Budget: Changes to Canada’s Immigration Laws

The new federal budget promises to close program giving investors a path to citizenship. As reported in the Globe and Mail, “in the past 28 years, more than 130,000 people have come to Canada under the investor program, including applicants and their families” with many of the new immigrants settling in Ontario and British Columbia. Now the Conservative government is scrapping Canada’s decades old immigrant investor program in the 2014 budget. These budget cuts will effectively end a path to citizenship that has been criticized for allowing foreigners to “buy” their way into Canada and do so without contributing back to the country in terms of taxes or skilled labour. Canada stopped accepting new foreign investors applications in 2012.

The reason cited for cancelling the program, is that the program is not providing a worthwhile economic return for Canada. The program grants permanent residency to newcomers who make an interest-free loan to a provincial or territorial government, (money that is supposed to be used for economic development). Sources report, the government believes the “immigrant investor class pays significantly less in taxes over the decades than other economic immigrants.”

Since the program began in 1986, the majority of immigrant investors have come from China – from Hong Kong, Taiwan and mainland China. Factors that contributed to this diaspora include: the crackdown in Tiananmen Square in 1989, the 1997 handover of Hong Kong to Beijing, and the growth of the millionaire class in mainland China.

One advantage of the new economic plan is the ability to free up more money for skills training for Canadians and free up cash for major infrastructure projects. Finance Minister Jim Flaherty presented the federal budget with a final restraint package in favour of minimal cost measures in preparation to balance the budget by 2015, the next election year.

“Canadians of convenience” is the label the Conservatives have applied to immigrant investors. The Conservatives undertook major immigration reforms to attract skilled immigrants, and made no secret of their distaste for those who seek citizenship, but live abroad, and consider the investor program a relic of a former era.

It is also possible that the recent changes will permit more newcomers to come to Canada through other economic immigrant categories. The new Startup Visa program offers permanent residency to immigrant entrepreneurs who can secure funding from Canadian investors. Unfortunately, those on the waiting list after the federal investor immigrant program is cancelled will need to apply through other programs.

The legal team at Edmonton Immigration Law Corporate and Business Immigration Law can help with any complications resulting from the recent changes. Contact our immigration lawyers today.

Posted on March 27th, 2014