The provincial government has announced changes to the Saskatchewan Immigrant Nominee Program.

On Jan. 2, nine categories will be consolidated into three with new eligibility requirements.

The “family referral” category will be combined with the “skilled worker” category to create a new “international skilled workers” category, which will focus on attracting workers with high-skilled employment offers.

The government says the new category will provide increased flexibility by accepting several applications from workers with skills in high demand without the requirement of pre-arranged employment.

More eligibility points will be given to applicants with family connections in Saskatchewan.

“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,” Economy Minister Bill Boyd said in a news release.

“The improvements to the SINP will more effectively support the attraction and retention of skilled workers from around the world as part of our provincial commitment to ensuring that we secure the skills needed in our economy.”

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.

As of Jan. 2, the program will only accept applications electronically – a move the province says will increase efficiency.

Last week, the federal government announced that Saskatchewan’s immigrant nominee allocation will increase to 4,725 next year, up 325 from 2013.

With files from The Canadian Press