Nova Scotia approved immigration applications for a record number of newcomers in 2020, setting the stage for a post-pandemic economic recovery, says Immigration Minister Lena Diab.
Diab says the province’s population reached a record high this year, largely due to immigration.
“We … will not only ensure that the population continues to grow but we also have the newcomers who have the skills that are needed to match the jobs that we have,” she said.
Nova Scotia accepted 3,517 newcomer applications this year, exceeding its federal allocation amount by 225.
Diab said it was notable that Nova Scotia had to request more immigrant spaces while other Canadian provinces missed their targets.
The province says it focused on those who work in essential services, including health care and transportation, as well as international students already living in Canada. The province approved 624 applications from continuing-care assistants, and 555 nurses this year. Twenty-one physicians have also arrived since March.
Attraction easier than retention
Halifax immigration lawyer Lee Cohen said the province’s recruitment numbers reflect a new approach in recent years.
“It’s quite clear now over the course of the last four or five years that Nova Scotia is taking immigration very seriously,” Cohen said.
“The government is realizing that immigration is a fundamental economic driver in this province, and that our future very much depends on immigration, he said.
But while attracting immigrants is vital, convincing them to remain in Nova Scotia is more difficult, Cohen said.
“In Canada we have wonderful freedom of mobility. So even though a person may apply … to Nova Scotia specifically through the Nova Scotia immigration program, one that person has a constitutional right to live anywhere in Canada,” Cohen said.
“The retention number is the most important number. They are the people who are attracted enough to stay here, to put roots down here, and to help us grow Nova Scotia,” he said.
COVID-19 delays arrivals
Many approved immigrants are currently stuck abroad due to travel bans related to COVID-19, says Halifax lawyer Liz Wozniak of North Star Immigration Law.
“We have 3,000 here so far this year, a bit less than half of what we had this time last year, which means more than half of those people are stuck overseas,” Wozniak said.
Wozniak said there are also significant delays issuing travel visas, because medical examinations and security checks at Canadian embassies have been suspended due to COVID.
Wozniak believes it could take two to three years to clear those backlogs, allowing newcomers to actually begin their new lives in Nova Scotia, and contribute to the local economy.
Population growth overall
The province’s population reached an all-time high of 979,351 in July.
As of Oct. 31, 3,010 permanent residents arrived in the province during 2020, down from the previous year because of the pandemic.
This year, more than a thousand international students have also been approved to live in Nova Scotia after completing their studies in Nova Scotia and other Canadian provinces.