Canada's Immigrant Investor Program (IIP) was suspended in July 2012. When it was established, it enabled wealthy people from around the world to gain Canadian permanent resident status if they had CAN$400,000 which they could lend to the Canadian government for five years, as well as showing assets, legally acquired, of at least CAN$800,000.
Some critics of the programme complained that the IIP amounted to selling Canadian citizenship and was therefore morally wrong. Others had no difficulty with the notion that wealthy individuals might 'jump the queue' to gain permanent resident status but argued that the price was too low.
In 2010, Canadian immigration minister Jason Kenney doubled the qualification thresholds. It became necessary to have CAN$800,000 to invest and CAN$1,600,000 of legally acquired assets.
This did not seem to deter many wealthy people and the waiting list continued to grow and in July 2012 Mr Kenney closed the programme to new applicants. There were some 85,500 people on the waiting list. This had come down from 91,250 on the waiting list in 2011.
CIC processed nearly 7,000 applications between January and June 2012. Of these 5,230 were accepted, 576 were rejected and the remainder were 'withdrawn'.
Only 26,158 of the 91,250 people on the waiting list in 2011 were actually applicants. The other 65,000 were dependants who wished to settle in Canada along with the investor immigrant applicant. Nonetheless, Citizenship and Immigration Canada, Mr Kenney's department, says that it could take ten years to eliminate the backlog.
But there are worrying signs for those on the list that suggest that the Immigrant Investor Program's days may be numbered.
Program 'undervalues the importance of Canadian citizenship'Mr Kenney himself has spoken out against the programme. In April, he ordered a review of the programme and cast doubt on its value. 'Canada's Immigrant Investor Program undervalues the importance of Canadian Citizenship and fails to ensure that new investors are investing actively in the Canadian economy,' he said.
It is known that CIC is considering new investor programmes but the current plan is that any new programme should run in parallel with the IIP.
However, Mr Kenney is known to take radical measures when the mood takes him. In July 2012, he announced that all those on the waiting list for the Federal Skilled Worker Program, some 200,000 people, some of whom had been waiting for seven years, would have their applications annulled and their fees returned.
Mr Kenney said that this would enable CIC to reform the FSWP and run a more focussed and efficient programme but those who had been waiting for several years were less than happy. Many of them have brought legal proceedings against the Canadian government which will be heard in the new year.
Now a Toronto immigration lawyer Timothy Leahy is suing CIC on behalf of nine investors who have been waiting for a decision under the IIP. Mr Leahy's clients, six from China and the rest from Europe, are seeking a court order requiring CIC to determine their cases within a year. In the event that no decision is made within that time, Mr Leahy is seeking CAN$5m in compensation for his clients.
Mr Leahy told Canadian broadcaster CBC that Mr Kenney should not 'knife the people who have been in the queue.' Another Toronto immigration lawyer David Rosenblatt told CBC that 'any wait longer than two years should be considered unreasonable.'
Mr Rosenblatt also says that the programme should be amended to favour those who will create jobs in Canada. On this, at least, it seems that he and Mr Kenney may agree.
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