The Nova Scotia government has introduced two new business immigration streams in an effort to attract international entrepreneurs and university graduates to the province.
At a news conference Tuesday at the Halifax Chamber of Commerce, Premier Stephen McNeil and Immigration Minister Lena Metlege Diab announced the new programs before a large crowd of business leaders, university officials and members of the media.
“This is about economic growth. This is about job creation,” said McNeil. “This is about a long-term strategy to grow the population of Nova Scotia. We need people. This is an opportunity not only to fill the skilled workforce, but it’s also an opportunity for us to bring in entrepreneurs who want to create and grow jobs, and provide opportunities for our sons and daughters to stay in Nova Scotia and work.”
The Entrepreneur Stream is open to immigrants who have experience owning or managing a business in their home countries. Once approved, individuals will settle in Nova Scotia on a two-year work permit and grow their business in the province. After two years, they will be nominated for permanent residency.
The International Graduate Entrepreneur Stream is aimed at foreign students who have completed any two-year program at a university or community college in the province, and have been running a business for at least one year after graduation.
Successful applicants will also be nominated for permanent residency.
Both streams require a detailed online application, and Diab said the province will nominate up to 50 of the best candidates from each stream every year.
“The International Graduate Entrepreneur Stream is the first of its kind in the country. It will help us retain eager graduates who have already shown a desire to live in Nova Scotia. Both streams place an emphasis on attracting immigrants who wish to settle permanently in Nova Scotia. That’s our number one priority.”
McNeil said the new streams will build on the success of the provincial nominee program, which will see 1,350 immigrants nominated for entry into the province this year, nearly doubling the 2014 cap of 700.
Statistics Canada data also reports a 71 per cent retention rate for immigrants in the province between 2007 and 2011.
“We’ve already hit the cap on the nominee side. This is just another tool to be able to fulfil those numbers next year, and work with the federal government to lift the entire immigration cap nationally,” said McNeil. “We’ll be pushing those numbers higher.”
Wadih Fares, a well-known Halifax developer and the Premier’s adviser on immigration, said a few words at the news conference as well.
Fares settled in Nova Scotia as a teenager after escaping civil war in Lebanon.
“I’ve been advocating for the importance of immigration to the prosperity of our province for many, many years. This really exemplifies the commitment that our premier and our government has for immigration. It’s also the result of hard work and energy from Minister Diab and her team.”
Fares also said Nova Scotia should build on the success of the new streams, and continue to set the standard for positive immigration policies in Canada.
“There is no doubt this will make a difference in our economy and our population. Are we finished? No we’re not. Is this enough? No it isn’t. We’re going to keep working very hard, and leverage this momentum that we have until people everywhere are saying, ‘look what Nova Scotia is doing for immigration.’”
The Immigration Department will start accepting applications for the two new streams starting Jan. 1.