Chinese investor visa applicants sue Canadian immigration

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More than 1,400 Chinese citizens who had their applications for Canadian permanent residence visas terminated when the Immigrant Investor Program was closed are suing the Canadian government.

The 1,400 are part of a class action launched in the Canadian federal court on 4th June 2014 after Canadian immigration minister Chris Alexander announced the closure of the program in February this year.

They have been joined by another 100 disappointed applicants from other countries including Turkey, the UK, South Africa and India.

$5m in damages

They are seeking $5m each in damages (and additional damages for each dependant that would have come with them had their applications been successful. Their lawyers argue that their applications were not processed within Citizenship and Immigration Canada's (CIC) target timeframe.

Had they been processed within that timeframe, they argue, their applications would have been processed before the program closed.

The IIP allowed foreign citizens with assets of more than CAN$1.6m to apply for Canadian permanent residence providing they

  • Lent $800,000 to the Canadian government and
  • Undertook to reside permanently in Canada after receiving their visa.

Immigration fraud

Mr Alexander terminated the program in February because of 'immigration fraud'. He gave an interview to the South China Morning Post in February in which he said that the program was a failure for various reasons.

He said that it was not really an investor program because all that was required was that applicants should loan money to the Canadian government, rather than make an investment. He added that many of those who received visas under the program did not then go to live in Canada, as the program required.

He told the paper that the IIP only resulted in Canada getting 'soft loans from absentees' and said that he had therefore closed the program and would replace it with a new program which would require applicants to make investments in Canadian businesses rather than loan money to the government.

80% of applicants were Chinese

At the time of closing, the vast majority of applicants under the investor programme were Chinese nationals. There were around 25,000 applications outstanding of which around 80% were from Chinese applicants.

Principle applicants were able to apply for visas for their spouses and dependent children. In all, around 65,000 people were affected by the termination of the program, 50,000 of them Chinese.

The domination of the IIP by Chinese applicants has arisen because of the rise in the number of Chinese citizens with large quantities of disposable income because of the spectacular growth of the Chinese economy. Chinese nationals are often extremely keen to acquire rights of residence elsewhere.

Most Chinese millionaires want foreign resident status

A survey has shown that 64% of Chinese millionaires are seeking permanent residence elsewhere. Many of these say they want to emigrate because they are concerned about pollution, and the quality of education for their children. Others may want to continue to live in China but want an 'insurance policy' in case of political instability or unrest in China.

Mr Alexander said that Chinese nationals, including those whose IIP applications were terminated in February, would be free to apply for the new investor scheme which will replace it.

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