Canada Immigration Peril

Newland Chase reports the end to one of the longest Investment Migration Programmes.

It may be RIP for the Canadian Federal Investment Programme, but this appears to have triggeredrestlessness for other national investment schemes across the world.

Over the past week, migrants and immigration practitioners alike were devastated to learn that Canada’s Investor Immigration Programme and Federal Entrepreneur Programme are to be scrapped.

Canada’s Immigration Programmes for high net worth individuals have always been amongst the most popular investment immigration programmes and in particular, for Chinese and other South Asian investors, particularly over the past two decades. In fact, the Investor Immigration Programme that Canada  offers to wealthy migrants is now rumoured to have over 65,000 cases backlogged on the system.

Introduced in 1986, the investment programme offered migrants the option to invest a sum of $400,000 CDN (which increased to $800,000 CDN in 2010) as an interest free loan to the government for 5 years in return for permanent residence and Canadian Citizenship.

The key factor, as it emerged, in scrapping this programme was that ministers (including the Immigration Minister Chris Alexander) stated that they could not see the real benefit of Investor migrants settling in Canada. According to their report, it appears that an investor migrant over a 20 year period pays much less into the system than that of a skilled-worker migrant or even a care-worker migrant.

The Canadian Government therefore wants to limit the number of investment and entrepreneur migrants coming into Canada to those that are “the best and the brightest” – a very similar tag line used time and time again by our own Mrs May.

As a replacement for the two investor programmes are two relatively new schemes drafted with “the best and brightest” in mind, namely the “Start-up” visa created in 2013 and the “self-employed” visa, which as you will see from our comments below, already has a poor reputation attached to it.

Both of these replacement visa categories are more stringent, restrictive and place far more emphasis on sports, cultural and agricultural activities or having a venture capitalist in support of the migrant’s business idea.

Moreover, the practicalities of obtaining the visa are far from encouraging with processing times for a self-employed visa currently ranging from 23 months up to 6 years. Time will tell whether the start-up visa (data not yet available) willfollow suit. No doubt this visa will achieve the Canadian Government’s goal in bringing the best and the brightest to Canada, not least, the best, the brightest and the most patient!

However, we at Newland Chase are not pondering over whether Canada’s scrapping of these investor immigration routes is correct, but more so whether such a brave and bold decision will pave the way for other countries to follow their lead.

With the emerging popularity of the UK and other European Investment visa routes, and in particular, with the closure of Canada’s immigration route, one wonders whether the same doubts that crossed the policy writers’ minds in Canada are also being considered by other nations.

With the Portuguese announcing thousands of applications through their Gold Visa Programme and Spain’s recent introduction of the same, some may say that it is difficult to imagine the possibility of migrant’s money ceasing to be an attractive proposition for these governments.

However, recently the UK government has started to question the benefits that our investor visa scheme brings to the UK. Using taglines such as “the best and the brightest” and “contribution to society”, questions are being raised as to whether the programme is still valuable into today’s British society.

A recent call for evidence lead by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC)   examined exactly this with the up-shot being a suggested increase to the minimum investment from £1 million to £2 million, doing away with the fast-track investor schemes and introducing an investor visa auction scheme along the lines of schemes in other countries across Europe.

It will remain to be seen, in the wake of the MAC’s report whether the UK government will decide to follow in Canada’s footsteps or not. Although Canada may seem to have set the precedent, it does not mean it is a precedent every country will wish to follow.

However, one thing is for sure, in our view  the popularity of financial investment based visa options will only continue to rise and migrants will continue to shop around to see which country can offer them the best deal. . In the current climate however, it might just mean that they have to act quickly before the government in question takes these schemes off the market.

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