Canadian investor visa scheme much more popular than other countries’

PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 February, 2014, 11:18pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 08 February, 2014, 5:31am

The rise of Canada's now-frozen immigrant investor programme to become the world's most popular wealth-based migration scheme reflects the ease with which it offers a new passport to millionaires from mainland China.

Although other countries have similar programmes, which are also dominated by mainland Chinese, none offers the same combination of passive investment and value for money.

The cost of admission is C$800,000 (HK$5.6 million), which must be loaned to Canada's government. The funds are returned after five years without interest.

For this, a migrant gains permanent residency for themselves and their dependants, with the option of citizenship three years later, although the government plans to increase this to four years. The principal applicant must be worth at least C$1.6 million.

Prior to the scheme's revision in December 2010, the cost was lower: C$400,000 per principal applicant. In that year, the federal programme and its Quebec-run equivalent attracted 51,108 visa applications, three-quarters of which were from rich Chinese. Canada stopped accepting applications for the federal scheme in 2012 in the face of a backlog.

Canada's scheme is more popular than America's EB-5 green card scheme in terms of application numbers. The US visa category drew 6,517 applications in the last financial year. Dependants must apply for visas separately in the US scheme.

In contrast to Canada's system, EB-5 applicants must invest US$500,000 in a target industry, or US$1,000,000 otherwise, in an enterprise that creates at least 10 full-time jobs.

Britain's "tier 1 investor visa" scheme is less popular. It attracted 594 applications in the 2011-2012 financial year. The visa category requires that applicants be worth at least £2 million (HK$25.4 million) and that they put at least £1 million in certain investments. The investments are passive.

Australia's "significant investor visa" category has been in effect since November 2012. It received 545 applications in its first year. It requires a four-year, A$5 million (HK$34.7 million) investment in government-approved funds and bonds.

None of these rival schemes guarantees the investment principal and authorities warn that the value of investments may fall.