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Canada Unveils New Plan to Attract Wealthy Immigrants

16 Dec

The Canadian government said this would begin as a pilot program and would accept applications starting in January. Some of the details were first reported by The Wall Street Journal late last month.

The program is similar to what other western countries have deployed to attract wealthy, mainly Chinese, newcomers. Under one U.K. program, anyone with the intention and means to invest £2 million ($3.1 million) in the country can get a visa. In October, Australia offered a faster 12-month pathway to permanent residency for people investing 15 million Australian dollars ($12.3 million) or more into the country.

Canada’s immigration minister, Chris Alexander, said the nation would accept up to 500 applications from prospective immigrants who have a net worth of C$10 million. Canada is prepared to grant residency visas to at least 50 people on the condition they invest C$2 million into a venture-capital fund that will in turn use the cash to backstop Canadian startups. There is no guarantee prospective immigrants will get a return on their investment, the government said.

This immigration program tied to venture-capital investment replaces a visa program that granted permanent residency to those who committed C$800,000 to a Canadian province through a five-year, zero-interest loan. Canada ended the program last February and in the process canceled a backlog of tens of thousands of mainly Chinese applicants. At the time, the government in Ottawa said the program, as structured, allowed people to effectively buy their way into the country without making an investment or taking any risk.

Before Canada halted its investor immigration program earlier this year, it was the second-most popular immigration destination for Chinese immigrants, according to the Center for China & Globalization, a nonprofit research firm in Beijing.

Besides the minimum investment and net-worth requirements, immigration lawyers said the new program has strict conditions for entry. For instance, applicants must be proficient in either English or French and hold an education diploma that is the equivalent of a Canadian postsecondary degree.

Language has been part of the requirement for immigrating to Canada, but not for investment-based immigration. French language institutes have sprung up in China, as wealthy Chinese discovered a back door into Canada that involves applying for entry into Quebec, as long as the applicants have a working knowledge of French.

“Most of my Chinese clients don’t speak English, let alone French, and most of them only have high school degrees, they are completely self-made,” said Jean François Harvey, managing partner at Hong Kong-based Harvey Law Group. “The education and language requirement is a not-so-subtle way to say no to 99% of applications from China.”