One month in: the new RLMD Stream of the Nova Scotia Provincial Immigration Program

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In mid-February, the province announced it was eliminating the Community Identified Stream and opening the Regional Labour Market Demand Stream on March 6, 2014.

Judging by some of the new stream’s criteria, it is a bold idea. It indicates that the province is serious about addressing the economic and demographic problems identified in the Ivany Report.

Judging by those same criteria, though, the new stream may also be terribly misconceived. The category is so wide open that it seems impossible to administer.

The new stream sets out many of the criteria that are familiar, at least in spirit, in the provincial nominee context: work experience (2 out of the last 5 years) in an “in-demand” occupation; age between 21 and 55 years; official language proficiency; adequate savings/net worth; post-secondary credentials; and completion of an Employment and Settlement Plan outlining the applicant’s anticipated economic, employment and social contribution to the community.

But the two remaining criteria are the kickers: applicants cannot have a job offer here, and they must “demonstrate that [they] will become economically established in Nova Scotia and that [they] intend to live in the province permanently.” These are far less familiar than the others in the nominee context, especially in combination.

The province has allocated 150 of its 700 nominations in 2014 to this program. As soon as the 150 are nominated, the program will be suspended until next year.

Setting aside the issue of whether Nova Scotia should have prioritized a  “no job required” immigration category over resolving more pressing issues in the program (for example), the fact is, we have this now. One month into it, here are some of our observations:

–            Most of the eligibility criteria are very straightforward. It makes sense to identify a list of occupations in demand based on labour market statistics. And it also makes sense to use the regular education, financial and language criteria.

–            Those criteria set the bar very low. So it is no wonder the province has been inundated with applications since March 6. Last week when we dropped off some documents at the Nova Scotia Office of Immigration, we could not help but notice the 10+ courier bins stuffed with applications sitting in the reception area. And those were just the recent deliveries. Word on the street is it has received over one thousand applications so far for those 150 nominations. And the program remains open.

–            The “settlement” criterion is frightfully vague.  There is very little information in the Guide on how the province will assess an applicant’s intention to remain in Nova Scotia. This is where it gets tricky for us: should we only accept cases in which clients have been here, or have family connections here, or own property here, even though this is not specified anywhere?  If someone has applied to immigrate to another province of Canada in the past, will this be fatal to their NS application? It’s difficult to explain to a prospective client that we suspect that the province will impose stricter criteria than the rules state. Putting together (what we perceive as) a strong application takes time, and yet the program could fill up soon. Worse, it could be full by now. We cannot advise clients if we are in the dark. And if we don’t know what is happening, imagine what it is like for someone who is trying to figure it out without hiring a lawyer.

Nova Scotia needs all the help it can get to increase its population, and if our office’s email and phone inquiries are any indication, there are throngs of people anxious to settle here if given the chance. If nothing else, the new program is a daring move and shows that the province is taking the population problem seriously. But one has to wonder how productive it is to divert limited resources into a new stream that casts a very wide net for a precious few nominations. I worry that the new stream will be administratively unmanageable and slow down the other provincial streams at a time when those processes should be shortened.

Given all of this, in my practice, we will only accept only a limited number of clients in the new stream and, as usual, we won’t submit an application unless we think it is strong enough to succeed.

Nova Scotia is anxious to attract more people and people are anxious to immigrate here. If that wasn’t clear before March 6, it’s sure clear now.

 

PS. Our apologies to anyone who has sent an inquiry regarding this program that has not been responded to: most likely, we are not confident your application has a reasonable chance of success and, until we have a better sense of how the province will apply its criteria, we won’t be taking on more than a few clients in this new category.