Lawyers have mandatory continuing professional development but it can start to feel, at least in our office where there is almost constant collaboration, like everything we do is one big professional development session.

Conference? Check.

Lunch and learn? Check.

Networking event? Check.

Consultations with government? Check.

Group yoga? Um, no (but we really wish we were that kind of team).

Pop-up law office on a tropical island? Check.

In January, I sent this email to the lawyers at North Star:

I have been thinking about the idea of a pop up law office for a few years. After all, we are immigration lawyers, so awareness of life in other places gives us perspective and appreciation. Plus, we operate at such a high level in terms of productivity, commitment and output, it’s hard to get away. And when you go away, it’s hard to disconnect.

So, what if North Star created a mini-office in a nice place where lawyers could each spend a week, still connected (somewhat, think 2-3 hours of work a day), bring a friend, and have a common experience? We would not be going together, but we would have a house and rental car for 6 weeks and take turns going.

North Star would pay for the house, car, and round trip airfare. We would ensure the house gets cleaned and linens changed between lawyers, and if the house owner can do anything extra, like bringing fresh bread and coffee in the morning, we could sign on for that too. This would not count as vacation time, but it could be added to a vacation if you would want to be in that area for longer.

There is no shame in not wanting to do this, everyone has their own stuff going on, but all I am asking is to think about it and let me know by Monday if you are in or out. And if you’re in, give me some weeks that would work.

If it works, great, and we would look at doing it again, perhaps for a longer period of time in a year or 2. And I know lawyers are hard to wrangle and get all on the same page, so if it doesn’t work, that’s ok too.

This could be a total crack-pot idea or could be awesome. More likely, it will be fun, interesting and completely imperfect.

Turns out most of us were in.  So North Star Immigration Law, 2019 Guadeloupe Edition is currently underway. Stay tuned for updates.



Every morning, we wake up to many email inquiries sent from random people, around the world, trying their luck at email-blasting to find a job in Canada. Here are just the re lines from today’s emails:

“Re: Looking for employment : Atlantic immigration pilot program”
“Interested to get job offer for AIPP”
“A Job Offer For Immigration”
“Looking for a job in this beautiful city”
“Want to do job in abroad”

There is nothing special about us to attract these emails and I have no doubt that other immigration lawyers get 10x the number of these inquiries that we do.

We also get a smattering of these types of [despicable!] emails:

“We are one of immigration company in XXXX, China, and these 2 years, we have many customers who want to buy job for NS by AIP or NSDEE program. Could you provide the employer sources to us, and give us a good cooperation price?”

Needless to say, those go directly into the trash can.

And here’s the saddest inquiry of all:

“I am looking for a low level jobs which does not ask for previous working experience because my motive is just to work in Canada and if I survive long then I can apply for PR after 5-years. (I must mention that I have 2 pending legal cases going on here in XXX which are money related legal cases.)”

We rarely, if ever, respond to any of these inquiries. However if I did, this is what I would say:

Thanks for the email. We do not offer a recruitment service to individuals but you can now look at the list of designated employers and if you find one that may be suitable, you can send your CV to them. If they are interested, they will contact you. 

This is the list of designated employers:

And this is how you would search to find the contact for the employers on this list:;jsessionid=ymYH4DqhCfiqVpEiOnG16UIzaF-cAtj416_fN1BRDRsfg0dyPiyk!-4748453

Please note that you should not use immigration to Nova Scotia as a way to move to other parts of Canada. In order to apply for this program you must be able to show “settlement intent” to remain in Nova Scotia.

Once you find a job offer, you can hire us for the immigration process.

Over ‘n out.

Everyday, I help people who have fallen in love with Nova Scotia make it their permanent home. Often, they come as tourists, and eventually seasonal residents, and then want to make it official and finally immigrate. On a global level, the attraction of Nova Scotia can be summarized as (1) being safe and stable with a natural, unspoiled beauty; (2) it is geographically convenient; (3) there are opportunities here, if you can spot them.

Here are my ideas for making Nova Scotia more hospitable to newcomers:

  1. More people. It’s no secret that NS suffers from its “CFA” mentality. It’s not easy to wipe out an idea, but it is easy to dilute it. Nova Scotia needs more people and more diversity (and not just racial diversity, but diversity of ideas, cultures, people). Cue the ubiquitous commenters: “They are taking our jobs!” No: They are taking jobs Canadians don’t want or they are creating jobs.  “They are undercutting Canadian’s pay!” Actually no: that’s illegal. “They are on welfare!” If they are, it’s because they are broken souls who have likely won their refugee claim, in which case, good for us for continuing the humanitarian tradition Canada is so proud of. To quote my husband: resist the fallacy of the vivid example.
  1. Nova Scotia should play to its geographic location. It should be easier and cheaper to get to and from here. I am no aviation expert but other “remote” destinations attract visitors by low-cost flights. Hawaii, for example. If Nova Scotia can subsidize a ferry service, why can’t it work towards making flights more affordable?
  1. Don’t ignore the rest of the history of Nova Scotia. “Scotland” may be built right into the name, but that’s not the end of the story. We have generations from other countries, cultures and ethnic groups. Those groups often get short shrift or we assume that a handful of individuals (usually male and older) speak for the whole community.
  1. Don’t ghettoize people from other places. It’s easy to have a weekend festival once a year, it’s hard to be genuinely inclusive for the remaining 51 weeks. The idea of locating ethnic food merchants to the second floor of the Seaport Market is a recent example. It’s important not to be careless: the feeling of being welcome is so fragile. If someone makes a careless decision or comment, the sense of inclusion erodes quickly and it’s really hard to replenish it.
  1. The importance of actions over words. Make no mistake, Pier 21 is lip service to the history and value of immigrants. And it’s not a completely happy or proud story. Taking the time to befriend or hire or simply meet and interact with newcomers is what shows we are welcoming. Learning about their religion, culture and community counts for a lot. We need to talk less and listen more. It is not easy to speak up as a newcomer, especially when you are bombarded with superficial and facile talk about how welcome you are.
  1. Recognize that Nova Scotia is more than its “official culture”. When a place is portrayed as homogenous and exclusionary, it is less welcoming. And by the way, the official culture needs to be more diverse and inclusive.
  1. Value newcomers for the opportunities they create: Contrary to popular belief, there are lots of opportunities here. Higher taxes and the cost of living do make it hard. But Nova Scotia has proven itself to be a perfect location for back-office and mid-office services. It’s a great place for a European company looking to get into the North American market. It’s also a great place for a European or American company to create a second office to service its global clients. Newcomers are pioneers and should be trusted to choose places where they can be successful. As of now, even if you have done your research and chosen Nova Scotia, it’s difficult to get permanent residence status here.

It sounds too simple, but it is human nature to want a safe and secure future for yourself and your children, and to feel like you belong in a place that also values you.


Last Friday, we shut down the office for a few hours to celebrate with Cam. Justice Cindy Bourgeois presided and had some nice words of wisdom for the new lawyers and also for those of us who appreciated a little reminder. Below are some shots of the big day. In the words of his mother, “Way to go, Cam!”


Cam MacLean, Lori Hill and Luke Merrimen (our office neighbour and friend)

Cam MacLean, Lori Hill and Luke Merrimen (our office neighbour and friend)

Cam, Luke and Liz

Cam, Luke and Liz


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.


Premier Dexter calls immigration policy a pressing issue of federal responsibility.

Here is my Top-5 list of what the province can do to improve and promote immigration policy right on our doorstep.

1.   Create a category that recognizes links to the province, such as study history, work history, relatives or close friends – right now, under the federal program, the only family members you can sponsor to come to Canada are your spouse and dependent (under age 22) children. As of January 2014, the parent/grandparent category will reopen with a cap and is expected to fill up within the first few weeks. The only family-linked NS immigration category is the Family Business Worker, which has strict criteria for the type and size of business that can qualify. It nominated a paltry 9 applicants in 2012.

For a province that has benefitted by immigration of families for generations (think: the Lebanese community, the Iranian community), we should be doing more to attract young, educated, skilled people who are motivated to stay in the province due to close connections to the province.  Manitoba’s immigration program awards specific points for connections– why don’t we? 

2.     Follow through with promises made –The slow economy and ebb and flow of layoffs and hire backs in anchor sectors creates of a vacuum of skills and experience in Nova Scotia. Why should a welder stay here and be laid off for 6 months a year when she can get steady work in Alberta year-round? Why should a software developer stay here and earn 66% of what he can earn in Ontario? Temporary Foreign Workers are not dirty little secrets: the law is clear about who can be hired and under what terms. The problems we hear about in the media are a result of lack of enforcement and complacency in following up to ensure legitimacy. The idea that we should convince Nova Scotians to come back to work here is great, but it’s also a bit of a pipe dream (which I have ranted about before) to think that will solve all our labour strains. If it were easier to hire and retain temporary foreign workers, employers here would not be in such a panic about the out-migration of skills to other provinces.

In 2007, the Agreement for Canada-Nova Scotia Co-operation on Immigration reached and in 2010, an annex was signed which facilitated more flexibility with the province to designate certain sectors and groups of individuals to obtain work permits more easily.  But nothing was ever done and the annex was never used. Digital media, big data and financial administration are sectors the province is trying to promote – why not start with those? British Columbia and Ontario have identified sectors, why don’t we?

3.    Do something – anything! – to link provincial immigration with the universities  – in April 2013, unbeknownst to the public before it slipped into the policy guides, the province, I understand on the insistence of the feds (and btw, shame on everyone who was involved in making/allowing that to happen), cut the NS immigration programs off to all graduates of NS schools. This means there is now no reason for any international graduates to stay in Nova Scotia after finishing school. That is the opposite of what we hear and intuitively know about how valuable our International grads are.

Nova Scotia schools offer international students great options for studying here, the provincial immigration office should work with the post-secondary schools to create programs to create immigration categories for those grads. Or at the very least, it should not actively discourage graduates from sticking around once they finish school.

 4.    Kill categories that are unfair or don’t work –  the best known provincial immigration category has been closed for 5 years after falling apart in a massive scandal. It is a bold step to eliminate a category that was created, admitting waste and defeat. Truth be told, the province has canceled more categories than it has kept: entrepreneur, over-22 child, international graduate, agri-food sector.  Those categories were either unmanageable, unpopular, or verged on corrupt.

There is one more category that needs to go: Community Identified.  A lot of people in the immigration business love the category because it is so wide open, flexible and allows “communities” to put people forward who are “established” here. I see it as in conflict of general immigration policy by requiring people to establish here when all they have is temporary status, which is the opposite of what a temporary resident is supposed to do. Worse, it is unwieldy, allows too much discretion, and quite frankly, it does nothing to promote diversity (not to disparage semi-retirees from visa-exempt countries…).

 5.     Speed up the PNP process – the federal government has had a “slash and burn” attitude about immigration programs since 2008, eliminating such categories as the federal entrepreneur and investor streams and freezing and limiting others such as parent/grandparent sponsorship, skilled workers and skilled trades. Even if you find a category you qualify under, you are often left languishing for years waiting for your application to be processed. There is an opportunity here for the Nova Scotia immigration office to do something very simple: speed up processing to make the program more attractive.

For example, right now, if you get nominated by the province for permanent residence, you can also get a “letter of support” that allows you to get a work permit without needing a LMO (Labour Market Opinion) from Service Canada. LMOs currently take around 4 months and are much trickier to get than ever before. Provincial nominations for skilled workers (people with a permanent full time job offer in NS) take about 3 months on average, and then the file is sent for federal processing which takes 1-2 years. If NS could speed up the process, so that it made a decision within, say, 30 days, this would make a huge difference. It would mean people could come on temporary work permits and start their jobs immediately while they awaited federal processing. It would send a message that we want you to come and build your life here.

You can’t get by on charm and looks alone: people need a reason to choose Nova Scotia.



“Young people will be able to find jobs, high-paying jobs here in Nova Scotia, so they no longer have to pick up and go to Ontario or Alberta.” Premier Dexter, quoted in the Chronicle Herald on November 8, 2012

This is a common sentiment in today’s Maritime narrative.  On one hand, it is understandable and even laudable. But on the other hand, I see it as a collective pipedream in Nova Scotia that is actually just an extension of the tired old “us versus them” mentality.

I find it troublesome when our leaders tell us how important it is for the young people of Nova Scotia to stay here or return to take these new opportunities. Ever wonder how it makes those of us feel who aren’t from here? Undervalued. Unappreciated. Unwanted.

And what’s crazy to me is that I am from Canada. I was born and raised in Alberta.  Until I moved to Nova Scotia, I never felt like I was anything other than a Canadian. When I think about the “Jobs Here” campaign and the attitude that Nova Scotia wants “its” young people back, I wonder how that makes temporary foreign workers feel.  Those are the people on work permits tied (beholden) to a specific employer, who pay taxes here and pay into EI and CPP they will likely never collect on. They are the ones who are often perpetually separated from their loved ones.  If there is an avenue for them to obtain permanent residence, it can take years.

It’s such a cliché to say the world is getting smaller. There are many downsides to globalization but the opportunity to travel, explore the world and work abroad is not one of them. I have always been amazed and saddened at how permeable the borders are to foreign goods, and yet how difficult it is to move people across borders, especially from poorer countries (where many of those foreign goods come from). And despite much-touted free trade agreements and “globalization” rhetoric, it’s only getting harder. There’s now a concerted effort on the part of the federal government to attract immigrants from English-speaking, visa exempt countries. That’s all well and good, but try getting a work permit from the Canadian Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City these days.

My parents have three “successful” children. Guess where we live: Nova Scotia, Chicago and Hawaii. For years, my folks kept asking when we were coming back to Alberta, after all, it seemed to them like everyone else was heading that way. They have now stopped asking and are happy when we make it out to visit once or twice a year.

So while it is a nice idea that “our” young people will no longer have to go to Ontario or Alberta (or Shanghai) to work, we should not count on all those ex-Maritimers and expats to return in droves. The world is too small, too interesting, too varied for that to happen on a massive scale. Instead, expect new graduates (both Canadians and International students) to take many of the entry-level positions, and, if things pan out, stay here.  Expect smart, skilled, hardworking people – no matter where they are from – to seize those opportunities. And expect those of us, who were not born in Nova Scotia but who have found opportunity here, to make a life here:  Buy houses, have kids, go to Nocturne and Howard Dill’s Pumpkin Farm and the Pop Explosion. Please don’t begrudge it.

Nova Scotia is the kind of place people want to live in. We should be proud of this and welcome (rather than resent) those who choose to live here no matter where they were born.

It’s high time we valued the talents and skills of people who are committed to this province regardless of where they come from.

The feds have shut down theirs and 8 provinces have immigrant entrepreneur categories. Why don’t we?



Proudly based in Halifax, NS, we assist with all Canadian immigration matters. All work on client files is performed by one of our 4 lawyers and we only charge flat rates.
Lawyers: Elizabeth Wozniak | Lori Hill | Cameron MacLeanLara Green
Office Hours: M-F 9-5 |  Tel: (902) 446-4747 

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