JUN
14
2013

A New Vision to Business Immigration in BC

Canada has been a model for many countries during the past couple of decades for its attractive business and investment immigration programs. Yet, it is not the case for the last few years. Since the world economic crash in 2008, many developed countries adapted new immigration policies or improved their existing programs in order to attract new capital and direct investments into their countries by means of immigration. UK introduced very simplified Investor Immigrant program, US revitalized their EB-5 investment green card program to attract foreign investors, France developed a new investment residency program. Other European countries like Portugal, Spain, Malta all lined up to attract investors to their countries by virtue of providing residence or immigration to the investors and their families. Interestingly, Canada during these times froze its well-known Immigrant Investor program. And Provincial business programs have been the main source to utilize for many business people willing to obtain Permanent Residency (PR) in Canada.

British Columbia has currently 3 stream of business immigration (BC PNP); 1) Business Skills, 2) Regional Businesses and 3) Strategic Projects. First two streams are almost identical in nature and third stream has been developed hoping that it would attract bigger investments and companies to the Province.

The main difference between Immigrant Investor Program and BC PNP- Business Programs is active investment and ongoing management requirements in the Provincial Business programs. Investors are expected to invest in an existing business in BC or start up a new business and must actively involve in the ongoing management of the business. What does not work with the program is the “non-business nature of these business programs”. To be more specific;

1) The application review times are too long and investment conditions are not business friendly for any foreign businessperson who is willing to make a genuine business investment or to develop a new business in the Province. For example, it takes 6 – 8 months or more before the application is reviewed first time by Officers and then another six months to get approval from the Province and issuance of initial work permits to Entrepreneurs, when foreign investor can actually make the investment into the business. Any money spent to purchase a business or to develop a business before the receiving approval would not count to the applicant’s total investment requirement. So the program creates a loop of 1 year between Business investors and local BC Business sellers.

Which business in BC would sit on an offer for at least 9 to 12 months if they wish to sell their business to a business immigration applicant? OR Which sound businessman would commit in a healthy business investment knowing that all monies invested before would not count on their investment requirement for immigration.

2) Programs are too bureaucratic, takes long time, too much red tape and requirements for the Investors. The time required from application to obtaining Permanent Resident status in Canada under BC PNP - Business programs is minimum 3 1/2 years. During this time Investors are expected to stay and work in Canada under work permits and try to meet conditions and requirements of BC Government to obtain PR status. There is too much waiting time and uncertainty for an Investor to consider before relocating to Canada and stress them and their families.

3) The business owners in the Province do not have a stake in the program even they cannot communicate with the BC PNP department if they have potential investors for their business or projects.

If these Business immigration programs are designed with expectation to contribute to the economic well being of the Residents and Businesses of the Province; why existing businesses cannot get any support from the BC Government to deal with new investors for their businesses or projects that would create healthy business initiatives, joint ventures and projects in the Province.

BC Business PNP program should be restructured to make the spirit of the program business friendly for both applicants and business owners in BC. Many business immigrants currently invest in small business in the Province; restaurants, chain fast food stores, cafe shops or similar businesses in nature. And many of them willing to make their investment in Mainland Vancouver. This creates a non-healthy and one type business investment environment. Considering the hardship and high cost running a small / retail business in cities like Vancouver, Victoria; many of these businesses set to fail. Countless empty retail locations in the core of Vancouver or Victoria downtown are good examples for this hardship.

What would be a successful and sustainable business immigration model in BC?

A 3 tear Business Immigration program shall be implemented for 3 different profiles of investors; young entrepreneurs who wants to work actively; seasoned investors with good business and professional backgrounds and companies in BC who wants to grow with foreign investments and Companies overseas who wants to invest in the Province.

Entrepreneurs

Suitable for applicants willing to invest in small business in the Province and actively manage their business. Investment requirements shall be for Metro Vancouver area (500,000 $) and other parts of the Province (200,000$) but process should be simplified and faster. BC Government should commit to a 2 years time from application to PR. These programs should be considered more for young entrepreneurs between ages 25 and 40 with 3-5 years business experience. A priority business list shall be created to create a diversified business environment. A tiered tax incentive system should be offered in this category to enable more job creation and encourage people invest in under-served areas.

Investors

Applicants shall invest in BC Government bonds or to a “Small Business Fund” created by BC Government for 5 years and will be provided temporary resident status in BC for 2 years immediately. Meanwhile, their Permanent Residency application can be processed while they are in BC. Minimum investment amount is suggested $ 1,000,000 and investors are not expected to involve actively in any business while their funds will be used in small business financing in BC. This program should be considered for people between 40 and 55 with 10 + years business or professional experience.

Projects:

This stream will help BC Business to find foreign investors for their projects OR foreign companies to make investments in the Province and help their key people to obtain PR in Canada. Minimum investment is suggested to be $ 1,000,000. For each $ 500,000 investment, there will be 1 key person sponsored, including owners. 

With these 3 stream business immigration, BC would welcome different profiles of investors and entrepreneurs and create a healthier business environment and job market across the Province.

Tolga Habali, MBA, RCIC

Registered Canadian Immigration Consultant

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