Thursday, January 17, 2013

Canadian minister 'not contemplating' scrapping immigrant investor program

The Canadian Minister for Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, Jason Kenney, has told Canadian press agency Postmedia News that he does not intend to scrap the Canadian Immigrant Investor Program (IIP). The program was suspended in July 2012 with a backlog of cases that could take up to ten years to clear. There had been press speculation that Mr Kenney might cancel all the undecided applications and change the rules.


The Canadian Immigrant Investor Program until 2010 allowed foreign nationals with CAN$400,000 to invest and total assets of CAN$800,000 to apply for permanent resident status. In 2010, the rules were changed so that applicants had to meet a higher investment requirement of CAN$800,000 and had to have CAN$1,600,000 in assets in order to be eligible to apply under this immigration scheme.
In July 2012, the number of people waiting for decisions had risen to 85,500. This consisted of some 27,000 applicants together with members of their families. Mr Kenney closed the program to new applications. There were fears among some applicants that he might cancel the applications that were in the backlog. These fears were based on the fact that Mr Kenney terminated the backlog of cases that had built up on the Canadian Skilled Worker Program in July 2012.


The Federal Skilled Worker Program is Canada's main immigration programme for skilled workers. It proved so popular with foreign applicants that by July 2012, a backlog of some 380,000 cases had built up. Mr Kenney announced in July 2012 that he was terminating all 280,000 applications made before February 2008 and would refund application fees. That decision is being challenged in the Canadian courts with the first hearing being held early in 2013.


There are still 25,000 applicants on the IIP waiting list. Asked in December 2012 if he intended to terminate the cases, Mr Kenney reportedly failed to rule it out completely but the minister told Post Media News 'At this point we're not contemplating legislative measures to reduce the backlog in that stream'. But he said that he was considering a number of changes to the program to make investors pay more and to require investors to take on a more active investment role and to actually put their investment at risk.


The National Post newspaper reports that Canadian Immigration is considering asking applicants already on the waiting list whether they would be prepared to be bound by any new rules that they might introduce to the IIP. If applicants agreed, their applications would be fast-tracked.


A Toronto immigration lawyer, Tim Leahy, represented nine investors who brought a court action against the Canadian government in December to force the government either to deal with their claims promptly or, alternatively, for CAN$5m to be paid in compensation. Mr Leahy's clients were unsuccessful in their legal action against the Government and Mr Leahy has since said that there is a significant chance that the government will cancel applications in the backlog.


The Canadian New Democratic Party opposition spokesperson on immigration, Jinny Sims, said that terminating the backlog would be 'off the table'.


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