Wealthy investor immigrants pay little in taxes, struggle with official languages

posted on February 12, 2014

By Tara Carman, Vancouver Sun | Link to Article

By Tara Carman, Vancouver Sun | Link to Article

Wealthy immigrant investors, who lend the province $800,000 interest-free in return for permanent residence, pay less in taxes than live-in caregivers, are less likely than other immigrants to speak one of Canada’s official languages and tend not to stick around, according to Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

These are some of the reasons the federal government decided to scrap the program, and the immigrant entrepreneur program, in Tuesday’s budget, C.I.C. spokeswoman Sonia Lesage said in a statement.

Lesage said that, over 20 years, the average investor-immigrant paid about $200,000 less in taxes than a skilled federal worker and almost $100,000 less than a live-in caregiver. Their ability to speak an official language was typically less than that of refugees, she added.

There is also evidence Canada was massively underselling its program.

In Canada, the federal government collected the $800,000 from each investor immigrant, and gave it to the province where the immigrant was settling to use for job creation. The money was paid back, without interest, after the province had its use for five years.

By comparison, countries such as Australia require each investor immigrant to put $5 million directly into businesses in Australia.

“We require significantly less investment than Australia, United Kingdom and New Zealand’s comparable programs, and yet are the only country to offer upfront permanent resident status,” Lesage said.

The program was also subject to abuse, federal Immigration Minister Chris Alexander said in a statement.

“Canadian citizenship and permanent residency is not for sale. In the case of this program we had long wait times [and] abuse on a large scale. Residency fraud where people would pay money, claim to be living in Canada, meeting the residence requirement … without setting foot in Canada — and this is happening on a large scale.”

Teresa Wat, B.C.’s international trade minister, said it is too soon to say what the program’s termination will mean for B.C.’s economy.

“Until we have assessed the implications, it would be premature for me to comment further.”

Between 1986, when the program was established by Ottawa, and the end of 2012, 82,993 investors came to B.C. through the program, according to C.I.C. figures.

By far the most immigrant investors to this province come from China, the data show. In 2012, 1,997 out of a total of 2,622 investor immigrants — more than three quarters — came from China. The second-highest number of investors, 262, came from South Korea.

That is a far cry from 2008, when under two thirds of B.C.’s 5,867 investor immigrants came from China. While China was still the largest source country, other regions including Taiwan (16 per cent), South Korea (10 per cent) and Iran (four per cent) formed a much larger proportion of investors than in 2012.

China’s increasing dominance of B.C.’s immigrant investor pool was largely due to those with the means seeking escape from a country where property can be confiscated and the government does not always respect civil liberties and property rights, said Vancouver immigration lawyer Richard Kurland.

A move by Citizenship and Immigration Canada in July 2011 to cap applications to the investor program at 700 a year nationally may have added a sense of urgency to the Chinese applications in particular.

Follow me: @TaraJCarman

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