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Federal Government to Immigrant Investors: Wait, We Do Want You After All

15/01/2015


I wrote about the cancellation of the Immigrant Investor Program (IIP) in my 2014 budget blog.

The IIP was created in 1986 to attract wealthy foreigners to Canada, on the premise that their presence would create jobs for Canadians. The idea was for immigrants to make an investment of $800,000 or more, as an interest-free loan to the government. In return, the investor would be granted permanent residency status (eventually leading to citizenship, it was hoped). It was a very successful program. 130,000 people used it.

In February 2014, just before the budget was released, Citizenship and Immigration Canada scrapped the program. The government decided it smacked of selling citizenships and that offended its notion of citizenship standing for something more.

Apparently, the government has reconsidered its position. It turns out that wealthy investors are actually good for the economy, so the program is back, with a slightly different name.

The Immigrant Investor Venture Capital Pilot Program
Each immigrant under the program will be required to invest $2M into a venture capital fund for a period of 15 years. The government says the fund will invest in “innovative Canadian-based start-ups with high growth potential.”

My guess is that investments will probably be made in companies that will help the profile of the government of the day, no differently than those of other federal development agencies and probably with similar dismal results.

To a wealthy investor, perhaps the loss of some or all of these funds will be seen merely as a price to pay for access to Canada. After all, it is one of the most desirable countries for immigrants.

Other requirements
A fat wallet is a prerequisite, but not the only one. Applicants must have:
• The ability to speak English or French;
• Education credentials equivalent to a Canadian post-secondary degree, and
• Net worth of at least $10M, legally obtained (sorry Russian oligarchs)

Canada expects to accept 500 such individuals. The initial group accepted is likely to be limited to around 50. An individual coming to Canada under this program will be allowed to bring family members.

The bottom line
Well, it seems that Canadian residency (and ultimately citizenship) is for sale – it was only the price we were haggling over (with apologies to Max Aitken, aka Lord Beaverbrook).