Tweet image of Nova Scotia's first student entrepreneur nominee

Xinpei Sun (left) is still the only person nominated under the Nova Scotia International Graduate Entrepreneur stream 30 months after the immigration program was launched.

Canada’s newest immigration path for international students is based on two programs that have yet to land a single permanent resident.

The Atlantic region is eager to retain international students as permanent residents after graduation. All four provincial governments have created a suite of immigration programs and specialty services designed to convince international graduates they should not move away.

Newfoundland and Labrador’s latest initiative — the International Graduate Entrepreneur program — follows almost identical programs established in Nova Scotia in 2016 and in New Brunswick in 2017.

Nova Scotia launched its International Graduate Entrepreneur program after officials realized that one of the most entrepreneurial newcomers in Halifax didn’t qualify for immigration because he hadn’t worked for a traditional employer. New Brunswick established a pilot project for its Post Graduate Entrepreneurial Stream shortly after and made the program official last year.

But both have struggled. Only one woman has been nominated under the Nova Scotia program but is not yet a permanent resident. New Brunswick officials said in January that they had not yet nominated any students. (New Brunswick officials could not be reached this week.)

Both programs require that students open a business and run it for a year, then ask for a provincial nomination and then apply for immigration through the federal government. It takes about three years to become a permanent resident through the student entrepreneur programs.

Experts have complained that the programs won’t attract students because there is too much uncertainty in the process, it takes too long and it keeps students from finding mentors because they can’t share ownership in their business.

The Newfoundland program is identical to the Nova Scotia and New Brunswick programs, except that students only need to own 30 per cent of the business, not 100 per cent.

Xinpei Sun is so far the first and only international student graduate to be nominated by Nova Scotia. She started her IT support firm Ubielife.com, in 2015 after finishing a graduate degree in economics from Dalhousie University. She was nominated for permanent residence by the province more than a year ago, in April, 2017, but has not yet been granted permanent resident status by the federal government.

Interviewed this week, Sun said the International Graduate Entrepreneur program has worked out well for her because it allowed her to start her business right after graduation, but she can’t say if she would recommend it for others.
“It all depends on what you want,” she said. “This program takes a very long time.”

Newfoundland and Labrador Immigration Minister Al Hawkins announced the new program on Monday, July 30, but details were not published or available on the provincial website at the time this story was posted.

Research shows that the Atlantic provinces are having more success at keeping international students after graduation. About 15 per cent of international students now stay in their province of study for at least one year after becoming permanent residents, according to research by Michael Haan, Canada Research Chair in Migration and Ethnic Relations at the University of Western Ontario.

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