By Moustafa Daly
“The reopening of the QIIP (Quebec Immigrant Investor Program) can be seen as good news compared to the [previous] pause in the program,” says Antonin Favreau, attorney at Montreal-based Favreau Law. “It provides an opportunity for individuals interested in immigrating to Quebec through the investor category.”
The QIIP, previously open to investors who invest C$1.2 million in the province, required no French-language knowledge and minimal residency requirement – this is all about to change.
New requirements for the QIIP
As announced by the government, the revived QIIP will come with a set of limitations that sets it apart from the previous version. Notably, applicants will be required to score at least 7 out of 12 on the Quebec scale of French proficiency – indicating good knowledge of the French language.
Moreover, François Legault, premier of Quebec, has further announced that his government intends to make all economic migration to the province, including QIIP and startup visas, to require French proficiency. “By 2026, our goal is to have almost entirely francophone economic immigration. We have the duty, as Québécois, to speak French, to pass on our culture and be proud of it,” said Legault as he announced his government’s proposal to overhaul Quebec’s economic immigration policy.
“In its former version, QIIP had no language requirement, but French-speaking applicants were benefiting from advantages such as a fast-track procedure and quota exemption,” says Julien Tétrault, president of Quebec-based JTH Lawyers Inc. “That allowed us to witness the number of French-speaking applicants which turned out to be a single-digit percentage.”
The French language requirement is expected to make the pool of potential applicants significantly smaller.
“The introduction of French language requirements might make it less attractive for some potential applicants who may not be proficient in French,” predicts Favreau.
More changes to the QIIP
Another notable change is the introduction of a 12-month residency requirement for prospective QIIP applicants – who would have to take up a temporary residency for the one-year duration before they can pursue a permanent residence under QIIP.
Favreau views this as a positive development. “The provision of temporary residence while waiting for permanent residence is indeed a positive aspect of the program. It allows applicants to start their integration process and enjoy the benefits of living in Quebec while their permanent residency application is being processed,” he explains.
Previously, a point-based system was used to determine eligibility for obtaining an investor visa in the province. This is not going to be the case under the new regimen, with the government announcing it will adopt a more holistic approach to determine eligibility for QIIP – the details of which are yet to be made public.
Moreover, an annual quota of only 200 applicants will be introduced upon the relaunch of the program.
Such strict restrictions potentially mean that the program may not be as popular as it once was.
“While it's possible that the program may not be as popular as in previous years, it's challenging to predict the exact level of interest,” says Favreau. “Factors such as economic conditions, global events, and changes in immigration policies can influence the popularity of immigration programs.”
The new investment threshold of the QIIP
The investment threshold is set to remain at the minimum of C$1.2 million; however, that will include C$200,000 to be collected as a non-reimbursable contribution into a government investment fund, Investissement Québec. This would be the amount for a five-year, zero-interest investment that the investor gets back at the end of the five years.
A second and more popular route was the financing route, entailing a non-refundable C$350,000 investment at a government-approved financial institution, which would then invest the amount on behalf of the applicant to reach the C$1.2 million within the five year period.
“I would say about 95% were opting for the financing "walk-away" option: applicants would be paying about C$350,000 as a cost of financing the C$1.2 million 5-year loan, as opposed to the 5% that were investing C$ 1.2 million,” he explains.
This route is potentially soon getting costlier.
“We don't know yet how much the market would be selling the financing "walk-away" option, but it could be about C$300,000 for a 1 million 5-y loan. Add on top the C$200,000 contribution to Investment Quebec, then you end up having to sell the new QIIP program at C$500,000.”
When will the revived QIIP be open to investors?
The proposed changes are set to be officially published in the province’s official gazette on June 7, which would kick start a 45-day period of public debate that is set to involve legal experts and the general public before a final draft is announced. Thereafter, QIIP will once again be available to investors on a yet-to-be-determined date.
“It depends on various factors, including government policies, processing times, and the overall demand for the program,” says Favreau on the anticipated date of QIIP relaunch.
Tétrault shares Favreau’s sentiment, albeit cautiously optimistic. “On the one hand, my expectations for this new QIIP are extremely low,” he says. “But on the other hand, QIIP has enjoyed such an amazing reputation and popularity since it was launched almost 40 years ago, and the current demand is still so strong despite this program having been suspended for the last 4 years.”
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