12/10/2013 12:09 EST | Updated 02/09/2014 05:59 EST

Millionaire immigrants invest in Quebec — and then move on

The vast majority of millionaire immigrants who come to Canada through Quebec's immigrant investor program do not stay in that province, allowing Quebec to keep millions in job creation dollars while other provinces carry the costs of settlement.

Numbers from Citizenship and Immigration Canada, obtained by a Vancouver immigration lawyer, show that 90 per cent of those immigrants are not living in Quebec when they re-apply for permanent resident visas five years later.

Richard Kurland said there has been anecdotal evidence for years that those millionaire immigrants instead go west to British Columbia.

He paid the federal government to search its own database to determine how many of those immigrants are still in Quebec. As it turns out, only around 10 per cent are still in the province.

Quebec is the only province to run its own immigrant investor program. It is identical to the federal one — which was suspended in June 2012 — in which an applicant pays $800,000 and must also demonstrate a net worth of more than $1 million.

The $800,000 is returned after five years, without interest, but in the meantime is invested in job creation.

Under the federal program, money is split evenly between Ottawa and the province of destination. But under its own program, Quebec keeps all of the money for job creation.

'A matter of fairness'

Kurland said the current setup isn't working.

"What happened here is an abuse of Canada's immigration program, the design failed," he told CBC News.

Kurland said it's unfair to the other provinces where the millionaire investors do eventually settle, such as B.C.

"It's British Columbia that needs to take care of the health needs, the education, the subsidized university," he said.

Kurland said one possible solution is to have immigrants in the program file a tax return from the province they promised to live in for a few years upon arrival. If they move, they must wait longer to get their $800,000 refunded.

Federal Immigration Minister Chris Alexander issued a statement Monday saying his department is looking at the issue.

"If someone applies to immigrate to a particular province, that is where they are undertaking to reside. While we respect provincial jurisdiction, as a matter fairness, we cannot send federal transfer payments to one province for someone living in another.

"That saddles the other provinces with unfair resettlement costs, such as health care and education," the statement said, adding. "This is a matter in which we are actively engaged."