Changes to student entrepreneur program

Immigration Minister Lena Diab (right) is shown in 2017 with Nova Scotia’s first International Graduate Entrepreneur nominee.

Nova Scotia has opened the door wider to young entrepreneurs who want to settle permanently in Canada.

The International Graduate Entrepreneur program has been updated to include entrepreneurs who run a business with partners. Previously, recent graduates had to own 100 per cent of a business to qualify for the path to permanent residency.

“We want streams that are innovative, flexible and dynamic,” Nova Scotia Immigration Minister Lena Diab told a press conference.

Nova Scotia was the first province in Canada to offer budding entrepreneurs a pathway to permanent residency in Canada. The International Graduate Entrepreneur stream was launched in January 2016. It allows a recent graduate of a Nova Scotia university or the Nova Scotia Community College to qualify for permanent residency by starting and running their own business.

The program is part of the provincial nomination system, in which a province nominates a candidate for permanent residence in Canada and the federal government then processes the application to ensure the applicant meets basic security, language and health requirements common to all immigration programs. The provincial programs are designed to meet local economic needs.

Prior to 2016, most recent graduates in Nova Scotia needed a year of experience in Canada as a professional, skilled worker or manager to qualify for permanent residence. Self employment did not count as work experience, so there was no path for entrepreneurs to become permanent residents.

Nova Scotia’s International Graduate Entrepreneur program has been copied by several other provinces, including Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick and Manitoba, despite the fact that it was poorly used.

The province has nominated only five recent graduates for permanent residence through the program since it was first announced three and a half years ago. The first person nominated through the program is still waiting to receive her permanent resident designation from the federal government.

The original program was criticized by entrepreneurs and by immigration lawyers who said it was not designed for true entrepreneurs because it required a very long planning and development stage for a business and because applicants were required to own the business outright. They said that the 100 per cent rule prevented young entrepreneurs from benefiting from the mentorship of experienced Canadian partners.

Diab said that the changes are part of the province’s leadership on immigration issues.

“This allows for collaboration and innovation,” she said.


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