Canada re­vamps immigration rules

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - By PAUL WELITZKIN in New York paulwelitzkin@ chi­nadai­lyusa.com

The Cana­dian gov­ern­ment is sched­uled to im­ple­ment new pro­grams for im­mi­grant in­vestors and the en­try of skilled work­ers into the coun­try next year that are ex­pected to re­quire a higher level of in­vest­ment funds and level of English pro­fi­ciency.

Ob­servers say Chi­nese in­vestors will not only have to pro­vide more money, but in­vest it di­rectly into star­tups to gain res­i­dent sta­tus, while Chi­nese work­ers will also have to demon­strate skills in a job that Canada can’t fill with a na­tive res­i­dent and dis­play a cer­tain level of English pro­fi­ciency.

Ear­lier this year the fed­eral gov­ern­ment an­nounced plans to phase out the ex­ist­ing im­mi­grant in­vestor pro­gram. Un­der that pro­gram in­vestors seek­ing to em­i­grate to Canada were required to make a five-year, in­ter­est-free loan to the gov­ern­ment of ei­ther C$400,000 (US$365,347) or $800,000 and have a net worth of $1.6 mil­lion.

Elim­i­nat­ing the cur­rent im­mi­grant in­vestor pro­gram meant that a back­log of ap­prox­i­mately 65,000 pend­ing ap­pli­ca­tions were shut out of the pro­gram. About three-quar­ters of those ap­pli­cants were Chi­nese, prompt­ing some to take le­gal ac­tion.

Robert Kur­land, a Van­cou­ver at­tor­ney who con­sults with gov­ern­ment and busi­ness on immigration is­sues and has tes­ti­fied be­fore pro­vin­cial and fed­eral com­mit­tees, said in ad­di­tion to the enor­mous back­log, an­other is­sue was what hap­pened to the money (ei­ther $400,000 or $800,000) pro­vided by the ap­pli­cants to the gov­ern­ment.

“Those funds just sat in a spe­cial ac­count and didn’t even earn in­ter­est,” said Kur­land. “It was never in­vested so there was no economic ben­e­fit to the im­mi­grant or the Cana­dian econ­omy. The gov­ern­ment just re­turned the money five years later.”

Some­time next year the fed­eral gov­ern­ment is ex­pected to re­veal de­tails of the re­place­ment pro­gram called the Im­mi­grant In­vestor Ven­ture Cap­i­tal Fund project. Kur­land said it will be based on a sim­i­lar pro­gram in Aus­tralia.

“Ba­si­cally an in­vestor will be required to in­vest and my guess is the amount will be at least $1.6 mil­lion into start-up com­pa­nies from a list com­piled by the gov­ern­ment. The in­vestor will chose which firm or firms they want to in­vest in. Here is the im­por­tant part — the in­vestor will bear all of the risk so if the com­pany doesn’t make it for what­ever rea­son, the in­vestor could lose the en­tire amount,” he said.

Kur­land does have some con­cerns with this ap­proach. “What hap­pens if the com­pany folds or is sold? Also where will the mon­i­tor­ing and ac­count­abil­ity of the com­pa­nies on the list come from?”

He be­lieves that Bri­tish Columbia may of­fer a bet­ter al­ter­na­tive in the BC Im­mi­grant In­vest­ment Fund Ltd. (BCIIF). Right now the prov­ince splits all im­mi­grant in­vestor funds with the fed­eral gov­ern­ment on a 50-50 ba­sis. The prov­ince es­tab­lished the BCIIF, which has a board of di­rec­tors to over­see the in­vest­ment of the funds.

are pro­fes­sion­als who know what to look for and the risks in­volved when it comes to startup in­vest­ing, said Kur­land.

the prov­ince through this board can en­sure that in­vest­ments go into ar­eas they have pri­or­i­tized like green en­ergy and health care. I think it would be bet­ter for all in­volved to fol­low the BC model and also have it set up so the in­vest­ment is matched by pri­vate cap­i­tal from the start-up com­pany,” he said.

Kur­land said that in ad­di­tion to the in­vest­ment funds, ap­pli­cants will be ex­pected to demon­strate a cer­tain skill level in the English lan­guage. Canada’s Cit­i­zen­ship and Immigration Min­is­ter Chris Alexan­der’s of­fice left no doubt that English pro­fi­ciency will be in­cluded in the fi­nal re­quire­ments.

“A re­cent sur­vey con­cluded that im­mi­grant in­vestors had the low­est of­fi­cial lan­guage abil­ity of any im­mi­grant cat­e­gory, in­clud­ing refugees. Of­fi­cial lan­guage abil­ity is a key fac­tor in the suc­cess­ful in­te­gra­tion of im­mi­grants,” he said in a state­ment sub­mit­ted to China Daily.

The Ex­press En­try pro­gram for im­mi­grant work­ers will be de­signed to re­flect the cur­rent state of the Cana­dian work­force, ac­cord­ing to Jonathan Dai, pres­i­dent and CEO of Howlund In­ter­na­tional Corp in Ed­mon­ton. Dai is a na­tive of Shang­hai who has been in­volved in for­eign worker re­cruit­ment in Canada for over 20 years.

“Work­ers from China or other coun­tries will sub­mit their re­sumes to the Cana­dian gov­ern­ment which will then place their names and back­ground into a pool that Cana­dian em­ploy­ers can uti­lize when they are un­able to find Cana­di­ans or per­ma­nent res­i­dents to fill job va­can­cies,” Dai said.

One of the ben­e­fits of this pro­gram ac­cord­ing to Dai is that em­ploy­ment will be as­sured for an im­mi­grant. “I think this will give many im­mi­grants some peace of mind know­ing that they al­ready will have a job when they ar­rive here,” he said. “An­other plus is that once a skilled worker is matched with an em­ployer, the process should only take months to com­plete. De­pend­ing on the case, it can now take years to com­plete the process.”

Dai said most of the open­ings for im­mi­grant work­ers un­der Ex­press En­try will in­volve the skilled trades — elec­tri­cians, car­pen­ters, welders and heavy-duty me­chan­ics. “This will also be an­other av­enue for in­ter­na­tional stu­dents from China who grad­u­ate from a col­lege or univer­sity in Canada to seek em­ploy­ment and stay in the coun­try if they want to,” he added.

Like the im­mi­grant ven­ture cap­i­tal project, for­eign work­ers will be ex­pected to demon­strate pro­fi­ciency in English for Ex­press En­try.

“The worker will need to have pretty good English or French skills,” said Dai. “That’s why they will re­quire you to sub­mit a re­sume. The Chi­nese will need to have English skills as good as oth­ers like the work­ers from In­dia if they want to be em­ployed in Canada.”

The new pro­gram for im­mi­grant in­vestors and skilled work­ers will rep­re­sent an at­tempt by the Cana­dian gov­ern­ment to ad­dress some fes­ter­ing is­sues in the na­tion’s immigration sys­tem.

“The gov­ern­ment is build­ing a fast and flex­i­ble immigration sys­tem that con­trib­utes to the coun­try’s economic suc­cess. We be­lieve those who want to come to Canada as in­vestors should live here, pay taxes here and in­vest their money di­rectly in the Cana­dian econ­omy. Canada has a proud tra­di­tion of wel­com­ing im­mi­grants from all over the world, in­clud­ing China. In Jan­uary 2015, Canada will launch an ac­tive em­ploy­ment re­cruit­ment model known as Ex­press En­try,” ac­cord­ing to the state­ment from Immigration Min­is­ter Alexan­der’s of­fice.

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