The Canadian government is ending a decades-old, controversial immigration program that provided wealthy immigrant investors a method for fast-tracking their citizenship applications.
Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander announced the government’s plans to end the Immigrant Investor Program (IIP) and related Federal Entrepreneur Program as part of this year’s budget. Alexander said the program provided only “limited economic benefit” to Canada, and that investor immigrants participating in the program actually paid less in taxes than other economic immigrants and were less likely to remain in the country “over the medium-to-long term.”
Critics of the IIP have long viewed it as a flawed immigration program that allowed offshore investors to buy—rather than earn—their Canadian passport. Under the IIP, foreign citizens with a net worth of more than $1.6 million were able to gain permanent residence and potential citizenship by “loaning” the government $800,000 interest-free for about five years.
However, according to Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), the IIP turned out to be an unwise investment for the Canadian government. Over a 20-year period, an investor immigrant paid about $200,000 less in income taxes than a skilled federal employee and almost $100,000 less than a live-in caregiver.
CIC also believes that eliminating the IIP program will increase the overall efficiency of the country’s immigration system. According to the government, there was a backlog of more than 60,000 IIP applications—larger than any other Canadian economic immigration program. It’s estimated that it would have taken more than six years to process just the existing IIP applications.
The IIP was also seen as undervaluing Canadian residency. According to CIC, similar programs in Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom require between $5-$10 million—compared to Canada’s $800,000 requirement—and offer no promise of permanent residency.
It’s estimated that since it began in 1986, the IIP has been responsible for more than 130,000 new immigrants to Canada.
The cancellation of the IIP program does not affect a similar provincial investor immigrant program run by the province of Quebec.
As part of the recently announced Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act, the Canadian government has made significant changes on its citizenship application form (CIT-0002E) that increase the burden of proof for potential applicants.
The move is part of an overall effort by the Canadian government to crackdown on the amount of fraudulent immigration applications.
Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) says the crackdown is needed after the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) revealed that more than 3,000 citizens and 5,000 permanent residents were under investigation for residence-related fraud.
Changes to the citizenship application forms—requiring greater detailed information and more documentation than before—are part of the overall theme of the government’s immigration reform tightening citizenship requirements.
CIT-0002E application form question changes include:
- On the question “Are you a citizen of any other country?” there is now a requirement for passport photographs documenting prior citizenship.
- Details about employment and education history within the four years prior to submitting your application, including photocopies documenting employment/education history
- Additional proof of educational history (such as educational history records) of any minor children
- In keeping with stricter demands to fully understand either of Canada’s official languages, applicants between the ages of 14-64 now have to include with their CIT-0002E “acceptable proof” that they have “adequate knowledge” of either English or French
In addition to the stricter requirements on the CIT-0002E form, the Canadian government is also undertaking several new measures designed to crackdown on potential fraudulent immigration applications.
Under the new immigration law, the government is streamlining the bureaucratic process for revocation of citizenship, essentially making it simpler for it to strip new immigrants of citizenships that were deemed to be based on fraudulent applications.
In addition, under the new law, immigrants to Canada who have had their citizenship revoked for either fraud or misrepresentation will now have to wait 10 years before they may reapply, double the previous wait time required under the prior immigration law.
Canada’s immigration department recently lashed out at Ukrainian government officials and confirmed that they were, at least for now, not welcome in Canada.
“Recent actions by members of Ukraine’s ruling elite in the face of popular and growing protests have been utterly deplorable, and compel us to take targeted and meaningful action,” Citizenship and Immigration (CIC) Minister Chris Alexander said. “Given the violent repression of legitimate protest and the intimidation of opposition voices, we will be restricting entry to Canada – effective immediately – for key government figures as a direct result of their actions in recent days.”
The move by the Canadian government to bar top Ukrainian government officials comes in the wake of several weeks of violent protests against the government in the Ukraine.
Opposition leaders and their supporters in the Ukraine have received widespread support from Western governments—including the United States and Canada—and are now demanding a return to an earlier constitution that would limit the powers of the Ukrainian president, and move greater control over to the country’s parliament.
At least six people were murdered in Ukrainian protests held during December. But Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich had initially taken a hard line against protesters, following mass protests that erupted over his November decision to decline a trade deal with the European Union in favor of closer ties with Russia.
For his part, Alexander said that while the Canadian government “welcomes recent developments in the Ukraine,” the Ukrainian government has yet to “address the fundamental demands of the people, including accountability and a full embrace of democratic principles.”
Alexander also left open the possibility that, unless the Ukrainian government moves closer to those democratic principles the Canadian government, along its international partners, will consider other options, if it comes to that.
Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) has introduced a multi-entry visa designed specifically with frequent travelers to Canada in mind. As of February 6th, the new multi-entry visa allows qualified visitors to Canada to arrive and depart the country for six months at a time—for up to 10 years—without having to reapply for a new visa.
In addition, the fee charged for the Temporary Resident Visa (TRV) has been reduced from $150 to $100 (that fee applies to both single, as well as multiple-entry visas).
However, not all the news pertaining to visa fees charged by the CIC was positive. While some TRV fees have been cut, several other fees relating to the Temporary Resident Program are increasing.
The list of recently increased Temporary Resident fees include:
- A $25 increase in fees for study permits and renewals
- A $5 increase in fees for work permits and renewals
- A $25 increase in the fees for extensions to remain in Canada as a visitor
- An increase in the maximum family fee for TRVs from $100 to $500
- A hefty increase in the maximum work permit fee for a group of performing artists and their staff, jumping from $15 to $465
The new multi-entry visa, as well as the fee changes, will likely impact a wide range of individuals, as more than 35 million people—approximately the population of Canada—visit the country each year.
According to the CIC, the multiple-entry visa should be particularly popular with visitors from China, Mexico and India who hold 10-year passports and thus have been eligible to apply for the 10-year visitor visa.
The CIC also points out that even with the wide-ranging fee increases for some Temporary Residents, Canada’s visa fees remain “competitive” with other nations’.
Ontario is one of several provinces negotiating possible recognition of Irish drivers’ licenses. The recognition of the foreign licenses is seen as a welcome development for thousands of Irish immigrants living and working in Canada. Other provinces currently negotiating possible recognition of Irish-issued drivers’ licenses include Alberta, Manitoba and Newfoundland.
Similar to the driving laws in the United States—where each state is responsible for issuing its own driver’s license for state residents—each Canadian province determines the laws governing the issuance and recognition of drivers’ licenses.
In 2012, Ireland’s Road Safety Authority (RSA) began negotiations with the Ontario government—home to the largest number of Irish immigrants in Canada—regarding possible recognition of the Irish licenses. Under current Ontario law, immigrants from Ireland wishing to obtain a driver’s license have to take the Ontario driving test.
An additional benefit of Ontario’s recognition of an Irish-issued driver’s license would be the recognition of the accompanying ‘driving history’. Ontario auto insurance is among the priciest in Canada, and drivers without a recognized Ontario driving history—including immigrants from other countries–often have to pay exceptionally high premiums.
If an agreement is reached between the Irish and Ontario governments, it’s expected that the official recognition of drivers’ licenses will be mutual, resulting in Irish recognition of Ontario-issued licenses.
Just over a month into the recently renewed visa program for parents and grandparents of Canadian citizens and permanent residents, the popular program has reached its maximum for 2014 applications.
After reaching the allotted 5,000 applications for 2014, Citizenship and Immigration (CIC) Minister Chris Alexander confirmed that the Parent and Grandparent Program (PGP) will pause again, until next year. The temporary pause in accepting additional applications this year comes in the wake of what had previously been a two-year freeze on accepting any new applications.
Alexander added that the freeze on new applications this year was needed in order for the government to “devote our energies to reuniting more families.” Alexander also said that by the end of 2014, Canada will welcome an additional 20,000 parents and grandparents and reduce wait times for all applicants.
In addition to parents and grandparents, the PGP program also includes spouses and dependents. As a result, it’s estimated that this year’s total of 5,000 PGP applications will include about 9,000 individuals.
The PGP program offers a “Super Visa” that allows eligible sponsors to temporarily bring their parents or grandparents to Canada. Providing multiple entries into the country, the Super Visa is valid for up to 10 years and allows parents or grandparents to stay in the country for up to two years at a time without having to renew their immigration status.
Citizenship and Immigration Minister (CIC) Chris Alexander is not happy with Ontario’s decision to introduce a new program designed to provide refugee claimants with primary care, hospital services and medication.
Alexander recently said the federal government was “disappointed with the Ontario government’s recent decision to reinstate healthcare benefits to all asylum seekers, even rejected refugee claimants”. The CIC minister added that “simply arriving on our shores and claiming hardship isn’t good enough. This isn’t a self-selection bonanza or a social program buffet.”
Alexander’s comments come in the wake of a new Ontario program that commenced on Jan. 1 that provides refugee claimants with a wide array of healthcare benefits regardless of their current refugee status. The new provincial program was introduced after cuts were made to a similar federal refugee health care program.
The CIC minister said he believes the new Ontario health care program for refugees runs counter to the intentions of the federal government’s policy.
Under the Ontario program—which is similar to programs in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Nova Scotia—refugees will be able to receive medical care regardless of their immigration status. However, Ontario’s program is of particular importance as the province attracts 55 percent of all refugee claimants to Canada.
Ontario officials estimate the new program will cost approximately $20 million, and the province intends to pass that bill along to Ottawa for payment.
As the world’s greatest athletes prepare to go for the gold in the Sochi Olympics, Canada’s Olympic chances are being bolstered by the country’s long history of welcoming immigrants from around the world.
While participants in the Olympics are required to be a national of the country that’s competing for medals, new and first generation Canadians have long played an important role in the country’s pursuit of Olympic gold.
Take the case of Canadian figure skating champion Patrick Chan. A child of Chinese immigrants to Canada, Chan grew up in Ottawa and Toronto and is now seen by many as the country’s best hope for a skating gold medal at this year’s Olympics. He has already won the world figure skating championship three times, and is looking to add Olympic gold to his collection.
As a 23-year-old, first-generation Canadian, Chan has established himself as both a national—and international—force to be reckoned with in world skating competition. In fact, as recently as this January, Chan won his seventh consecutive Canadian figure skating title.
Of course, Chan is just the latest in a long line of first-generation Canadians, whose parents’ decision to move to Canada eventually led to their achieving worldwide athletic success representing their homeland.
Elvis Stojko, one of the most renowned figure skaters in Canadian history, is also the first-generation child of immigrants to Canada. Named after the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll—Elvis Presley—Stojko was a three-time world figure skating champion, as well as a two-time Olympic silver medalist.
For Ivan Babikov, who emigrated from his native Russia to Canada in 2003, the Sochi Olympics hold a special meaning.
When he and his mother joined his sister in Canada, Babikov initially had no plans to pursue cross-country skiing as his career had stalled back in Russia. Five years after first landing in Canada, Babikov achieved Canadian citizenship and then decided to try to represent his new homeland in international competitions. In 2009, he became the second Canadian to ever finish first in the final stage of the Tour de Ski competition, and went on to compete for Canada in the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics.
While how well Canadian athletes will fair at this year’s Olympic games remains unknown, it’s safe to say many athletes proudly displaying their red and white Canadian team colors will also embody their home and native land’s long history of welcoming immigrants from across the globe.
The Canadian government is banning employers from hiring foreign workers in industries it deems as “sex trades”—including strippers and escorts—and is increasing tightening regulations on employers of all foreign workers.
Changes made to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (IRPR) mean that Canadian employers looking to hire temporary foreign workers will have to meet new, stricter criteria to receive a Labour Market Opinion (LMO), a document that’s required to confirm the need for a foreign worker to fill a position.
Changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) that took effect on December 31, 2013 include:
- Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC), the government body overseeing the hiring of foreign workers, no longer provides an LMO for companies looking to hire foreign workers to perform “striptease, erotic dance, escort services or erotic massages.” ESDC says this move is being done to protect foreign workers from any possible abuse.
- As of 2014, ESDC also has the authority to conduct inspections for six years from the start date of a foreign worker’s employment, to make sure that employers are complying with all IRPR regulations. These inspections may include interviews with the foreign workers, as well as on-site inspections without a warrant, as long as the premises are not considered a private dwelling.
- Amendments to the IRPR also means Canadian employers will be required to retain compliance documents related to the hiring of foreign workers for six years from the start of the worker’s employment. The IRPR changes also require employers to make “reasonable efforts” to ensure that workplace environments are free of abuse.
With these changes, employers are also now required to hire or train—or “make reasonable efforts to hire and train”—Canadians or permanent residents, if that was one of the reasons cited for the need to issue the permit to hire a foreign worker.
Employers undergoing inspection will be required to provide documentation proving their compliance. If they’re found to not be in compliance, employers will have an opportunity to justify their situation and take corrective action prior to a final decision by federal officials.
Penalties for employers found to be in non-compliance will be fairly strict, including a ban from hiring foreign workers for two years, a public listing of the company’s name on an ineligible hiring list, as well as the issuance of negative LMOs on any pending applications. “Non-complying” employers may also face revocation of previously issued LMOs.
Calling the waits for the processing of live-in caregiver applications “unacceptable,” Canada’s Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander announced that over the coming year Canada will admit 17,500 permanent residents through its Live-In Caregiver Program (LCP).
That figure represents almost double the amount of LCP applicants accepted in 2013, and the highest level of applications accepted since the program began in 1993.
The Canadian government acknowledges that the backlog of LCP applications—and time required for processing them—has grown steadily in recent years and that as result the number of caregivers eligible for permanent residency has grown faster than the planned number of accepted applicants.
Some critics of the LCP point out that, prior to the new increase of accepted applications, there has been a steady decline in the number of LCP applications approved over the last several years.
In fact, the total number of LCP applications approved had steadily declined from 12,955 in 2007 to only 6,242 in 2012.
Still, unlike most other immigration programs—particularly those targeted to temporary foreign workers—the LCP is uniquely designed to provide a pathway to permanent residency for caregivers from other countries.
Under the LCP, if a Canadian employer is unable to hire a Canadian to fill the position, foreign caregivers may be hired and are then permitted to apply for permanent residency after working for two of their first four years in Canada.