All future applicants to the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program will have their applications processed within six months, according to the "renewed directions" for the program announced by the province on Thursday.
"We are pleased to implement higher service standards for applicants to restore the integrity of this important pathway to permanent residence in Manitoba," said Education and Training Minister Ian Wishart in a news release about the program, which is intended to attract skilled workers and businesspeople to the province.
The changes include a new online resource showing job market information, and additional pathways to citizenship which encourage international students to choose training programs leading to in-demand jobs.
In response to community feedback, the province said it will do away with a previous rule that considered having a close relative in a different province or territory to be a risk factor. It will continue to provide additional points to applicants with close family ties in Manitoba.
The province has been criticized for another change to the program, a new $500 fee for all applicants announced in November.
The government has said the additional funds will be used for language training and to help new arrivals find employment.
Backlog cleared: province
On Thursday, Wishart reiterated an earlier statement that the significant backlog of provincial nominee program applications had been cleared.
Wishart told CBC News in March the government had dealt with almost all of the more than 5,000 waiting applications in six months, clearing a build-up left behind by the previous government.
"Mismanagement of the program under the previous government resulted in a backlog of over 5,100 applications in April 2016, some dating as far back as 2013. We are pleased to confirm the backlog has been cleared," he said in a written statement at the time.
On Thursday, Wishart said fewer than 70 files from prior years remain in process.
Premier Brian Pallister promised last November to have the backlog cleared by April of this year.