11/05/2013 03:07 EST | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST

New eligibility rules coming for Saskatchewan Immigrant Nominee Program

REGINA - Saskatchewan is changing its immigrant nominee program.

The changes include combining the family referral and skilled worker categories into the new international skilled workers category.

However, the changes don't end a rule introduced in May 2012 that said someone can nominate only one family member at a time instead of nominating multiple relatives all at once.

Immigrants said last year that the changes — announced without notice or a phased-in period — were a betrayal.

But the province says under the new rules, more points will apply to international skilled workers with family connections.

There will also be a new category for foreign workers who are already living and working in the province.

"Saskatchewan's labour market has high demand for workers in a variety of occupations, and even with considerable investment in training and skills development for people in the province, we still rely on immigration to fill a number of high-skilled positions," Bill Boyd, minister responsible for immigration, said in a news release Tuesday.

Boyd said the changes will make it easier to attract and retain skilled workers from around the world to help the province's economy.

The changes kick in Jan. 2.

The province also says that the program will only accept applications electronically starting in January.