Canada entered their current model of investment-based immigration years after the U.S. enacted the EB5 Regional Center visa category, but they sprinted out of the starting gate. When I had my Hong Kong office in the mid-90's, in the years preceding Hong Kong's cessation to China by the British, the EB-5 visa had been on the books for years...at least on paper. In reality, after the procedural nightmares the USG - at the time, the INS - created in the regulatory framework for the legislation, the attractive features of the U.S. immigrant investor platform were eclipsed by the downsides.
I saw many nervous HK business people over those years, and most of the ones I helped immigrate to the U.S. were ushered in via L-1/EB-1 structures. I arrived in Hong Kong after the initial rush of emigration; the uber-wealthy had long before planned their exodus to tax havens. My folks were mostly the Hong Kong version of "small" business entrepreneurs, which over there means a guy with two restaurants grossing U.S. $5-6 million/year and 50-75 employees...the perfect, rock-solid springboard for a new affiliate restaurant in the U.S. and the intracompany sashay for mom, dad, and the kids.
But the real story lies what went on in between that initial batch of very affluent emigrants and the core business community which came to me as the HK handover deadline approached: a majority of emigrants who headed in two primary directions: Australia (because of proximity and reasonable investment-based immigration criteria) and Canada...because of the generous investment-based opportunities offered to them by our savvy northern neighbor.
Today, you can walk through the streets of any major Canadian city and the Asian influence is everywhere. But it isn't just the incredible diversity of culture and cuisine in, say, Vancouver which best illustrates the power of a well-formulated investment-based immigration policy. It's the underlying economic stimulus which has ushered in new economies and new industries in these migrant-enriched Canadian cities.
A just-posted article on canadabusiness.com list these statistics:
-since its establishment in 1986 and subsequent amendment in 1999, Canada's program has so far resulted in 132,000 people immigrating to Canada as investors.
-About 74 per cent of them have been of Chinese descent - with 29 per
cent from mainland China, 23 per cent from Hong Kong and 22 per cent
-British Columbia receives the largest share - with 49 per cent - of
Canada's immigrant investors. Ontario is next with 23 per cent,
followed by Quebec with 22 per cent.
But the real punchline is this: Canada's immigrant investor program generates $2 billion a year for the
country, prompting a pair of prominent Canadian economists to call for an expansion of the program. In a recently published study, Pierre Fortin and Roger Ware for the Montreal-based Analysis Group argued for:
- faster processing times (Canada takes almost 3 years for approval, whereas a U.S. EB-5 Regional Center investor can have their I-526 approved and green card in hand in as little as a year, faster even that Australia, which can take about 14 months.)
- more investor visa slots
Sound familiar? It's the same thing those of us who believe in the power and efficacy of the EB5 Investor Visa have been saying right here in the good ol' U.S. of A. for a very long time. The key difference: in Canada, this kind of call for action is newsworthy.
Perhaps Americans will care more about U.S. immigration policy, especially as it relates to attracting foreign investment, when the true economic measure of the EB-5 Regional Center visa is properly tabulated. In good economic times and in bad, show me a country which successfully attracts foreign capital and I'll show you increased job creation, stabilization of commercial real estate markets (to a certain extent, anyway), and a dream PR campaign result for its political leadership.
I have recently visited cities which were vacant, jobless ghosts for years before EB-5 investor capital surged in to provide the infrastructure needed to bring them back to vibrant economic life. Innovative public-private partnerships, creative loan-based structures, and an eye on the economic horizon by visionary Regional Center entrepreneurs who are establishing colossal new economic zones populated by industry leaders...real, tangible, results driven by EB-5 investors who cannot only touch and see the results of their capitalization but who also know exactly when their investment will mature.
Imagine if this became a priority on our national agenda.