Quebec’s decision to delay the opening of the Quebec Investor Program until April 2021 signals a major change in direction for the province, and for Canada’s business immigration setting.
As Canada’s only passive investment immigration program, the Quebec Investor program allows individuals with a net worth in excess of about $2 million to invest $1.2 million over the period of five years in exchange for Canadian permanent residence. Their investment is then returned back to the investor, with the Quebec government keeping the interest.
Since 2001, the Quebec immigrant investor program has drawn investment into Quebec to the tune of $1 billion, benefitting more than 5,000 businesses in the province, making it clear why Quebec has stuck with the controversial immigration pathway.
Even after the federal version of the program was annulled in 2014, the Quebec Investor endured, gaining in popularity as the only passive investment pathway to Canada.
But the major problem with the program remains – that as little as ten (10) per cent of the applicants who qualify for Canadian permanent residence settle in Quebec.
This draws the eyes of other provinces, including Ontario and British Columbia, who say Quebec investor candidates are responsible for fuelling housing bubbles in the Toronto and Vancouver real estate markets.
In delaying the opening of the QIIP by a year, the governing Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ) has shown that it intends to resolve this major flaw, which in turn would have a significant impact on the popularity of the program.
Figures indicate 5,500 QIIP applications remain in the processing pile-ups, effectively three years of applications, which are normally capped at 1,900 per year.
Enter Through The Quebec Investor Program And Live Elsewhere In Canada
The statistics on the number of Quebec immigrant investor program candidates settling in Quebec make the problem clear.
Canada has regularly said it doesn’t have the power to solve the issue, due to powers allocated to the French-speaking province as part of the 1991 Canada-Quebec Accords.
In 2017, 342 out of over 5,000 arrivals had a primary residence in Quebec. In 2018, 518 out of over 6,000 live in the province, while 2019 data up to October indicated 528 out of just over 4,100 people lived there. Over the three years, that means less than ten (10) per cents of QIIP candidates live in Quebec.
Between 2008 and 2017, the retention rates is put at a slightly better average of sixteen (16) per cent, although for Chinese candidates, who make up the vast majority, that figure is thirteen (13) per cent.
Although candidates are requested to show their intention to settle in Quebec, authorities have little or no power to keep them in the province once they have Canadian permanent residence status.
Free movement within Canada for permanent residents is protected under the law ( under Section 6 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms).
In delaying the program, announced through the Official Quebec news paper on Wednesday, May 20, 2020, a spokesperson for Quebec’s Ministry of Immigration, Francization and Integration (MIFI) listed its the low retention rates and integrity as the major issues.
Originally, the QIIP program was schedule to re-start on July 1, 2020, after it was paused on November 1, 2019.
The previous application window, which closed in fall 2019, saw 1,900 files received, including a maximum of 1,235 from Macau, Hong Kong, China and up to 665 from elsewhere.
Applicants with advanced intermediate proficiency in French language are not subject to quota limitations.
Quebec’s Economic Recovery
Quebec officials said the delaying of the program had nothing to do with the ongoing COVID-19.
However, critics of the decision say the QIIP could play a major role in the province’s economic recovery, by drawing crucial investment dollars.
Those criticizing the decisions accepted the low retention rates couldn’t continue, but called on the Quebec province to reform and reopen the program more quickly than April 2021.
If major changes are made to the Quebec investor program, Canada must look to other programs to serves its future business immigration requirements.
One such example is the increasingly popular Start-Up Visa Programs (SUV).
While fewer individuals come to Canada through the Start-Up Visa, those that do are highly qualified persons who bring with them substantial human capital, including age, education and language ability.
SUV candidates compare favorably to those admitted via Canada’s previous Entrepreneur Program on human capital and in terms of business successes.