Canada will start accepting applications from millionaire immigrant investors and their families on Wednesday under a revamped version of a program critics once denounced as "cash for citizenship."
The government announced in December it would give permanent residency to international investors who can invest $2 million in Canada, in an effort to attract experienced business people who could give the Canadian economy a boost.
The new Immigrant Investor Venture Capital program will open on Jan. 28 to Feb. 11 or until a maximum of 500 applications are received, the government quietly announced before MPs returned to Ottawa this week.
"This pilot program is designed to attract immigrant investors who will significantly benefit the Canadian economy and better integrate into our society, which will contribute to our long-term prosperity and economic growth," Immigration Minister Chris Alexander said in a written statement.
No more than 60 principal applicants will receive permanent resident visas under the pilot program, even though the government says it will accept up to 500 applications.
Each investor will be required to make a non-guaranteed investment of $2 million over approximately 15 years into a fund managed principally by BDC Capital, the investment arm of the Business Development Bank of Canada.
The government said the fund "will invest in innovative Canadian startups with high growth potential."
"Proceeds from the IIVC fund will be distributed to the immigrant investors periodically… based on the performance of the investments," a spokesman for Alexander said in an email to CBC News.
The details of the program along with the selection criteria to apply appear in the latest ministerial instructions published in a government publication over the weekend.
Investors contributed 'little'
The government is hoping to have better luck with this program than it did with the last one.
"Under the former Immigrant Investor Program (IIP), immigrant investors had to invest $800,000 in Canada’s economy in the form of a repayable loan, without meeting skills and abilities requirements of most of Canada’s economic immigration programs," the government acknowledged in a public statement before MPs returned to Ottawa this week.
"Research indicated that immigrant investors under the previous program were less likely than other immigrants to stay in Canada over the medium to long term. Also, they contributed relatively little to the Canadian economy, earning very little income and paying very little tax."
The pilot immigrant investor program comes after the government said it scrapped the old program — which critics had described as "cash for citizenship — because it had been riddled with fraud.
The program had also been put on hold in 2012 because of a huge backlog of applications.
Thousands of millionaires who had been waiting for permanent residency under the program sued the federal government after it wiped out the backlog of applications.
A Federal Court judge ruled against the more than 1,000 would-be investor immigrants last June.
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