’s expedited processing times. As of February 22, 2016, Federal processing times of OINP applications for permanent residents are approximately 15 months.

While the OINP continues to publish their processing times for this stream as 90 days for the employer pre-screen stage and 90 days for the nominee application to be processed, these services standard are not adhered to. This information is very misleading for employers and prospective applicants attempting immigration planning. Please refer to the OINP website information on their processing times at:

Our experience and those of our colleagues have demonstrated that the OINP is actually taking between 7-12 months to assess the employer pre-screen applications. Processing times for the second stage nominee application are likely in the same range. As an employer, if you can afford a 14 -24 month processing period before having your prospective nominee launch their permanent residence application, than the OINP base stream may serve your needs. Otherwise, this program should, until service standards improve, be considered a program of last resort.

As an employer, it may be advantageous to consider supporting an employee or future employee for permanent residence by way of seeking a permanent Labour Market Impact Assessment (“LMIA”) or by determining whether the applicant could be selected, without employer support, under the new Express Entry Program as an Ontario provincial nominee under the Human Capital Stream.

The OINP Human Capital Stream operated under Express Entry appears, from anecdotal evidence, to be working to facilitate permanent residence for Ontario bound applicants. Such applicants must score at least 400 points under the Federal Express Entry scheme and be in the Express Entry pool before being eligible for an Ontario Notification of Interest (NOI). Applicants issued an Ontario NOI have 45 days to submit an application to the OINP and pay the $1,500 Ontario OINP application fee. The OINP claims it can process OINP applications under the Human Capital Stream in 90 days. Successful applicants to the OINP Human Capital Stream are granted a nomination certificate. Provincial nomination provides them with an additional 600 points for their Express Entry profile and guarantees their selection under the Express Entry program.

Applicants should note that if they already score above 450 points under the Federal Express Entry scheme, it might be preferable to simply wait for a Federal Invitation to Apply (ITA) and bypass the Ontario NOI, as the latter would simply add unnecessary processing time and fees to the permanent residence process.

The new Express Entry system is not without its challenges. Those with LMIA exempt work permits are not considered to have an eligible “offer of employment” and may not have enough points under Express Entry to be granted an Invitation to Apply. It is for this reason that provincial nomination programs across Canada are swamped with applications and in some cases have had to pause their intake of applications to enable them to process their inventory. Ontario would be well advised to follow suit and institute a pause on their base stream intake until such time as they can reasonably meet the demands on this specific stream of the program.

Employers and prospective nominees who rely on the OINP’s published processing times as indicated on the OINP website could be faced with a rude awakening when faced with the reality of the actual OINP processing times. What is most frustrating is that the OINP continues to disseminate their 90-day per stage service standard in their direct communications with employers, applicants and representatives and even on social media via the Ministry’s Facebook page. The Ministry advises those who ask about the protracted processing times that the program is experiencing delays and to be patient.

When employers and foreign workers need to plan work permit and permanent residence applications, they should expect transparent and accurate information from the Ontario government department mandated to help employers secure key personnel for their business or organization. As a supposed partner to Ontario employers, the OINP has failed to deliver the goods. Once a program touted by employers and legal counsel as the “go to” program for eligible Ontario employers, the OINP base program is now a program of last resort. Given the delays in the base stream to date, one could only surmise that the program has reached their capacity for 2016 and is delaying applications to enable them to push existing applications into the next calendar year (2017).

For employers who need immigration solutions to meet their HR needs, planning in advance and knowing the challenges on the ground are the only ways to ensure that your plans are not scuttled.

To find out more about Ontario’s Express Entry – Human Capital Stream please see our blog Ontario’s Provincial Nominee Program under Express Entry – Human Capital Priorities Stream here:

To find out more about Ontario’s Express Entry – French Speaking Skilled Worker Stream please see our blog here:

To find out more about Express Entry and the Need for an LMIA – Permanent vs. Temporary LMIA please see our blog here: