Canada has finally, and firmly, shut the door to a popular visa program that offered foreign nationals a green card and Canadian residency in return for a loan of $800,000 Canadian (U.S. $726,720). This Wednesday, Ottawa announced that the former Immigrant Investor Program was being shut down, and that all pending cases would be rejected.
The Immigrant Investor Program was unique among developed nations in that it offered residency in exchange for an interest free loan that was good for five years. In most countries, including the U.S., foreign applicants are required to give the country money upfront (the U.S. investor visa is worth $1,000,000). The point of the program, beyond simply enriching government coffers, is intended to secure immigrants that will help to enrich the economy with their future business endeavors, ideally relocating successful companies into the country.
Canada’s program, however, quickly became a “visa expressway,” primarily for applicants from mainland China. A study of the applications showed that about 76% of the 59,000 pending applications were from mainland China. The program has long been unpopular with Canadian residents, who resented immigrants who frequently paid lower taxes and upset local property markets. Vancouver, a popular city for Chinese relocation, now has some of the most expensive rent prices in the world.
There were detractions for the immigrants themselves, as well. One immigrants who was quoted anonymously inThe Globe and Mail reported that it was a difficult time for his family and business, as their permanent residency status was uncertain, making it difficult to make long-term decisions or run his Chinese investment management firm. Globe also points out that “the program sometimes appeared to help wealthy mainland people gain Canadian citizenship, buy property and then move their family here, while living and doing most of their business in Asia.”
The government is saying that ending the program is part of a larger effort to make sure that new Canadian residents are a “better fit for its economy and society,” according to Forbes, and it will be replaced by different and hopefully improved programs.