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Rural immigration program expanding to benefit Shuswap employers

Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot operating in Vernon since 2020
Macton Milton Gomez (left) and Harigaranraj Ramakichenin are both employees of Tamil Kitchen in Nelson under the Rural and Norther Immigration Program. This employment puts them on a fast track to permanent resident status, and helps the business owner with the local labour shortage. (Bill Metcalfe photo)

Employers in the Shuswap will soon have access to skilled employees through a rural immigration program.

On Tuesday, Oct. 11, Community Futures announced the federal government’s Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot (RNIP) program, which launched February 2020 in the Vernon-North Okanagan area, is expanding to include Salmon Arm, Sicamous and other Shuswap communities.

The program, which offers an expedited path to permanent residency for immigrants with permanent work, will run until August 2024.

“Many employers in the Shuswap have been watching this pilot in the North Okanagan and are looking forward to participating,” said Rob Marshall, executive director with Community Futures Shuswap in a media release. “Once they’ve received the training and become pre-approved, eligible employers will have immediate access to a large database of qualified candidates who can apply for their jobs.

“The well-established processes will help many businesses and organizations find skilled immigrants who will be readily welcomed in our communities.”

Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot (RNIP) is a federal pilot project “designed to spread the benefits of economic immigration to smaller communities by creating a path to permanent residence for skilled foreign workers and their families,” reads the release.

“This expansion will help our entire region by filling more jobs in a broader range of industries,” said Leigha Horsfield with Community Futures North Okanagan, and manager of the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot program.

Read more: Pilot project aims to fill labour gaps in North Okanagan

Read more: Immigration program not taking away North Okanagan jobs

As of September 2022, RNIP Vernon-North Okanagan has made recommendations for permanent residency for 296 individuals and their immediate family members. More than 170 businesses in the North Okanagan have filled vacant, full-time permanent positions.

“We are also pleased with another change in the program that now allows immigrant doctors to claim their self-employment years as qualifying employment,” said Horsefield. “This change will open RNIP to more health care professionals, who are needed in many communities.”

While the end date has been extended to August 2024, applications will be accepted only until February 2024 to allow for a validation period prior to making recommendations for permanent residency. Applicants with full-time job offers are encouraged to complete and submit their requirements as early as possible.

RNIP North Okanagan Shuswap has received funding from the Province of British Columbia, the Economic Trust of the Southern Interior (ETSI-BC) and the City of Vernon.

The RNIP North Okanagan Shuswap boundary now includes Vernon, Salmon Arm, Armstrong, Enderby, Lake Country, Coldstream, Sicamous, Spallumcheen, Chase, Lumby, the Splatsin First Nation and the Adams Lake, Neskonlith, Okanagan and Little Shuswap bands, and several unincorporated areas within the North Okanagan, Columbia Shuswap, Central Okanagan and Thompson Nicola regional districts.

Employers who want to learn more about RNIP can email For other questions regarding the pilot, visit the Government of Canada’s website.
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Lachlan Labere

About the Author: Lachlan Labere

Editor of the Salmon Arm Observer, Shuswap Market, and Eagle Valley News. I'm always looking for new and exciting ways to keep our readers informed and engaged.
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