Investor Immigration - What's New?

In an excellent article Mona Shah, a prominent New York immigration attorney, recently commented on whether the U.S. EB-5 investor immigration program is likely to be renewed in December of this year when it is scheduled to expire. She wrote:

To begin with, as a real estate mogul hailing from New York City, the real estate capital of the world, Trump knows how important the EB-5 program has been to the city’s fortunes…In addition, Trump’s own name and brand has been licensed towards one of the large EB-5 projects in the New York Metro area: Trump Bay Street, a 50-story luxury rental apartment building being developed by Kushner Companies – led by none other than Jared Kusher, President-elect Trump’s son-in-law… In addition, as reported by the Wall Street Journal, Trump is lending the Trump name to a 33-story luxury hotel and condominium EB-5 development in downtown Austin . While President-elect Trump himself is not a partner in the financing of these developments, the fact that he has been willing to license his name out to these projects suggests at a minimum, implicit support for the program.

President Elect Donald Trump has good reasons to renew the expiring U.S. EB-5 investor immigration program, including personal involvement in EB-5 projects in New York as recently pointed out by Mona Shah, a New York-based immigration attorney.

While the amount required to be invested may increase from $ 500,000 to $ 800,000, other aspects of the EB-5 investor immigration program, including improvements to the program's integrity, are unlikely to be changed when the program is renewed in the upcoming weeks. So much for the American program.

What about Canada?

Kareem El-Assal, a research associate in the education and immigration areas for the Conference Board of Canada, recently approached me with a suggestion that we write this joint article on that subject. For those unfamiliar with the Conference Board of Canada, it is the foremost independent, evidence-based, not-for-profit applied research organization in Canada and is affiliated with a counterpart Conference Board in New York.

By way of historical background, in 1986 Canada launched the Immigrant Investor Program. Its aim was to attract experienced business persons to spur job creation through entrepreneurship, investments, and spending. Unfortunately, the program was terminated in 2014. Since then there has been no federal investor immigration program in Canada, although the Province of Quebec has maintained a provincial program in its absence. El-Assal pointed out that the Canadian federal government is now looking to enhance Canada’s competitiveness and added that a new investor immigration program could prove to be an important aspect of Canada’s growth. The comment was timely since The Conference Board of Canada will be holding a discussion on this theme on December 6th and 7th in Toronto, titled Canada’s first ever Entrepreneur & Investor Immigration Summit. I have written about the need for such a program in Canada previously as well. 

If Canada embarked on such a program, El-Assal argued that Canada’s funding objectives and dialogue between federal and provincial/territorial governments could determine the investment requirement and number of immigrants to be admitted under the program each year. For example, if Canada needed $10 billion for an infrastructure project, the investor immigration program could admit an average of 2,000 immigrants per year at $1 million each for five years. In other words, El-Assal proposed that economic need from time to time would determine program content. He felt that was the easy part though.

The hard part would be building public trust. Among the public’s concerns are the ‘sale’ of Canadian citizenship, fears that wealthy immigrants drive-up real estate prices, queue-jumping—the notion that the wealthy would be given advantage in the immigrant selection process, and fraud. He then set out some arguments to counter each of the objections listed.

Firstly, he pointed out that the old investor immigration program never sold citizenship. Rather, it offered permanent residence to immigrants who needed to fulfill Canadian residency requirements before they could qualify for citizenship. What is more, El-Assal argued that permanent residence could be made conditional upon the immigrant proving they physically resided in Canada.

As for the potential effect of wealthy immigrants on rising real estate prices, that requires more research. Nobody really knows for sure according to El-Assal. Public policy could then address the problem once it is better defined. 

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Rounding out El-Assal's views, he said queue-jumping and fraud concerns could be addressed through processing that would have to follow normal channels and more rigorous background checks.

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