BY TOBI COHEN, POSTMEDIA NEWS MARCH 16, 2012
Canada is planning to overhaul its popular Immigrant Investor Program that is so attractive to newcomers that some chartered private planes last year to be first to submit their applications when the program opened - after Citizenship and Immigration Canada capped intake at 700 cases.
In 30 minutes, the program - which fast-tracks permanent residency for those who can afford it - was closed for the year.
Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said the $800,000 minimum investment required under the current system is too low and it's time to consider making it a permanent contribution to the Canadian economy rather than just a loan.
Right now, provinces that accept immigrant investors - predominantly Ontario and B.C. - get the cash to invest in economic development projects, but must pay back the principal five years later. Kenney said a lot of it ends up lying dormant in accounts, particularly in Ontario, which is sit-ting on nearly $1 billion despite a $16-billion deficit.
"They get permanent residency in the best country in the world for lending Canadian governments $800,000 for five years ... so it seems to me, given there are millions of millionaires around the world who would love to come to Canada, we can do better than that."
Options include making it an "active" investment - in which participants have to show they've created a certain number of jobs - that investors don't get back.
Noting Australia and the United States have set the minimum investment at $1 million, while the United Kingdom requires at least one million pounds sterling ($1.6 million Cdn), Kenney said Canada is also looking to raise its "price point."
Vancouver immigration lawyer Richard Kurland said a $4-million net worth and $1.5 million investment is a good place to start.
"We should benchmark very high and ratchet down until we reach the right balance."
Kenney said the new program should be in place by the end of the year.
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