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Nova Scotia: a place to call home for businesses and immigrants alike

Sara Espinal Henao

Nova Scotia is thriving. Having reached an all-time population high of 979,115 in 2020 and established itself as a start-up center and a top location for businesses, the province is poised for a sustained trend of economic growth and opportunity coming out of this pandemic.

Halifax mirrors this drive for progress. Since 2015, the province’s capital has experienced record population growth year after year. Against the expectation that this growth would give in to COVID-19 lock downs and disruptions, the city closed 2020 with the second highest population increase on record. Fourteen new companies have expanded or relocated to Halifax during the pandemic, planning to hire thousands of employees in the process, and the number of start-ups in the city actually grew by 36%. Immigration of international talent and the relocation of businesses to the region are major drivers of this success.

A top choice for immigration

This promising growth has been in large part immigration-driven and the result of the province’s ongoing commitment to attracting and retaining global talent. These efforts have afforded Nova Scotia with international notoriety in recent years, for good reason.

In coordination with the federal government, local employers and local associations, Nova Scotia has developed a wealth of provincial immigration programs to attract newcomers. Its Provincial Nominee Program boasts nine different immigration pathways, targeting skilled workers, entrepreneurs, international student graduates, physicians, foreign nationals with work experience in the province and those working in in-demand occupations.

Nova Scotia has also heavily relied on the Atlantic Immigration Pilot Program, a creative immigration route launched in 2017 in partnership with the federal government that helps employers in Atlantic Canada address labour gaps and hire foreign skilled workers who want to immigrate to Atlantic Canada, as well as international graduates who want to stay in Atlantic Canada after graduation.

As a result of this aggressive immigration strategy, the province processed a record number of immigration applications for newcomers from all over the world in 2020 alone, setting the stage for economic growth and recovery. It approved 3,517 applications – a 25% increase from the preceding year – focusing on skilled workers in essential services, such as healthcare and transportation, foreign nationals already living in Canada and international students in the province.

Not only does the province have accessible immigration pathways for those looking to settle in Nova Scotia, but it also offers an extensive network of services ready and available to help newcomers throughout the process, ensuring they feel welcome and connected as Nova Scotia becomes their permanent home.

Nova Scotia works closely with settlement service providers and other associations to promote inclusive communities and ensure the programs meet the needs of newcomers across the province. Organizations such as the Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia and Nova Scotia Start provide invaluable guidance and support for families looking for resources as they settle in the province. Newcomers are directed to services they need to improve their language skills, find employment in the province, obtain qualifications to work in their fields, and navigate the process of finding housing, obtaining health care coverage, or accessing child care services and education, among others.

As a direct result of these efforts, Nova Scotia has the strongest immigrant retention rate in Atlantic Canada, standing at 71%. The province’s youth share in this optimism for the future. Over the past five years, immigration has not only reduced the province’s loss of young professionals to the rest of the country, but is now a net importer of young and talented individuals who choose to make Nova Scotia their permanent home – a noteworthy benefit given the aging population in the region.

A top choice for businesses

On the heels of this growing interest in the province by global talent and young professionals, world-leading companies and start-ups are increasingly choosing to locate and expand to Nova Scotia.

The province offers a strategic geographic location given its proximity to the United States and Europe, a skilled and educated workforce due to our numerous post-secondary education institutions, competitive business costs, and growing industry sectors, including information technology, the ocean and seafood sector, financial services, and digital media.

The province has established a robust support network designed to help new businesses at varying stages from start up, to growth and expansion. Nova Scotia Business Inc., for instance, provides industry and market expertise to help Nova Scotian businesses invest in, and export from, the province. Organizations such as Halifax Partnership have been created with the mandate of connecting entrepreneurs with business opportunities in Halifax. Similarly, the Halifax Innovation District, an initiative created in partnership with Halifax Partnership, provides a platform that connects start-ups, scale-ups and established companies with assets and opportunities in the city. It is a resource hub with a wealth of entities that provide funding, mentorship, export support, and assistance for development.

Ultimately, it is Nova Scotia’s drive and focused efforts to attract, integrate and create opportunities for newcomers and businesses alike that makes the province an ideal destination. The range of immigration options available for aspiring newcomers, the collaboration between the province and its business sector, and the wide range of services available to help individuals and businesses thrive have made it a top choice for foreign nationals seeking to make Canada their home, and for businesses seeking to meet their labour needs.

If you have questions about the immigration options available in Nova Scotia as they apply to your specific situation or business needs, please contact our immigration team.


This update is intended for general information only. If you have questions about the above, please contact a member of our Immigration Group.

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