Canada froze immigration schemes in face of criticism

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 14 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 14 April, 2013, 7:46am

Official forecasts about Chinese migration reshaping Vancouver are premised upon conditions remaining similar over the next two decades, but already changes are looming.

Canada has stopped accepting applications under two key schemes, the immigrant investor programme and the federal entrepreneur programme. The freeze is ostensibly to clear a backlog of tens of thousands of applications, many from China.

However, both schemes have been criticised for allowing rich migrants to buy their way into Canada, providing little long-term benefit to the economy.

The investor scheme stopped accepting applications in July 2012 "while the programme is reviewed", said Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC). Under this popular scheme, investors worth a minimum of C$1.6 million (HK$12.3 million) simply place an C$800,000 "investment" in the Canadian host province - in effect, an interest-free loan - for five years.

"Those numbers are under sustained discussion and I would not be surprised to see a significant rise over time," said University of British Columbia geographer Daniel Hiebert.

In 2010, 3,779 mainland Chinese "investors" migrated to British Columbia, out of a total of 9,317. More than 95 per cent traditionally settle in Vancouver.

The federal entrepreneur programme, which stopped accepting applications in July 2011, is undergoing a "temporary pause", according to CIC. But a rival visa for entrepreneurs was launched last month, the so-called Startup visa.

Under the old scheme, migrants would submit a business plan to the government, which would grant a conditional visa on the basis of the plan's viability, with a coveted permanent visa to follow. However, "many businesses were simply used to allow people to get their conditions removed from their conditional visas", and would fold after the granting of permanent residency, said Hiebert.

The more-rigorous Startup scheme demands that migrants submit their plan to private venture capital firms, and the granting of a visa depends on whether it attracts investment.

"The government is getting out of the business of deciding if someone has a viable business plan," Hiebert said. There were 39 entrepreneur visas granted to mainland Chinese in 2010.