Halifax immigration lawyer suggests ‘easy fix’ to attract newcomers and boost economy

·3 min read

Out of the 794 invitations sent out by the province to immigrant entrepreneurs all over the world, only 14 of them ended up obtaining their permanent residency in Nova Scotia, projecting a lower than two per cent turnout rate.

Since 2017, the province has sent out over 200 invitations annually to prospective immigrants asking them to bring their investment or business to Nova Scotia. In return, the province would endorse the candidate on their permanent residency application under the entrepreneurship immigration program. The endorsement is believed to be a guarantee for permanent residency.

However, the rigid requirement has stopped many from coming through the door. Upon invitation, the applicant can enter Canada on a work permit but they will have to keep the business running for at least a year to qualify for the final nomination.

“Basically, if you're not able to establish the business and make your investment and run the business for a year. Then, you don't get nominated. You've come here, uprooted your family, made your investment, all on speculation because you're only temporary,” said Elizabeth Wozniak, lawyer and founder of North Star Immigration Inc., in a phone interview.

The program asks the applicant to invest at least $150,000 to establish a business that has a net worth of at least $600,000.

Wozniak said the uncertainty of the program makes it really hard to sell.

“What kind of business person is going to do all that and make that investment with no guarantee that they're going to ultimately become a permanent resident,” said Wozniak.

The Nova Scotia Immigration office said the entrepreneur stream is an important tool that allows experienced business owners to immigrate to Nova Scotia by starting or purchasing an existing business in Nova Scotia.

"Many applicants receive ITAs but do not commit, withdraw or have their file closed due to not meeting timelines for information," said NSI spokeswoman Elizabeth MacDonaldin an email statement.

Senior economist Andrew Agopsowicz at RBC said although migrant workers are important to maintain a robust labour force, the economy needs more investment.

“I think if you want to spur real economic growth going forward you definitely need to have strong investment people starting new businesses, and people creating, generating that internal energy for the region,” he said.

According to a Statistics Canada study, immigrant-owned firms are younger and because of this, they grow faster. These younger firms are more likely to expand and so they contribute significantly to overall job creation in Canada. In the study, firms owned by immigrants accounted for 25 per cent of net jobs created by private incorporated firms but only accounted for 17 per cent of the sample.

The entrepreneurship stream doesn’t recognize temporary status for entrepreneurs. This means if a newcomer comes to Nova Scotia on a temporary work permit and starts a business, their entrepreneurship experience is not going to help them to stay in Nova Scotia permanently.

Wozniak said that the first year of operating the business should count for the Nova Scotia entrepreneur program.

“Nova Scotia could cut out the middleman essentially. Just recognize the people here who've worked for a year in a business that they own should qualify for nomination and PR through the entrepreneur program,” she said.

Wozniak said this is a simple fix because the federal government has vetted and researched those applicants when they applied for a work permit.

Lu Xu, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chronicle Herald