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'They are in stress, panic': International students, foreign workers protest for changes in Manitoba

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A group of international students are calling for changes in how Manitoba decides who can stay in the province with permanent residency.

Dozens of people gathered on the front steps of the Manitoba Legislature Monday, calling for changes to the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP). The program offers three streams for people to immigrate to Manitoba, including skilled workers, international education and business investors.

Among the crowd, international students and skilled workers who are in Manitoba on temporary work permits chanted for change in the program. The protest organizers say the requirement to receive the status is impossible to achieve for those transferring to Manitoba after graduation.

"Their temporary statuses are expiring soon. They are in stress, panic," said protest organizer Inderjit Gill, a former international student who has been through the provincial nominee program.

He said students who have been working in the province for the past two years have been waiting for an invitation to apply for the program. He said since 2022, to be invited to the program applicants must collect around 700 points awarded based on education, experience, age, and language ability.

It's a requirement the protesters say those who previously studied or worked outside the province cannot achieve due to deductions.

"They should lower the points and we can meet the requirements so everybody can be on the same page and can get their permanent residence," said Mandeep Rohilla, an international student applying for the program.

In addition to lowering the score cut-off, the group wants the province to give an extension to work permits set to expire.

"These are the frontline workers who move here from other provinces to make Manitoba better," Gill said during the protest. "We want steady growth for Manitoba and they are the ones contributing to that growth."

In a prepared statement to CTV News, Advanced Education, Skills and Immigration Minister Jon Reyes said he anticipates changes will be coming to the provincial nominee program.

He said the Manitoba Immigration Advisory Council has been exploring ways to improve current policies and programs, including the provincial nominee points system.

"I've spoken with many postgraduates who have created lives for themselves here in Manitoba, and I’m always open to suggestions if it helps the settlement of newcomers who can contribute to our province’s economy," Reyes said in the statement.

He said a report from the advisory council, which will include recommendations, is expected to be released soon.

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