The Nova Scotia government is hiring auditors to prevent fraud in its two new business immigration streams.

The provincial government may hire up to eight audit firms for "integrity" testing of its programs to attract entrepreneur immigrants, which began Jan. 1, according to the tender

The official request for auditors warns, "Fraud and misrepresentation is common in business immigration."

Competition for the tender closes Friday.

"This is a broader message of how seriously we take the inherent risks in business immigration," said Suzanne Ley, executive director of the Nova Scotia Office of Immigration. 

Auditors will be used to ensure immigrant entrepreneurs meet various financial tests, such as a minimum net worth of $600,000, she said Thursday.

"We see it as a very serious thing. We want to make sure those people who are coming to Nova Scotia truly want to come to Nova Scotia and make their life here," Ley said.

"It's about integrity."

Auditors to oversee business finances

Permanent residency status will be granted only after entrepreneurs successfully operate a business for two years, according to a document outlining the business stream criteria.

Those entrepreneurs must make a minimum $150,000 capital investment in Nova Scotia, the outline said.

Auditors must sign off on the viability of the business and check to see it meets a performance agreement each applicant will be required to sign.

Immigrant entrepreneurs will choose from a list of audit firms and they must pay the fees. Nova Scotia is not charging fees itself for the program, but will monitor what participants are charged by the firms.

Government fees for other provincial business immigration streams typically cost around $5,000, Ley said.

"We think it will be a comparable price for applicants. They will be paying it to a third party with expertise," she said.

Immigrants 'critical' to economic future

The program allows Nova Scotia to select 100 entrepreneur immigrants for Canadian citizenship each year.

Immigration Minister Lena Diab says the province lobbied long and hard to convince Ottawa to allow it to set up two new streams: entrepreneurs and international graduate entrepreneurs. 

Graduate entrepreneurs — educated at a Nova Scotia post-secondary institution — must own and operate a business in the province, which will be audited after one year. They are not required to prove net worth or make a minimum investment.

"Growing our economy is critical to Nova Scotia," Diab said. "Having entrepreneurs come to Nova Scotia to start businesses or … buying existing businesses is critical."

Audit firms may have contract for up to six years

The oversight measures are the result of an extensive research, the provincial government said. 

The immigration office will do its own assessment of business plans by entrepreneurs at the outset of the process, as well. 

Its search for auditors has been broken into two separate requests for proposals.

An earlier one was for up to three companies to verify entrepreneurs meet the minimum net worth test.

The request closing Friday is for five firms for an initial three-year period, with another three year possible renewal.

Read the full criteria for business stream immigration applicants.