Canada’s immigrant investor moratorium is helping U.S. attract rich foreigners

Andy Radia
Politics Reporter
Canada Politics

The Obama administration should be sending Canadian Immigration Minister Jason Kenney a big thank you card.

In July 2012, Kenney announced that his government would be suspending its Immigrant Investor Program (IIP) because of a huge backlog of cases.

The popular program — which offered visas to affluent foreign nationals who invested $800,000 into the Canadian government coffers for a period of 5 years — provides an annual economic contribution of a $2 billion to the Canadian economy.

Despite the economic gain, it doesn't look like Kenney is in any rush to lift the moratorium.

While the government's Economic Action Plan 2013 says that they will "look at" creating a new pilot IIP, a spokesperson for Kenney says they have no immediate plans to relaunch.

"No plans currently to re-open it," Ana Curic told Yahoo! Canada News.

"We are currently reviewing options to revamp the program. The Minister has been clear that the current program is underselling Canada."

[ Related: Immigration expert warns that Canada’s new visa program could cost U.S. in “war for global talent” ]

A continued suspension is good news for the U.S. economy.

Like a lot of other western countries, the United States has it's own IIP.

The EB-5 Regional Centre program, allocates 10,000 Green Cards a year for individuals who invest $500,000 into one of over 200 US Government designated investment funds across the country.

According to the Association to Invest in USA (IIUSA), the EB-5 program has attracted over $4.7 billion in foreign direct investment, accounting for the creation of over 95,000 American jobs since 2005.

IIUSA President David Andersson attributes some of that success to the woes of the Canadian program.

"The closure of the Canadian immigrant investor program has been a boon to the newly re-established U.S. EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program," he told Yahoo!.

"2012 stats show the U.S. program now close to quota numbers - 10,000 total visas per year.

"In addition, we have now seen many migration agents and institutions formerly engaged in Canadian work, now beginning to focus on the U.S."

[ Related: Feds hike income threshold for people seeking to sponsor parents, grandparents ]

Toronto-based immigration lawyer Michael Niren says that Canada's investor program did need a re-set in 2012 but that an indefinite suspension is not the answer.

"The Federal Investor program was in many ways a broken program that suffered processing inefficiencies and inconsistent outcomes," he told Yahoo!.

"However it did bring in millions of investment dollars to Canada as well as valuable human capital especially though many of the dependent children of immigrant investor who became contributing members to Canada, economically and socially."

Niren suggests that the next iteration of the Canadian IIP should be more like the U.S. whereby foreign nationals are investing directly into businesses or funds rather than into government coffers.

"Including Canadian businesses as part of the process makes economic sense," he said.

"It reduces the odds of funds being allocated arbitrarily which often happens when left in the hands of government."

Residencies 'for sale:' (in Canadian dollars unless otherwise stated)

United States: US$500,000

Bulgaria - EU: $700,000

Canada: $800,000

New Zealand: approx. $1.5 million

Australia: approx. $5 million (over four years)

(Photo courtesy of cic.gc.ca)

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