'More selective' Canada seen for immigrants

Updated: 2014-03-24 08:26

By Wei Tian in Shanghai (China Daily)

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A senior Canadian official said the country is mulling over a more "selective" scheme for immigrant investors in order to tackle the irregularities in its current system, a move that may affect tens of thousands of Chinese immigrants and applicants.

Minimum capital requirement for Canadian hopefuls will be at least double the current level of C$800,000 ($713,000), and a detailed plan will be ready in two months, Canada's Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander said during a visit to Shanghai on Saturday.

The minister said the money will be invested as venture capital for private companies under the new scheme, rather than a five-year free loan for Canadian local governments as it used to be, meaning there is a risk for investment to go down the drain.

Currently, 1.5 million Chinese immigrants live in Canada. The United States, whose total population is nine times more than that of its neighbor to the north, only has twice as many Chinese immigrants.

Alexander said there is a "significant amount of immigrants who never actually came to Canada", and thus have not made enough contribution to the local society in terms of tax payment and job creation. According to Canada's immigrant regulation, to qualify as a permanent resident, one has to spend at least two out of every five years in the country, and for citizens, it's four years out of six.

Starting from 2015, Canadian Customs will keep a record of immigrants' exit and entry and those who fail to meet the requirement may lose their citizenship, he said.

By implementing the new measures, Canada's immigration authority is looking to reduce the application process to six months from next year. "We can be more selective, in terms of higher levels of education, work experiences and language capacity, than ever before," the minister said.

Reports said that there were about 50,000 Chinese applications for the Immigrant Investor Program before it was suspended in February. Some of those applicants have been waiting for more than five years.

"There have always been perceptions that we're not doing our job properly, and abuse was quite widespread," Alexander said. "The problem was there hadn't been a reform since 1986."

Yang Mian, a professor of international relations at the Communication University of China, said the investment risks that may result from the new policy could cause applicants to consider other countries.

But Wang Huiyao, director of the Center for China and Globalization, a Beijing-based think tank, said the capital required in Canada's program isn't high compared with other immigrant destinations, such as the US or Australia, even after the raise.

It won't stop those who are really willing to move and Canada will remain a top choice for wealthy Chinese immigrant families, he said.