Canada revises investor-visa plan

Updated: 2014-12-18 17:54

By ZHENG XIN in Beijing(China Daily USA)

  Comments() Print Mail Large Medium  Small 分享按钮 0

Canada's new program that would give approximately 50 immigrants and their families residency visas by investing at least 1 million Canadian dollars in a venture-capital fund has appeal for many Chinese, despite its stricter assessment and verification, according to observers.

The visa program, which some Western countries have used to attract wealthy Chinese, ultimately aims to raise investment money for Canadian start-ups through a simultaneous injection of millions of dollars into the nation's economy.

Applicants would be subjected to deeper scrutiny and examination through audit certification of private accountants linked to them. The audit would also involve criminal background checks and a look at the individual's affairs for political sensitivity.

Despite concern that stricter examination might bother some affluent Chinese, observers still believe a great number of people will apply.

According to a Beijing-based immigration consultant who gave her surname as Liu and requested anonymity, most wealthy Chinese prefer Canada because it is more developed.

"Many choose Canada due to its advanced education system, better air and water quality and ensured food security," she said.

Canada scrapped a previous immigrant investor plan in February and canceled a backlog of tens of thousands of mainly Chinese applicants. The government said officials determined it provided limited economic benefit to Canada. But ending the program was seen by some as a sign that Canada was becoming less welcoming to Chinese investors.

The new program to acquire a residency visa, despite its higher threshold, is still very attractive to many of China's affluent, Liu said.

She said her immigration consultancy is not worried that the stricter verification might affect their business, considering those with ambiguous sources of capital are but a fraction of their applicant pool.

The previous program, which had allowed foreigners with a net worth of more than $1.6 million to gain residency, and potentially citizenship, by lending the government $800,000 that would be paid back in about five years without interest, was criticized by many as a flawed, inefficient way to lure wealthy entrepreneurs. Critics said it allowed investors to buy Canadian citizenship while continuing to live abroad, without the individual actually creating jobs or stimulating economic growth in Canada.

"The clients were very concerned after Canada halted the previous program earlier, worried that they would not be able to immigrate to North America," said Liu. "The new immigrant investor plan, despite its stricter censorship, is still great news to most of the perspective immigrants."

According to the government, Canada looks to immigrant investors as "a class that can make a positive economic contribution to the country" and attract persons with "business or managerial experience who wish to bring their knowledge and capital to Canadian shores", in exchange for the unconditional permanent residency to qualified applicants, as well as their immediate family.

The Canadian government's new way to generate venture capital investment in support of new and emerging Canadian companies is expected to further generate innovation, skilled-job creation and long-term economic growth.

The venture capital-linked pilot program announced Tuesday will start in 2015. It will give permanent residency to approximately 50 millionaire immigrant investors and their families.

Under the program, each investor will be required to make a non-guaranteed investment of $2 million over 15 years and have a net worth of $10 million.

Figures from Citizenship and Immigration Canada show that 21,279 applications for investment immigration were approved in 2013.

In addition to Canada, many other Western governments have been offering residency in exchange for immigrant investment.

Under a program offered by the UK, anyone with the intention and means to invest 2 million GBP in the country will be granted a visa. The Significant Investor Visa offered by Australia grants residency visas to potential investors. It requires four years of investment in Australia for people investing at least 5 million Australian dollars.

In the United Statwes, theEB-5 visa program is run by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). With a minimum of $1 million — or $500,000 in low employment or rural areas — an EB-5 investor's project must create or preserve at least 10 full-time jobs. In return, the investor is eligible for a green card for permanent US residency.

Nearly 11,000 investors applied to invest via the EB-5 program as of Sept 30, according to the Wall Street Journal. That's up from 6,346 a year earlier and 486 in 2006, the newspaper reported, citing USCIS figures. Chinese nationals are the biggest source of EB-5 funds and make up about 85 percent of visas approved in the 12 months ended in September according to the newspaper.