Iranian immigrant investors shut out of provincial programs

posted on January 2, 2015

By Tu Thanh Ha, Globe and Mail | Link to Article

By Tu Thanh Ha, Globe and Mail | Link to Article

Four years ago, an Iranian accountant named Keihan Pouresmaeili applied to immigrate to Manitoba. He appreciated Canada’s multiculturalism, had visited Winnipeg and wanted to see his children educated there.

Manitoba accepted his application in 2013 under a program for immigrant investors, giving him high hopes he’d be moving soon.

More than a year later, however, Mr. Pouresmaeili is still in Tehran, his application stalled for the past 14 months, waiting for the green light from the Department of Foreign Affairs to allow him to transfer his money to Canada. Mr. Pouresmaeili, like dozens of other would-be immigrant investors from Iran, says that he is a victim of Ottawa’s economic sanctions against Iran, which curtail financial dealings between the two countries. While Ottawa has indicated the sanctions aren’t meant to punish individual Iranians, advocates for the Iranian community describe the delays faced by immigrants as an overzealous interpretation of the economic sanctions.

The delay is particularly unnerving because Mr. Pouresmaeili’s 17-year-old son, Hesan, is approaching the age where he would be conscripted into the Iranian military, which would derail the family’s plans to resettle together in Canada.

“He’s very depressed about this,” Mr. Pouresmaeili said about his son.

Under programs in Quebec, Manitoba and British Columbia, would-be immigrants are required to make minimum investments ranging from $200,000 to $800,000 once they have been accepted. However, they need a permit from the office of Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird to exempt them from the ban on transferring money from Iran to Canada.

In December, a group of 54 applicants to Quebec sent a letter for Mr. Baird, warning that they would pursue legal action if they didn’t get permits by Jan. 4.

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