|Parliament buildings of canada (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
Canada will take the first steps toward revamping its popular but out-of-dateImmigrant Investor Program, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said Friday following a roundtable discussion with financiers in Victoria.
We can no longer be a passive player in the global competition for talent and investment — Immigration Minister Jason Kenney
Kenney said the government will start by introducing legislation to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to give him more power and flexibility to create, change or cancel specialized programs according to market demand and proven effectiveness.
One of those programs, he suggested, could focus on quickly attracting new investors to Canada.
Kenney also said he would begin consulting stakeholders and provincial and territorial colleagues on how best to reform the current investor program which critics say is poorly designed, to the detriment of Canada.
“We can no longer be a passive player in the global competition for talent and investment. That is why we need to review and amend our immigration laws to create dynamic programs that allow immigrants’ investments to directly benefit the Canadian economy,” Kenney said.
“I am open to creative ideas and suggestions from the business community on how to maximize the economic benefits of such programs to Canada.”
Critics argue the current investor program is really just a cash-for-visa scheme that fast-tracks permanent residency to those who can cough up $800,000 — not a lot compared to other countries that have set thresholds as high as $1.6-million.
Furthermore, the investment — which is transferred to the provinces to be used for economic development projects — is currently just a loan that has to be repaid five years later.
As such, some provinces like Ontario haven’t been able to use the cash effectively.
That said, newcomers love it. As of last fall, there was a backlog of 88,555 immigrant investor applications.
After the government capped applications to 700 last year to try to align intake with processing timelines, some wealthy investors chartered private planes in order to be the first to submit their applications when the program opened in July.
All 700 spots were filled within 30 minutes even though Canada doubled the minimum investment from $400,000 and set a net worth requirement of $1.6-million a year earlier in an effort to raise the bar.
Kenney has not yet said whether the program as it currently exists will reopen to new applicants July 1 as per usual.
Figures obtained by Vancouver immigration lawyer Richard Kurland indicate that between October 2010 and September 2011, Canada approved nearly 3,000 cases and issued a total of 10,246 visas to immigrant investor applicants and their families.
The vast majority of approved investors came from Hong Kong, followed at a distance by Taipei, Damascus, London and Seoul.