With its ambitious goals of doubling Nova Scotia’s population to two million by 2060, the province says retaining international students who study here will be a key part of how they achieve that, but a student leader says the reality on the ground is quite different.
“There’s so much more the Nova Scotia government and Nova Scotia universities could be doing to make it possible for these students to remain in the province and to make their experience more beneficial,” says Kris Reppas, the Nova Scotia chair of the Canadian Federation of Students.
Reppas says students hear the messaging about the province’s desire for them to stay here after graduation, but says processes surrounding work permits and permanent residency are complicated.
“A lot of these processes are extremely cumbersome, confusing, and most schools lack adequate resources to help international students navigate these processes,” Reppas says.
The Canadian Federation of Students would like to see more financial support for advisers at universities to help guide international students through the pathways to citizenship. As well, Reppas says the organization would like to see medical services insurance (MSI) available for international students upon arrival.
Reppas says many international students want to stay in Nova Scotia after graduation.
“They are paying so much more than domestic students, but they’re not receiving the same benefits,” Reppas says. “They are looking for these barriers to be addressed and removed so they are able to stay here and invest.”
Advanced Education Minister Brian Wong says the province sees international students as an important tool for increasing Nova Scotia’s population. As they study here, Wong would like for them to have work opportunities as part of their studies.
“By getting them that experience while they’re in school, it will hopefully ensure they’ll have a better experience once they’re out of school,” he says.
In 2021, Nova Scotia’s Department of Labour, Skills and Immigration supported more than 1,800 international graduates through immigration programming. The department has several streams to help international students call Nova Scotia home. These streams include:
- International Graduates in Demand: applies to recent international graduates whose skills and education are as nurse aides, orderlies, patient service associates, and early childhood educators and assistants.
- International Graduate Entrepreneur: applies to graduates of NSCC or recognized Nova Scotian universities who want to start or purchase a business in the province.
- Atlantic Immigration Program: this was formerly a pilot program that was recently renamed and made permanent. International graduates from Atlantic Canada who have a full-time job offer from a designated employer can immigrate to the province without requiring work experience.
To reach its population goals, Nova Scotia is looking to add 25,000 new residents per year. International students represent an option that’s already in the province.
“We want to do a better job at recruiting and retaining them,” Wong says.