Throughout the past few years, and particularly in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, Nova Scotia's appeal as a desirable place to live has only increased. Many international students in Nova Scotia wish to remain in the province following their graduation; however, they require worthwhile employment opportunities to be able to do so. Fortunately, the federal and provincial governments have created programs which will allow many to do so with relative ease.

For employers looking to grow their workforce in Nova Scotia, hiring an international student is a great way to do this. International students are often well-educated, English- or French-speaking and eager to integrate themselves into the community.

Over the past several years, the process for hiring an international student has become increasingly simplified. In brief, students holding a Study Permit who have completed a full-time program of study of at least 8 months at a qualified educational institution are eligible to apply for a Post-Graduate Work Permit ("PGWP"). A PGWP is an open Work Permit, meaning that it allows the Permit holder to work for almost any Canadian employer.

The length of the PGWP will depend on the length of the student's studies. If the student's program lasted more than 8 months but less than 2 years, a student can obtain a PGWP for the length of their studies. If the program of study was 2 years or longer, a student can obtain a PGWP valid for 3 years. In many cases, international students can begin working while they wait for their PGWP application to be processed, as long as they held a valid Study Permit at the time their application was made.

In recognition of the difficulty that many recent graduates have encountered finding employment during the Covid-19 pandemic, the federal government has announced that they will introduce a new public policy allowing international students whose PGWP expired or will expire between September 20, 2021, and December 31, 2022, to apply for an additional 18-month extension of their Work Permit. This gives them more time to find skilled work experience in Canada. Further details on the policy are anticipated to be provided in the coming weeks.

Hiring a former international student on a PGWP can be done with ease by Nova Scotia employers as, unlike other Work Permit programs, the employer does not need to prove that they were not able to find a qualified Canadian or Permanent Resident to fill the position prior to offering employment. Rather, they can simply extend the offer of employment to the PGWP holder. Therefore, there are no extra steps the employer must take when hiring a PGWP holder as opposed to a Canadian candidate.

International students often have diverse backgrounds, have had unique experiences and may view the world through a different cultural lens that could help bring new perspectives and innovation to Nova Scotia's businesses. They may also have global connections which can be utilized by an employer looking to expand their business and reach new markets outside of Nova Scotia or Canada. Hiring an international student who speaks another language (as many do) may also prove to be hugely beneficial for employers in today's globalized economy.

International students who intend to remain in Canada on a permanent basis will often be seeking skilled work experience. Gaining skilled work experience in Nova Scotia will help international students to carve their pathway to Permanent Residence by way of the Nova Scotia Experience: Express Entry program. To avail themselves of this program, international students must have studied in Nova Scotia and have 1 year of full-time, skilled work experience in Nova Scotia at the time they apply. For employers, all that is required is that they provide a reference letter confirming the international student's length of employment, job title, job duties, number of hours per week and salary.

In conclusion, by hiring international students, employers have the opportunity to gain new perspectives, increase their innovation, diversify their workforce, potentially make new connections, expand their business globally and reach new markets. For international students who studied in Nova Scotia, working in a skilled job for a Nova Scotia employer for 1 year will provide them access to a straightforward Permanent Residence program, ultimately creating a win-win situation for both Nova Scotia employers and recent international graduates.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.