The past few years have been tough ones for business persons seeking to access Canada's Business Immigration program. On July 1, 2011 the Entrepreneur category was suspended and on July 1, 2012 so was the Investor program. On February 11, 2014 the Government of Canada decided to formally terminate both programs. Approximately 20,000 to 25,000 Investor files in process were cancelled as of February 28, 2014 if they had not reached the initial stage of selection and for those Investors who didn't manage to finalize their PR applications as of June 20, 2014, they were formally terminated. People who had spent many years "investing" in the Investor immigration program were merely told, "Sorry - you're out!"
The Self-Employed category has managed to survive but it is by definition limited to those who generate their own employment in cultural or artistic endeavours, athletics or farming. The numbers tell the significance of this business immigration program - Canada accepted merely 89 self-employed applicants in 2012 and 94 applicants in 2013.
In April 2013 then Minister of Immigration Jason Kenney introduced the new Start-up visa category to recruit dynamic immigration entrepreneurs with innovative business ideas to launch companies in Canada that will create new jobs and spur economic growth. In introducing this new program, Minister Kenney admitted that the initial uptake of the program would likely be very low and indeed it took over a year and a half for the first few immigrants to be accepted under the program. In order to become a PR in this category it is necessary for a prospective business applicant to secure financing from a Canadian venture capital fund or angel investor fund that has been designated by the Canadian government for immigration purposes. Needless to say this essential step has been a roadblock for many prospective immigrants. Current Minister of Immigration Chris Alexander further expanded this program to include the Business Incubator stream. The new stream complements the existing venture capital or angel investor options, and is intended to link foreign entrepreneurs with business incubators who have expertise working with start-up companies in Canada to provide them with mentorship and support in finding investors to grow the start-up into a sustainable business.
So what's an aspiring business immigrant to Canada to do? With the suspensions, limitations and terminations in Canada's federal business immigration program, many have turned to the provinces that have business categories in their Provincial Nominee Programs. Not all provinces have business programs, but for those that do - well let's just say that business has been booming! So much so that in many provinces considerable backlogs have developed. In British Columbia alone a current backlog of approximately 1,900 applications has developed. Consider that the processing capacity for the BC PNP business immigration team is approximately 250-300 applications a year. You can do the math. For keen business people - and let's be serious - most business people with meaningful business ventures are eager to move forward with their plans on an immediate basis, the application processing times of several months, if not years, is just not viable. It is not the nature of business to wait for bureaucratic government approval - at least not in North America.
So it has been welcome news to hear that the Canadian government is moving forward with a new Investor Immigrant pilot program. While there has been no formal announcement as yet, Canada's Minister of Immigration Chris Alexander has been letting the immigration community know that this is in the works and recent government announcements have sought tenders for independent financial reviewers to assess and confirm an applicant's financial history and capability. Early information indicates that the program will be increasing the required period of investment of five years and increasing investment levels to between $1 million and $2 million. The new investment levels are expected to be competitive with other countries with similar programs in place.
The re-opening of a federal Investor immigration program is good news for everyone. Current information about the program suggests that the investment funds will provide real and meaningful economic benefit for Canadians. Prospective business immigrants will have a viable means of obtaining Canadian permanent residency in a timely manner. Provincial programs will likely face lighter loads which will allow for speedier processing times. And Canada will once again have a legitimate and vibrant business immigration program. Stay tuned for further details on the new Canadian Investor immigration program!