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Canadian province targets rich immigrants

Nova Scotia in Eastern Canada is pioneering a new way to attract skilled immigrants and business immigrants, the Toronto Star newspaper reports.

Under Canadian law, provinces can set their own immigration rules under "provincial nomination programs." Using this approach, Nova Scotia, one of the so-called Maritime provinces, introduced an immigration program last year for immigrants to stimulate its economy and compensate for a declining birth rate.

Under the Nova Scotia scheme, immigrants paying C$130,500 are exempt from the federal points system and are granted landed status within a year rather than three years under normal conditions. Out of the sum, C$30,000 is given to international consultants who help in finding the immigrants. C$100,000 is given to a private business in the province, which employs the immigrant for six months and pays him or her C$20,000. The businesses are screened for eligibility by a Government committee, and they must use the C$80,000 from each immigrant to develop a new product, service or company. The immigrant does not receive any of his/her "investment" back.

Immigration lawyers contacted for the article say that the system is faster, simpler and requires a smaller financial commitment than federal programs for business immigrants. The only role the federal government plays in Nova Scotia's program is checking the health and security risk of potential immigrants.

Nova Scotia's Immigration Minister Rodney McDonald said that last year the province received just 1,500 immigrants, but hopes that this figure will rise to 3,700 per annum by the end of the decade. However, he also admitted that currently 60 percent of immigrants leave for Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver after arriving in Nova Scotia.

Other provinces including Manitoba, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island have also developed provincial sponsorship programs for immigrants, and Prince Edward Island is also considering tax breaks for immigrants.