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At the federal level Canada has an Immigration Investor Program that allows qualified investors and their families to receive permanent resident status in Canada.  Applicants must show that they have business experience, have a minimum net worth of about US$1,552,000, and have made a passive investment of approximately US$776,100.  In addition to certain other requirements, applicants need to meet five selection criteria, which include business experience, age, education, languages, and adaptability.

The provinces and territories have their own Provincial Nominee Programs to attract qualified investors.  Quebec, in particular, has its own immigration requirements and investor immigration program.

I.  Introduction

In Canada, the federal government and the provincial and territorial governments are jointly responsible for immigration.[1]  Thus, both the federal and the provincial and territorial governments have the authority to grant business immigrants and individual investors the opportunity to apply for permanent resident status.  Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), the federal department responsible for immigration, has a mandate to work closely with provincial and territorial governments in order to develop immigration programs for the country as a whole, with the exception of the province of Quebec.[2]  Under the Canada-Quebec Accord on Immigration, Quebec “establishes its own immigration requirements and selects foreign nationals who will adapt well to living in Quebec.”[3] 

As part of its mandate, CIC has incorporated an Immigration Investor Program into its Business Immigration Program.  Similarly, Quebec operates its own immigrant investor program developed by Immigration Quebec.[4]

In addition, Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs) have been established to attract foreign business investors.

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II.  The Federal Immigrant Investor Program (IIP)

A.  Basic Requirements  

The Immigrant Investor Program (IIP)[5] is part of Canada’s federal Business Immigration Program.  The Program allows qualified investors and their families to receive permanent resident status in Canada.  Business immigrants seeking permanent residence under the IIP must first meet certain requirements, which include

  • showing that they have business experience,
  • having a minimum net worth of Can$1,600,000 (about US$1,552,000) that was obtained legally, and
  • making a Can$800,000 (about US$776,100) investment.[6]

According to CIC,

[a]n investor is said to have business experience if they have either: managed a qualifying business and controlled a percentage of equity of a qualifying business for at least two years in the period beginning five years before the date of application, or managed at least five full-time job equivalents per year in a business for at least two years in the period beginning five years before the date of application.[7]

According to the CIC website, “CIC will return your C$800,000 investment, without interest, about five years and three months after payment.”[8]  These investments are administered by CIC and “[are] guaranteed by the Canadian provinces that use [them] to create jobs and help their economies grow.”[9]  Some of the features of the program are as follows:

  • Investors are not required to start a business in Canada;
  • Investments are fully guaranteed by provinces and territories that participate in the program;
  • The provinces and territories control the investment during the five year lock-in period; and
  • No immigration conditions are imposed upon admission to Canada.[10]

Note that, as of July 1, 2012, CIC has temporarily stopped accepting applications for this program “to focus on processing the applications we already have while the program is reviewed.”[11]  According to news reports, as of June 2012, there were 85,598 applications in backlog and it would take nearly ten years to process existing applications.[12]

If an application meets the above requirements, it will then be processed according to five selection factors.

B.  Selection Criteria  

A points test is used to determine eligibility for the IIP.  The pass mark for business class applicants is thirty-five points out of a total of one hundred possible points on the selection grid. According to CIC, “[i]f your score is the same [as] or higher than the pass mark, then you may qualify to immigrate to Canada as a business class applicant.”[13]  If the applicant scores lower than a total of thirty-five points, the application may be refused.

The five selection criteria and the maximum number of points available for each criterion are as follows:

  • Business Experience: A maximum of thirty-five points can be awarded for business experience.  According to CIC, business experience “must have been obtained within the period beginning five years before the date of application.”  The maximum of thirty-five points can be earned for five years’ business experience.  For each year less than five, five points are deducted.  The minimum number of twenty points can be earned through two years of qualifying experience.[14]
  • Age: A maximum of ten points is awarded to persons who are between twenty-one and forty-nine years of age.  Persons outside this range lose two points for each year that they are under twenty-one or over forty-nine.
  • Education: According to CIC, “[p]oints are awarded for earned educational credentials as well as the number of years of full-time studies or full-time equivalent studies.”[15] A maximum of twenty-five points can be earned by a person who has a Master’s Degree or a Ph.D. and at least seventeen years of full-time study or its equivalent.  The lowest number of points available is five for completion of high school.[16]

  • Languages: A maximum of twenty-four points can be awarded to persons who are highly proficient in both English and French, the official languages of Canada.  An applicant can be awarded up to twenty-four points for basic, moderate, or high proficiency in English and French.  Written and oral tests are administered to ascertain a person’s abilities in different language areas, including listening, speaking, reading, and writing.[17]

  • Adaptability: An investor applicant may be awarded up to six points for adaptability in Canada.  An applicant can receive six points if he or she can demonstrate either having “made a business exploration trip to Canada in the period beginning five years before the date of the application” or having “participated in joint federal-provincial business immigration initiatives.”[18]

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III.  Proposed Changes to the Federal Investor Immigration Program

On April 13, 2012, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney announced the initiation of roundtable discussions on reforming Canada’s federal immigration investor program.

Proponents of the current program see the program as an important means to boost Canada’s economy.  The program, however, has been criticized for its severe application backlog and uncertainty over where an investment ends up once it is received by the federal government.[19]  CIC also notes that “[w]hile [Canada has been] successful in attracting investment dollars and high net worth individuals to Canada, there are concerns around the extent to which Canada benefits from the business skills and networks of these investors and whether they have a vested interest or commitment to Canada’s economic success.”[20]

In his April 2012 announcement, Minister Kenney noted that “Canada’s Immigrant Investor Program undervalues the importance of Canadian Citizenship and fails to ensure that new investors are investing actively in the Canadian economy”[21]  He added that “[w]e will consult on changes to ensure that investments by immigrant investors contribute more effectively to growing our economy and creating jobs for Canadians.”[22]

Late last year, CIC began a consultation process for improving the Immigration Investor Program.  Stakeholders and the public were invited to comment on “how the current federal Immigrant Investor Program (IIP) can be improved and how it could support Government of Canada objectives related to long-term growth and prosperity”[23] by

  • [i]ncreasing the economic benefit that immigrant investment capital brings to Canada;
  • [a]ttracting experienced, international investors with the skills and resources needed to ensure they integrate into Canada’s economy; and
  • [d]eveloping efficient and cost effective ways of delivering and ensuring the integrity of an immigrant investment program.[24]

The consultations are taking place to determine “how best to target high value global investors, unlike the current program, which essentially requires a five-year interest-free loan to provincial and territorial governments for economic development activities.”[25]  According to news reports, the proposed new program is intended to complement rather then replace the current program, and will be designed so that “the investor would be actively involved in managing their investment and would bear the associated risk, for example, by providing venture capital to the private sector.”[26]

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IV.  The Quebec Investor Program

Quebec has three immigration programs for businesspeople wanting to immigrate to Quebec, one of which is the Investor Program.[27] 

In order to be eligible for the Investor Program, the applicant must possess net assets of at least Can$1,600,000 (approximately US$1,552,000), have management experience, and intend to settle in Quebec.  In addition, the applicant must sign an agreement to invest Can$800,000 (about US$776,100) with a financial intermediary.  The assessment of an investor’s application will also take into account other factors, such as the applicant’s age, the nature and duration of his or her professional training, and his or her language skills.[28]

The Quebec Investor Program therefore mirrors the federally-established IIP discussed in Part II above by requiring the same fiduciary commitments from the applicant.  However, under the Quebec plan the Can$800,000 investment is administered by a “financial intermediary (broker or trust company) authorized to participate in the Investor Program,” whereas under the federal program this investment is administered directly by CIC.[29]

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V.  Provincial Nominee Programs

Apart from the federal investor visa program, the provinces and territories have also implemented Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs) to encourage foreign business operators to establish or acquire a business in Canada in exchange for accelerating the process of granting permanent resident status to them and their key employees.[30]

For example, the Opportunities Ontario program was designed both to facilitate the immigration process for key employees of a foreign business making an investment in Ontario and to allow the province to select economic immigrants who hold the skills required by businesses in the province.[31]  In terms of the foreign investment component of the program, a company or business must make an investment of at least Can$3 million (about US$2,938,000) in its own operations in Ontario in order to meet the eligibility requirements.[32]  In addition, the new or expanding business must create at least five full-time permanent jobs for Canadian citizens or permanent residents of Ontario.  The investment must be endorsed by an Ontario ministry and cannot be an investment prohibited by federal law.[33]

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VI. UPDATE (June 4, 2014)

In February 2014, the Canadian government announced its intention to terminate the federal Immigrant Investor Program (IIP).  (Press Release, Government of Canada, Building a Fast and Flexible Immigration System (Feb. 11, 2014), http://news.gc.ca/web/article-en.do?nid=814939&_ga=1.116196678.1386137093.1400077410.) The reasons given for the termination of the program included that the “current IIP provides limited economic benefit to Canada.  Research shows that immigrant investors pay less in taxes than other economic immigrants, are less likely to stay in Canada over the medium- to long- term and often lack the skills, including official language proficiency, to integrate as well as other immigrants from the same countries.”  (Id.)  The government stated that new pilot programs would be instituted to replace the cancelled programs. (Id.)

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Prepared by Tariq Ahmad
Legal Research Analyst
with
Ashley Munroe
Law Library Intern
June 2013
 


[1] Constitution Act, 1867, 30 & 31 Vict., c. 3 (U.K.), reprinted in R.S.C. 1985, app. II, no. 5, § 95.

[2] Citizenship and Immigration Canada [CIC], 2012 Annual Report to Parliament on Immigration 19 (2012), http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/pdf/pub/annual-report-2012.pdf.

[3] Applying for Permanent Residence — Business Class Applicants: Investors, Entrepreneurs, Self‑Employed Persons, CIC, http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/information/applications /guides/4000ETOC.asp (last modified Feb. 19, 2013).

[4] Investor Program, Immigration et Communautés culturelles Québec, http://www.immigration-quebec .gouv.qc.ca/en/immigrate-settle/businesspeople/applying-business-immigrant/three-programs/investors/index.html (last modified March 27, 2013).

[5] Investors, CIC, http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/immigrate/business/investors/index.asp (last modified June 28, 2013). 

[6] Id.

[7] Applying for Permanent Residence, supra note 3.

[8] Investors, supra note 5.

[9] Id.

[10] Applying for Permanent Residence, supra note 3.

[11] Investors, supra note 5.

[12] Fabiola Carletti & Janet Davison, Super Rich Investors Stuck in Immigration Limbo, CBCNews, Dec. 10, 2012, http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2012/12/07/f-rich-immigrant-investor-limbo.html.

[13] Applying for Permanent Residence, supra note 3.

[14] Id.

[15] Id.

[16] Id.

[17] Id.

[18] Id.

[19] Carletti & Davison, supra note 12.

[20] Backgrounder — Improving the Immigrant Investor Program, CIC, http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/department /media/backgrounders/2012/2012-07-31a.asp (last modified Aug. 1, 2012).

[21] Press Release, CIC, Minister Kenney Announces Roundtable Discussions on Immigrant Investment in Canada (April 13, 2012), http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/department/media/releases/2012/2012-04-13.asp.

[22] Id.

[23] Backgrounder, supra note 20.

[24] Id.  (emphasis in original).

[25] Press Release, supra note 21.

[26] Carletti & Davison, supra note 12.

[27] Businesspeople, Immigration et Communautés culturelles Québec, http://www.immigration-quebec.gouv .qc.ca/en/immigrate-settle/businesspeople/index.html (last modified Mar. 27, 2013).

[28] Investor Program, Immigration et Communautés culturelles Québec, http://www.immigration-quebec .gouv.qc.ca/en/immigrate-settle/businesspeople/applying-business-immigrant/three-programs/investors/index.html (last modified Mar. 27, 2013).

[29] Id.

[30] Opportunities Ontario: Investor, Government of Ontario, http://www.ontarioimmigration.ca/en/pnp/OI _PNPINVESTORS.html (last modified Mar. 15, 2012).

[31] Id.

[32] Id.

[33] Id.