By Moustafa Daly
Last year, Canada saw the biggest influx of immigrants to the country, reaching 405,000 newcomers, Immigration Minister Sean Fraser announced.
The Canadian government, anticipating potential labor shortages and economic downturns, is doubling down with its plan to attract even more immigrants in the future, targeting a whopping figure of 1.5 million newcomers between 2023 and 2025, dwarfing the number of immigrants over the five years between 2016 and 2021, which stood at a total of 1.3 million.
“Apart from Canada, I am not aware of any other country in the world actively seeking new immigrants [at these levels],” says Julien Tétrault, president of Quebec-based JTH Lawyers Inc. to Uglobal.
“It’s great news especially for investors seeking Permanent Residency, and the targets for the Start-Up Visa category [and other residency-by-investment categories] are more than doubling.”
Canada immigrants set to use PNP
Out of the projected 1.5 million immigrants over three years, 333,000 will be relocating to Canada through its Provincial Nominee Programs (PNP) – one of the shortest and most popular routes to residency-by-investment in Canada.
“It is a good sign from the government especially that they tripled the business immigration target,” says Antonin Favreau, attorney at Montreal-based Favreau Law Firm. “We just hope IRCC (Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada) will be able to keep the pace that the government wants, especially in a year where they are switching almost all paper based applications to online applications.”
In 2023 alone, Canada is to target 105,500 PNP immigrants. To put that in perspective, it only welcomed 54,020 through PNP in 2021, which was already a 40% increase from 2020.
Faster approvals for residency-by-investment applicants?
That 100% hike in 2023 may indicate that new PNP applicants may expect quicker approvals. However, with Canada maintaining a backlog of nearly 80,000 PNP applicants as of October 2021, as per government figures, it may not be that straight forward.
“Investors can expect faster processing, more approvals, but not an easier process. A crackdown has started already for applicants that misuse the Start-Up Visa program,” reveals Tétrault from JTH Lawyers.
Favreau agrees, expecting ‘the time processing to slowly go down since the government have hired many people to work on federal business applications.’
Canada’s Start-up Visa route
Canada’s Start-up Visa Program (SVP) is another route for entrepreneurs to get residency in the country. Typically, applicants need to secure an investment from a Venture Capital Fund for at least C$200,000 ($150,703). However, this route has fundamental challenges, and is allegedly being misused by individuals who don’t intend to follow through with operating their startups once their residencies are finalized.
“This is actually great news for legitimate investors of legitimate startups that will be enjoying full benefits of the Start-Up Visa program, and quicker access to Permanent Residency visas,” said Tétrault.
Though great for entrepreneurs, Cosmina Morariu, partner at Fragomen, believes there are many missed opportunities when it comes to luring foreign investors into Canada.
The Start-up Visa Program is an ‘active’ investment program; what she thinks Canada needs is a passive residency-by-investment program. "I can see situations where a passive investment program (i.e., connecting it with vital infrastructure projects) could deliver sound economic benefits to Canada, but I understand that the government would be very cautious about reintroducing such a program."
Canada’s PNP explained
The PNP allows Canadian territories and provinces to strategically nominate candidates that fulfill the area’s economic and labor demands. The candidates pool is often comprised of skilled labor as well as residency-by-investment applicants. Each regional PNP program has its very own targets and eligibility requirements.
Attracting businessmen, investors, and entrepreneurs, almost every region of Canada has a PNP that targets such individuals, totaling at over 80 PNP programs, including the Prince Edward Island PNP, New Brunswick PNP, Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program, and Quebec Immigrant Investor Program (currently suspended until further notice).
In ten years, immigration is expected to “account for 100% of Canada’s population growth by 2032,” as per official government figures, highlighting how vital immigration is for the survival of Canada. An aging population and shrinking birthrate constitute fundamental survival threats to the vibrant North American economy, one of the world’s biggest – and immigration remains the most effective solution to face the looming threat.
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