OTTAWA – Canada began accepting applications from millionaire immigrant investors and their families on Wednesday under a pilot program to attract international investors to give the Canadian economy a boost. It is a revamped version of a program critics once denounced as “cash for citizenship.”

The government announced in December it would give permanent residency to international investors who can invest $2 million in Canada, in an effort to attract experienced business people who could give the Canadian economy a boost, reported CBC News.

The new Immigrant Investor Venture Capital program will open on Jan. 28 to Feb. 11 or until a maximum of 500 applications are received, the government quietly announced before MPs returned to Ottawa this week.

“This pilot program is designed to attract immigrant investors who will significantly benefit the Canadian economy and better integrate into our society, which will contribute to our long-term prosperity and economic growth,” Immigration Minister Chris Alexander said in a written statement.

While the government will accept up to 500 applications, it will only give permanent resident visas to a maximum of 60 applicants — at least for now.

“The original 60 is to be able to evaluate if the new pilot program is achieving its goals and to ensure that it is also working in the best interest of Canada’s economy,” a senior government source told CBC News on Tuesday.

“It could be expanded after the review of this first step.”

Each investor will be required to make a non-guaranteed investment of $2 million over approximately 15 years into a fund managed principally by BDC Capital, the investment arm of the Business Development Bank of Canada.

The government said the fund “will invest in innovative Canadian start-ups with high growth potential.”

Proceeds from the fund will be distributed to the investors periodically.

The government is hoping to have better luck with this program than it did with the last one.

“Under the former Immigrant Investor Program (IIP), immigrant investors had to invest $800,000 in Canada’s economy in the form of a repayable loan, without meeting skills and abilities requirements of most of Canada’s economic immigration programs,” the government acknowledged in a public statement before MPs returned to Ottawa this week.

“Research indicated that immigrant investors under the previous program were less likely than other immigrants to stay in Canada over the medium to long term. Also, they contributed relatively little to the Canadian economy, earning very little income and paying very little tax.”

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