The number of immigrants arriving in Nova Scotia has slowly dropped over the last five years, but government officials say they're confident they can double it by 2015.

There were 2,138 immigrant landings in the province in 2011, the last year for which numbers are available. That's down from 2,408 in 2010 and 2,424 in 2009.

But the province expects that number to jump.

In November, the federal government allowed Nova Scotia to bring in an additional 200 families under the provincial nominee program. That's 700 instead of only 500 for 2012.

Leonard Preyra, minister for communities, culture and heritage, said Nova Scotia's prospects look good.

"The provincial stream and to the large extent the federal streams are aimed at jobs and economic conditions, and if you look at Nova Scotia's economic prospects — the shipbuilding strategy, the research in oceans and health care and the energy sector — all of those things are moving in the right direction and those will also serve as a magnet to attract people to Nova Scotia and keep people here," Preyra said on behalf of the immigration minister.

Staying put

The good news, he said, is tax returns show that two-thirds of people arriving in Nova Scotia are staying put instead of moving on to bigger Canadian cities.

Categories of nominees

  • Skilled workers
  • International graduates
  • Community identified people
  • Family business workers
  • Non-dependent children of nominees
  • Agriculture

"There's a good deal of potential on the horizon to make them want to stay," he said.

Five years ago, people arriving in Nova Scotia were more likely to leave for Toronto or Vancouver instead of staying in the province. At the time, the retention rate was only 38 per cent.

People who work with immigrants say one reason for the turnaround is the language and online classes offered to newcomers before they arrive.

"We can ensure that people have a mentor before they arrive so that they are linked to people in their professions. And our stats show 100 per cent of the people who look pre-arrival services are working in their field within six months," said Gerry Mills, operations manager for ISIS, an agency that provides immigration services and support.

ISIS provides more than a dozen pre-arrival services, such as providing information about the necessary professional credentials for doctors and engineers.

The province's goal is to attract 5,000 newcomers a year by 2015.