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Minister of Immigration and Citizenship Jason Kenney speaks during a press conference at the National Press Theatre in Ottawa on Monday, September 10, 2012.

Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Canada has just welcomed its 20,000th permanent resident under a four-year-old immigration program that's on track to become this country's premier method for recruiting newcomers.

The Canadian Experience Class, launched only a few years ago, represents the future of Canada's immigration system – one where the Harper government puts a hard-nosed emphasis on attracting the best and brightest skilled workers.

The program targets temporary foreign workers already in Canada and non-Canadians who have graduated from universities and colleges here – people who have proven they can integrate into society and meet labour market needs.

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It removes immigration obstacles for a class of individuals that Immigration Minister Jason Kenney calls "the most likely to succeed."

The 20,000th permanent resident admitted through the four-year-old program is Gaurav Gore, originally from India.

He earned a master's in business administration from the Unversity of Toronto, a program he began in 2008, and is applying his learning as a consultant with a major bank in Canada's largest city.

Each year about 300,000 people such as Mr. Gore arrive in Canada. About 100,000 students and 200,000 temporary workers flood into this country annually – a group the Conservatives feel offers the best prospects for new immigrants.

"Mr. Gore completed a challenging, competitive university program," Mr. Kenney said in a statement Friday. "He is now building a successful career, contributing to our economy and helping create jobs for Canadians here in Canada. Gaurav is exactly the sort of skilled worker that Canada hopes to attract and retain."

The program fast tracks permanent residency applications for skilled foreign workers and graduate students who have spent time in Canada on temporary permits or student visas – those who can demonstrate they are proficient in either English or French.

Before it was created, highly-skilled outsiders could not become permanent residents from within Canada. Would-be applicants such as Mr. Gore would previously be told they had to return to their country of origin and wait at the back of a queue for about seven or eight years.

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Under the new program, applicants can apply from within Canada and expect a quicker decision, normally within one year.

This type of economic immigrant class, unveiled three years ago, was the first new avenue to obtaining a permanent residency card in decades.

Upgrades to the program, announced by Mr. Kenney Friday, will make it easier for applicants to qualify for entry under the Canadian Experience Class.

All applicants will now require 12 months of Canadian work experience gained in the three years prior to their application. Previously, some needed 24 months experience.

This change will make it easier for international student graduates to apply for permanent residency under the program.

Canada was forced to bring in the new program because of a global race for talent with rival destinations such as Australia and the United Kingdom, which had similar programs.

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