An investigation conducted by South China Morning Post revealed that 53% of the 29,764 investor immigrants from China mainland, Taiwan or Hong Kong, who had activated their permanent residency in British Columbia between 2005 and 2012, had told authorities that they were going to live in a different province. The Canadian constitutional right to freedom of movement has made this possible, by overriding the enforcement of the destination pledges made by the investor immigrants.
The Hongkongers formed only a tiny part of the arrivals between 2005 and 2012 whereas among the Taiwanese, the deception rate was much lower at 17%.
As a result of this development, British Columbia got access to more than C$2 billion as ‘no-interest’ loans made by the investor immigrants which was divided among the provinces which were stated in the immigrants’ application but was not their actual destination.
The federal version of Canada’s Immigrant Investor Program (IIP) had been shut down in June, and only Quebec’s provincial version is continuing to operate.
The investor immigrants to Canada have to pass scrutiny at Vancouver’s international immigration checkpoints, and more so if they had got permanent residency under Quebec’s investor immigration program.
But a Canadian immigration expert says that this scrutiny was easy to pass. At the checkpoint the investors may be asked to show their onward ticket to Montreal so as to prove their intention to live in Quebec but this requirement could easily be met by the immigrants and they could thereafter go wherever they wanted, he explained. “Although there are bureaucrats who are concerned about this and are encouraging frontline officers to scrutinize these applicants, everyone knows it happens. In Quebec, the officials know that it is happening. But they are getting the investment money, and they are getting the settlement funding from the federal government. But they are not getting the bodies,” says the expert.
According to Vancouver immigration lawyer Peter Larlee, British Columbia was facing twin challenges due to this issue – by missing out on loans from rich Chinese investor immigrants, and by having to bear the costs involved in their settlement without adequate federal funding. When weighed against the constitutional right to freedom of movement, it was “very difficult to enforce” a rule that immigrants stick to their stated destination, says the lawyer. “Not unless the federal government, upon investigation, realizes that they have misrepresented themselves from the outset. But if you or I decide to immigrate to Manitoba and then decide that we don’t like it – and that could be after a very short interval – well, constitutionally we have mobility rights. We can live wherever we want in Canada once we are here as permanent residents”, he explained.
However the 53% deception rate is still conservative as it does not take into account a number of Chinese immigrants who activated their permanent residency in other provinces and moved to British Columbia later on. It is estimated that 90% of Quebec’s investor immigrants do not live there after five years and most of them move to British Columbia.
The Investor Immigration Program of Canada has been most popular among the Chinese, who formed 81% of all arrivals in British Columbia between 2005 and 2012. In the same period, there were 7,128 non-Chinese arrivals in the province, with deception rate of 13%.
Approximately 36,892 investor migrants arrived in British Columbia between 2005 and 20012. This figure exceeds the number of people who immigrated to the United States under their EB5 wealth migration scheme. There were 77,607 applications to move to British Columbia during this period – this far outstripped applications to Australia, the US and the UK combined.
History of Canada’s Immigrant Investor Program (IIP)
Canada’s Immigrant Investor Program had been very popular among rich investors from Hong Kong and mainland China for the past 28 years. However the program had been under close scrutiny for quite some time and it was scrapped in June this year. According to the critics of this program, people admitted under this scheme had failed to contribute adequately to Canada, especially by declaring little taxable income on arrival despite having a minimum household wealth of C$1.6 million.
The Canadian IIP required investors to lodge C$800,000 as a five-year, interest-free loan, in exchange for which they were granted permanent residency of Canada with an option to apply for citizenship later on.