Chinese investor visa applicants to sue Canadian immigration

A group of Chinese citizens who had applied for Canadian visas are considering suing the Canadian government after it terminated the Immigrant Investor Program (IIP). Canada scrapped the IIP in February. All applications were terminated and the Government fees returned. It is estimated that some 65,000 people were waiting for visas.

A Canadian lawyer representing some of the former IIP Canadian permanent residence visa applicants told CBC/ Radio-Canada 'There's a doctrine of legitimate expectation. People put in an application expecting something's going to happen but all of a sudden, all they knew, everything's cancelled, funds refunded'.

The doctrine of legitimate expectation is a common law principle which dictates that, in certain circumstances, where a Government body has led someone, such as a visa applicant, to believe that he will be treated in a certain way, then it should be barred from acting in a different way where it would be unfair to do so.

Doctrine of Legitimate Expectation

In this case, the argument would be that visa applicants had a legitimate expectation that they would be granted visas. Some of the applicants have bought property in Vancouver at considerable expense and it would, therefore, be unfair not to allow them the opportunity to move to Canada as they had planned. It is not clear that the doctrine of legitimate expectation applies in this case.

Canadian immigration minister Chris Alexander told journalists that the IIP would be replaced by a new investor program. The details will be announced in 2014.

But those people whose applications have been terminated are understandably upset. It is believed that, of these, about 45,000 were from China. They comprise about 15,000 principal applicants and their family members.

Applicants urge Canada to rethink

In Beijing, a small group of about ten applicants held a press conference on 4th March to urge the Canadian government to do a U-turn and continue processing of the immigrant investor visa applications.

One of the applicants, Ron Bing, 47, told the South China Morning Post (The Post) 'We have set aside a lot of money to meet the investment requirements and over the years passed up on many opportunities'. Mr Bing said that he had dreamed of moving to Canada since witnessing the Tianenmen Square massacre in 1989.

He said 'I thought Canada was a place that underpins justice, trust and democracy, but the abrupt, unilateral decision to scrap the scheme has left us very, very disappointed. A refund of our application fees will not make up for all the preparation put in'.

Immigrant Investor Program

The IIP allowed wealthy foreigners with more than CAN$1.6m in assets to apply for Canadian permanent resident visas. To qualify, they had to lend CAN$800,000 to the Canadian government. Principal applicants could apply to bring their dependent family with them.

By the time it was terminated, a substantial backlog had built up. There were over 20,000 principal applicants waiting for their applications to be processed and with family members a total of more than 65,000 people applying for permanent resident visas. The wait for a visa to be processed was generally about five years.

Mr Alexander travelled to China shortly after the end of the IIP was announced. He gave an interview to The Post in which he said that Canada had closed the program because of 'visa fraud'.

No intention to reside in Canada

In order to qualify for a Canadian permanent resident visa, principal applicants had to undertake to reside permanently in Canada. However, Mr Alexander told the Post, this was not what happened; he said 'A significant number of people made a commitment to reside in Canada as a condition of the programme, but without actually having the intention to reside'.

Instead, many successful applicants, particularly from China, would send their wives and children to live in Canada and continue to live in China themselves. This meant that the benefit to the Canadian economy was not as great as had been hoped when the IIP was established.

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