Nova Scotia

As Nova Scotia tries to lure immigrants, feds 'scuttle' German family's plans

Anne-Eva Lober and her family want to live and work in Cape Breton. But a Canadian visa officer has refused her a study visa because she is a risk of staying after graduation, something her lawyer says others are entitled to do.

Anne-Eva Lober wants to live and work in Cape Breton, but a Canadian visa officer has rejected her application

Anne-Eva Lober and her family want to immigrate to Cape Breton. (Mark Blinch/Canadian Press)

A German woman's attempt to immigrate to Cape Breton with her family has been blocked by a Canadian visa officer, a situation her lawyer says runs counter to Nova Scotia's efforts to draw newcomers to the region.

Anne-Eva Lober moved to Cape Breton with her husband and two teenage daughters in August 2016. They purchased a home and a car, and Lober obtained a job as a continuing-care assistant. 

But within a year, the family were back in Germany after they were told to leave Canada by the federal government

"We figured that [Cape Breton] is a nice spot to live … with nice people, we felt very comfortable there and yes, it was a good time," Lober said. "Until we left."

Multiple obstacles

Lober's lawyer, Lee Cohen, said she had lost the opportunity to work in Canada because her potential employer, who had offered Lober the job before she moved to Canada, had not actually been in a position to hire a foreign worker.

Hoping that upgrading her skills through a Canadian school would allow her and her family to return to Canada, Lober enrolled in the continuing-care program at McKenzie College in Cape Breton. 

But when she went to apply for a Canadian student visa, she was met with another obstacle. Cohen said the Canadian visa officer in Vienna who adjudicated her application "determined the one critical thing against her" — that Lober would not leave Canada after her studies.

The officer rejected her application. 

Halifax immigration lawyer Lee Cohen. (CBC)

Cohen said the official was entitled to make that decision, but he added that people who study in Canada can later obtain postgraduate work permits that allow them to stay after their student visa ends.

"If a student at the front end can be rejected … if the visa officer believes that they will stay in Canada past their study period, they are being rejected … for doing something that the law entitles them to do," he said.

Cohen said it's frustrating to see a candidate interested in working and studying in an in-demand field in Nova Scotia like continuing care rejected because they might stay in the province.

"There is a very public declaration by this province that we need more foreign students and we need to retain those students, and that has become a serious challenge for Nova Scotia," he said.

"Here we have a person who is ready, able, willing, excited to live in Cape Breton and study and work in Cape Breton, and she was turned down at the front end."

Nova Scotia Immigration Minister Lena Diab. (CBC)

A spokesperson for the Nova Scotia Office of Immigration said in an email that Minister Lena Diab has raised the issue with her federal counterpart in the past, and will continue to work to ensure Canadian embassies recognize the priority Nova Scotia places on helping international students become permanent residents.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada said it could not comment on specific cases due to privacy reasons.

Lober said despite the challenges she's encountered so far, she hasn't given up on the idea of moving to Cape Breton.

"I want to try again, but at first we have to figure out if it makes sense."

Cohen said with one study permit rejected, the odds of obtaining another one aren't in Lober's favour. He said they're considering another attempt or a Federal Court review, and are hoping the province will intercede.

"I would like the province to get involved in this," he said. "The problem here is that the province's plan to attract and retain students is being scuttled to the front end by the federal government."