05/02/2012 01:57 EDT | Updated 07/02/2012 05:12 EDT

Saskatchewan rejigs immigration rules to prevent abuse, protect foreign workers

REGINA - Saskatchewan is tightening its immigration rules in an effort to stop people from abusing the system.

The new rules would limit the number of family nominees to one per household until principle applicants and their family members have successfully settled in Saskatchewan.

That means, for example, someone who has worked in Saskatchewan for at least six months could nominate a sister and her family to move to Saskatchewan. But someone with many brothers or sisters can't nominate them all at the same time.

Family category nominees will also require a high-skill job offer.

"We have families now moving forward with multiple applications and what's happening is something that's unfair," said Immigration Minister Rob Norris.

"We've even heard stories of up to 20 applications. As they move forward with their 20, what's happening is other families are being left out."

Norris said some people in other provinces also abuse the program by moving to Saskatchewan just to help family members immigrate.

"That is, they're not really interested in coming and settling and staying in Saskatchewan. They're coming or looking to come to take advantage of the family class category and then move to other parts of the country. That's not what this was designed for."

The Opposition NDP said the family nomination category has been successful for immigration. It's concerned about the impact of the changes.

"The changes that have occurred with the family class stream really are a gutting of the process with respect to what has been the understanding for the many people who have moved here from Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver hoping to access this program to bring their loved ones here and to really put roots in Saskatchewan and contribute to our economy and society," said New Democrat Cam Broten.

"I know that this will negatively affect the ability of some families to be together."

The proposed legislation also aims to protect foreign workers by requiring immigration consultants and recruiters to be in good standing in Saskatchewan. The ministry will develop a registry of approved consultants and recruiters for employers to access.

There have been some problems in the past.

Norris said in one case, a small business spent about 18 months looking for specialized workers with a recruiter and didn't get the person they needed. Their business was impacted and they lost a lot of money along the way, said Norris.

Norris calls those consultants and recruiters "bad apples."

"I've had discussions with my federal, provincial and territorial counterparts. I've suggested that somehow we move to a bad apple list nationally because what happens is often they roam from province to province," he said.

The consultation process on foreign worker protection legislation will be underway until May 23.