The Quebec government is pushing a major overhaul to the province's immigration system, but 18,000 skilled workers already in the process of applying for residency could be caught in limbo.

“This was bad news for everyone who has been waiting for permanent residence,” said Francisco Morataya, an IT support specialist from Mexico who now lives in Magog. “I applied one year ago and the application was not read.”

Under the new system laid out in Bill 9, Quebec's backlog of applicants would be wiped out and the system would start again from scratch. Priority would be given to those who meet French language and labour demands in a system that Immigration Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette described as "like Tinder."

Parul Khanna, who came to Quebec from India, said he was told his application has been placed on hold and he would have to restart the application process. He said he's worried he might not have enough time to start from the beginning. 

“To be frank, I feel devastated, destroyed, and frustrated,” he said. “I received this email, along with many of my friends, that there’s an issue and the applications are being cancelled... I have only a few more months on my work permit. Who knows if I will get my CSQ in a few months? And if I don't get it, what do I do?"

Khanna has a YouTube channel where he posts videos about moving to Canada and adjusting to life in Quebec. 

He has over 30,000 subscribers but is now himself in a precarious situation regarding his status in the country.

“People are watching and following my advice and now they are in trouble also,” he said. 

Khanna is not alone. Fernanda Perez Gay Juarez, a Ph.d graduate from McGill has spent 13 months waiting for her permanent resdiency status but now finds herself back where she started.

"Some people don't realize how much time, money and effort it implies," she said. "They're just like 'Okay, apply again. What's the big deal?' But we have to gather a lot of papers, get translations done, do French tests that cost money just to go into this process. Then they just cancel it and throw it into the garbage can."

Immigration lawyer Neil Drabkin said the overhaul presents many issues.

"I would suggest it's fair and equitable for anyone who is caught in that backlog and who has that applicaiton canceled to be put at the front of the line," he said. "There's a severe labour shortage in the province and these people need to arrive here and hit the ground working."

Some applicants said they may just choose to make their new home in a different province.

"Basically, everything is vague, that's why now I think the only choice is to move to Ontario or move to an English-speaking province," said Hassan Rahbardar Mojaver, an engineer from Iran. "I think this is basically bad for both us and Quebec."

Opposition parties criticized the CAQ’s plan in the National Assembly with Liberal MNA Dominique Anglade saying the bill could have massive repercussions.

“It’s not only a piece of paper, we’re talking about the lives of people,” she said. “Now, we’re saying ‘We don’t even care, we’re not even going to open the files. Sorry, too bad, too late, we’re doing something different now.’ The impact? Very negative on the image of Quebec.”

Quebec Solidaire weighed in as well.

“We’re worried about that bill, we have big apprehensions,” said co-spokesperson Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois. “I mean, this party has a lot of times a rhetoric based on division, based on saying that immigration is a burden for Quebec society.”