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September 1998, Volume 5, Number 9

Canada: Investor Visas, Immigration

Both the US and Canada offer visas to foreigners who invest in a business that creates jobs. In both countries, middlemen such as immigration lawyers and consultants create investment funds that facilitate these arrangements.

Canada established an Immigrant Investor Program in 1986, requiring foreigners with a net worth of at least C$500,000 to invest C$250,000 or C$350,000 for three to five years-- depending on the province they invest in--to immigrate. Since 1986, mostly Asian immigrants have invested $3.6 billion into Canada in exchange for resident status for themselves and their immediate families.

In Vancouver, authorities charged that Toby Manufacturing offered Taiwanese investors shares in an investment fund for C$250,000 each, but then repaid the Taiwanese C$170,000 each as soon as they got their immigrant visas. Toby kept the remaining C$80,000 as its fees, and never created any additional jobs. The visas issued in exchange for Toby investments are being reviewed and may be revoked.

There are legitimate funds that pool foreigner investments, including the $50 million Golden Rainbow fund in Seattle, which permits foreigners to invest $500,000 each to become managing partners of projects supported by the fund. Investors pay $200,000 and finance the rest through a $300,000 loan. The foreigners receive conditional green cards that become regular immigrant visas after two years.

Immigration. Canada sets a target or anticipated immigration intake, not a firm annual quota. For 1999, Canada anticipates 96,600 to 106,600 independent immigrants, persons with skills needed in Canada, and 53,500 to 53,800 family unification immigrants sponsored by relatives already in Canada. There are separate channels or targets for about 20,000 business immigrants--self-employed, entrepreneurs, and investors--and refugees.

In July 1998, Canada refused to accept 10 men from Iraq, Iran and Syria held in Israeli jails; the UNHCR declared them to be refugees, and asked Canada to accept them for resettlement. On August 12, the 10 prisoners vowed to go on a hunger strike until they are granted asylum in Canada. According to a news report, the Canadian government initially agreed to grant asylum to the 10 men, then changed its mind.

Canada has been widely criticized for granting refugee/immigrant status to war criminals and terrorists. Canada in July 1998 announced plans to crack down on immigrants suspected of war crimes, proposing to spend C$50 million over three years to determine if 320 of them are indeed guilty.

In August, four Filipino sailors who had charged that their ship's officers murdered three Romanian stowaways at sea were granted permission to stay in Canada as immigrants on compassionate grounds; they will be permitted to bring their families to Canada.

The sailors told Canadian police in May 1996 that six Taiwanese officers from the Maersk Dubai had forced the stowaways onto makeshift rafts in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. The officers returned to Taiwan, where they have not yet faced trial. In November, 1997, the federal Immigration and Refugee Board rejected the seamen's applications to be admitted to Canada as refugees, saying that they were not persecuted for political reasons.

Nonimmigrants. Since May 1997, Canada has had a Software Development Worker Pilot Project that permits companies to quickly bring into the country foreign workers who have certain kinds of job offers in the Canadian software industry.

"Shady prisoners denied asylum go on hunger strike," Cnews, August 12, 1998. Jake Batsell, "The American Dream," Seattle Times, May 18, 1998.