Nova Scotia now has the ability to fast track an additional 300 immigrants through new express entry streams.
The announcement made by Premier Stephen McNeil and Immigration Minister Lena Diab earlier this month came after the federal government gave into the province’s pressure.
“It’s great news, we have worked extremely, extremely hard in this province and that’s recognition that the federal government and CIC (Citizenship and Immigration Canada) has seen that,” Diab told New Canadian Media. “We want to be seen as the hardest working provincial jurisdiction in the country when it comes to immigration.”
Nova Scotia will now be allowed to nominate 1,350 immigrants under the provincial nominee program (PNP) this year, nearly double the 700 nominees the province was previously capped at.
Originally 350 spots had been reserved for the express entry streams, and they were already filled at the time of this increase.
It was also recently announced that Nova Scotia’s PNP will now include two new streams: the entrepreneur stream and the international graduate entrepreneur stream.
“It’s important to poke at the notion of how much things are increasing or decreasing,” says Howard Ramos, a political sociologist who is a professor at Dalhousie University. “We’re not talking about a huge increase here, 300 more spots under express entry is not a large number of people.”
Despite this, Ramos does view the announcement positively.
“Anything that can improve or increase the number of immigrants to Nova Scotia is going to help the province.”
“Anything that can improve or increase the number of immigrants to Nova Scotia is going to help the province,” he says. “I think that it will mean change, but change is a good thing.”
Express entry applicants bringing their families, buying property and engaging in other markets and services is a step towards solving Nova Scotia’s demographic and economic issues, explains Ramos, but it may not solve the province’s rural needs.
“I think the intent is to spread out migration to all the parts of the province, but if the jobs are actually in Halifax I’m not so confident there will be so much of a spread as people may hope for,” says Ramos.
According to Gerry Mills, director of operations for the Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia (ISANS), approximately 25 per cent of people coming into Nova Scotia have said they were interested in settling outside the urban area of Halifax, but many eventually have to move to the city to find employment.
“I think there are communities across Nova Scotia who really see immigration as part of the solution to their demographic challenges,” says Mills. “The reality is that immigrants come from large urban centres. They’re risk takers and they want to move to urban centres.”
Nova Scotia’s pioneering streams
The national express entry system is an electronic system that was introduced in January to better manage how skilled workers apply to immigrate to Canada. It prioritizes people based on their ability to settle and take part in Canada’s economy, rather than the first come, first serve system.
Its main improvement has been decreasing application processing times, although it also aims to fill labour shortages.
The three federal economic immigration programs it is tied to are: the federal skilled worker program, the federal skilled trades program and the Canadian experience class.
“When we launched the Nova Scotia experience express entry stream in May 2015, it was innovative, it was not anywhere else in Canada.”
Nova Scotia was the first province to create its own associated streams. Under the PNP, these are Nova Scotia demand, created last January, and Nova Scotia experience, introduced in May.
Both streams, like the national express entry system itself, are aimed at highly skilled immigrants. Ideal candidates for Nova Scotia would be individuals already living there and contributing to the economy – like international graduates.
“When we launched the Nova Scotia experience express entry stream in May 2015, it was innovative, it was not anywhere else in Canada,” recalls Diab. “We received numerous calls from other provinces looking for advice on how we’re doing what we’re doing, which is actually wonderful.”
The program was launched specifically to help students working in Nova Scotia to become permanent residents, aiding both international graduates and their employers.
“This is exclusively for Nova Scotia graduates who are working for Nova Scotia employers in jobs where these employers are saying these are the people that we need and want because they have the skill that we couldn’t find in other graduates,” says Diab. “It’s a win for everybody.”
Benefits of a provincial stream
When an express entry candidate is nominated through any PNP they are invited to apply for permanent residency.
These applicants must have the skills, education and work experience to contribute to the economy of the province or territory they are applying to and must want to live there. There is no requirement as to how long they must stay.
“In terms of actually getting in, it would always be faster to go through a provincial stream.”
The difference between applying to the provincial express entry systems versus the national one is if the candidate is nominated by a PNP he or she gains a higher Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score. This is the tool used to evaluate an express entry individual’s profile credentials.
A PNP nomination, and associated job offer, garners 600 of a possible 1,200 points.
Without the direct nomination, hopefuls must apply to the Employment and Social Development Canada’s (ESDC) job bank in search of one. The idea is employers in provinces and territories would then search through this pool for candidates.
Nine months later, though, the job bank is still not operational.
“In terms of actually getting in, it would always be faster to go through a provincial stream because you get those 600 points, which now automatically gets you in because the numbers are so low,” explains Mills. “It’s like a cream rises to the top situation: in January you had to have 700 and something points, last week it was 400.”