A government-commissioned review of the Provincial Nominee Program says the program "fundamentally transformed" immigration on P.E.I.

The report by the accounting firm Grant Thornton estimates 1,151 principal applicants made P.E.I. their permanent home from 2001 to 2010, with family members that would be 3,662 newcomers settling on the Island.

The program accounted for 94 per cent of all immigration to P.E.I. over that period. The report says investments through the program were about $106 million, with a GDP impact of $60.4 million.

Those numbers could have been much higher but the retention rate of the immigrants who pay money to come to P.E.I. continues to be low. That is estimated at just 37 per cent.

Innovation Minister Allan Roach said he believes retention rates are now improving.

"If you recall the citizenship court that we had recently, I think there was about 120 people sworn in as new Canadian citizens," said Roach.

"I think that shows exactly where we're starting to retain more."

Making connections

Immigrants interviewed for the report identified a number of challenges to building a successful life, including using their credentials to find work, and successfully launching a business.

The Charlottetown Chamber of Commerce hired Amy Zhang to ease one of those problems. She works with immigrant entrepreneurs to help them network.

"They came here without any connection for the local community, especially for business community," said Zhang.

The immigrant investor stream of the PNP was shut down in 2008. While immigration from that program has already peaked, in 2012 the province signed up 460 further nominees under a new program. The first of those is expected to arrive within months.

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