A 26-year old woman from Shandong, China, is Canada’s first official international student entrepreneur.
Nova Scotia nominated Xinpei Sun, who also goes by the name of Stefanie, for immigration through its International Graduate Entrepreneur Program. The novel immigration program was the first in Canada to offer a pathway to citizenship for international students who want to start their own business.
Sun started her IT support business, Ubielife.com, right after she finished her second degree at Dalhousie University.
“I have always had a dream to start my (own) business (at) some point in my life,” Sun said in an interview with Polestar News.
Sun came to Halifax in 2013 as an international student. She completed an honors degree and a master’s degree in economics at Dalhousie University and then launched Ubielife.com in 2015.
With the Nova Scotia International Graduate Program, Sun was able to apply for her permanent residency without having to work for anyone and, as she said, “finish everything” at once.
Nova Scotia issued Sun’s nomination in April. Now she is waiting for federal approval of her application for permanent resident status.
Encouraging international entrepreneurs is a trend in Canadian immigration. Nova Scotia was the first to create a program specifically for international students. The program was announced in 2015 and launched in 2016. New Brunswick recently launched a similar program and Newfoundland is expected to follow soon. The federal government recently affirmed its new entrepreneurship program.
Sun said she didn’t start the company just to immigrate, but the new program encouraged her.
“I thought it would be a good chance for me (because) I don’t want to work for someone else for one or two years, then apply for my immigration status.”
Immigration Minister Lena Diab told Polestar News that Nova Scotia started the program because immigration is a key priority for the province.
“We believe that international students are ideal candidates for immigration,” Diab said.
“The International Graduate Entrepreneur stream was a natural because before it, it was actually not lawful for an international student to start their own business.”
The pioneering program does have critics.
Some have said it’s unreasonable for the province to require that recent graduates are the sole owners of the new business and that student run it for a year before applying for a provincial nomination.
Qing Chen came to Halifax eight years ago. He started his business Hometown Furniture & Mattress in 2010 and has expanded the business, adding a store in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.
According to Chen, he was also involved in the beginning process of forming a proposal to the government in order to make the program happen.
Chen finds some of the terms of the International Graduate Entrepreneur program ambiguous.
“For example, the program requires the business to be financially healthy. What does that mean?”
Sun’s story is a little bit different.
With the support from her family she was able to start Ubielife.com solely on her own.
After acknowledging the fact that the stream is the first of its kind and there were no previous cases to learn from, Sun hired an immigration lawyer to deal with the paperwork and a business consultant to make sense of the business requirements in the immigration program.
“To be honest, my application was very smooth. I didn’t meet any challenges or problems.”