Canadian residency applications jump

By Shen Jingting (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-06-07 08:00
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Canadian residency applications jump
An agency providing immigration consultations at an exhibition in Beijing. WANG HENG / FOR CHINA DAILY

Thousands have thronged immigration agencies in Beijing to apply for Canadian permanent residency under its immigrant investor program, following reports the country may at least double the minimum asset required as early as October.

At present, applicants under the program must have C$800,000 ($753,000) in net assets, and each has to invest C$400,000 into Canada's economy. The investment will be returned, without interest, five years and two months after payment.

In January, however, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) proposed to raise the minimum net threshold to C$2 million and investment amount to C$1 million.

In February and March, CIC received about 1,300 new application cases a month from China, compared with just about 100 each month previously, said Charles Qi, chairman of Beijing Entry and Exit Service Association.

Qi said 95 per cent of applicants would have C$400,000 to invest, but prefer to place C$120,000 with designated financial institutions, which will provide the C$280,000 balance.

At the end of the five-year period, the C$120,000 will not be returned, as it will be treated as interest and other charges.

Lawyers and officials of fund companies in Canada have since last year been discussing the proposed increases with CIC. Though no final decision has been made, Chinese immigration experts said reliable Canadian sources have told them the most likely plan is to double the amount - a net worth of C$1.6 million and an investment amount of C$800,000.

For those seeking financial aid, the C$120,000 payment will jump to C$220,000.

"Who wants to lose a sum of money equivalent to the value of one Mercedes-Benz S400 (about C$100,000 in Canada) just because you waited?" Qi asked. Business for most immigration agencies - there are about 500 authorized agencies in China, with 77 in Beijing - is booming. Several are holding seminars, with most sending text messages, advertising online or making phone calls to persuade people to apply before the increases come in.

On Saturday, more than 30 people attended a seminar on the program in Jian Wai SOHO.

The reason for increasing the threshold may be simple. Mikael Charette, a Canadian lawyer who works in Beijing on immigration, told the seminar it is because CIC wants to relieve the pressure of an increasing number of application cases.

"What's more, since the Global Financial Crisis broke out in 2008, the Canadian government also needs more investment money to stimulate its economy," Charette said. "I expect the new regulation be applied on Oct 1."

China is the No 1 source for permanent residents to Canada, said Jason Kenny, Canada's Minister of Citizenship, in a Xinhua News Agency interview.

Last year, he said, Canada received more than 25,000 permanent residents from the Chinese mainland.

From 1998 to 2008, about 10,000 Chinese families entered Canada through the investor program. The number is expanding as China maintains a high growth rate.

The association said more than 15,000 applicants in the investor category are awaiting CIC's final decision.

"If an applicant has to wait three to four years or even longer for the final result, officials in CIC would regard it as a joke," Larry Wang, president of Well Trend United, a leading Chinese immigration service provider, said at a forum recently.

"They think this represents low efficiency, so they want to raise price and avoid mounting applications."

Canada is a favorite destination because of its openness to immigrants and its welfare systems.

Zhang Ning is in high-level management of a financial corporation. The 37-year-old Beijing woman said many classmates are already in Canada.

"I love a peaceful place. Crowded Beijing makes me feel uncomfortable now," Zhang said.

Wu Minnan, in his 40s, said his business of making and selling storage racks in Beijing has helped him make a fortune.

"I have decided to be a permanent resident in Canada, and my family can go with me, too," said Wu, wearing simple clothes and old leather shoes. "I want my son to receive a good education there."

He has no doubt about the looming increase, and hurried to apply. "I hope I can catch the last bus," he said.