Buying Canadian Citizenship Costs More Now

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in at 2/26/2014 11:27:00 AM
The good stuff
When it was announced that the British would hand Hong Kong back to the Chinese in the year 1997, there was a flurry among its wealthy residents to decamp to Canada. Back then, we were uncertain of whether the place would lose its freewheeling, entrepreneurial culture and be replaced by a command economy reminiscent of China's at that time (19 December 1984). True, activist Average Joe Hongkongers are unhappy with the dwindling political freedoms granted by the Beijing overseers and protest loudly by HK standards, but the business elite has largely continued as they were by toeing the CCP line. In other words, the titans of commerce still enjoy economic freedoms they did under the British, and for them that's all that really matters. Hong Kong, after all, is a town whose foundations are built on commerce.
So, many wealthy Hongkongers paid their dues and stayed for the required residency but ultimately went back to Hong Kong when they found "one country, two systems" to be a reasonably accurate implementation of the rhetoric. Ever since, Canadian authorities have been ambivalent about what to do with these "Canadians." On one hand they brought in revenue and some investment. On the other hand, they were citizens of convenience. Well, times have changed and Canada is no longer going to be the citizenship bargain of note for Chinese expats:
Tuesday, Feb. 11 was a bad day for Chinese millionaires seeking a quick, cheap route to a new life in a foreign country. Canada, which had issued some of the world’s least expensive “investor” visas, decided not to do so anymore. The terms of the Canadian program had been unbeatable: in exchange for an interest-free, five-year C$800,000 (US$732,000) loan to the Canadian government, an applicant with C$1.6 million ($1.46 million) in assets could, along with his or her dependents, receive permanent residency status, with the option of citizenship in three years.

Of the approximately 185,000 migrants who have taken advantage of Canada’s Immigrant Investor Program since the mid-1980s, roughly half originated from China and Hong Kong. It was a good deal for the migrants -- and for Canada, too. According to Hong Kong's South China Morning Post, approximately 67,000 Mainland Chinese, and 30,000 Hong Kongers, have emigrated to Canada since the program’s inception in the mid-1980s. The program brought in billions of dollars of investment and -– more crucially –- Chinese and Hong Kong entrepreneurs who filled employment niches and supported local economies (especially real estate markets).
Of course not all of those Chinese migrants made for great Canadians. Many simply fueled a wave of “reverse migration,” taking their new passports and moving back to Asia, often leaving their spouses and children behind. The SCMP reports that there are currently 295,000 Canadian citizens living in Hong Kong alone. The Canadian government’s desire to end such a liberal giveaway is in this light perfectly understandable.
What's changed? Undoubtedly, there's annoyance at the Hongkongers not making any real gestures concerning becoming "Canadian" as they come and go. Also, Canada is not exactly strapped for revenue-generating sources these days with Alberta's oil sands set to bring in a windfall lasting over quarter of a century. Bloomberg View gets it about right: many Canadians are not averse to the idea of selling citizenship, but it should not come too cheaply:
Yet what really seems to bother the Canadians isn’t the migrants' unwillingness to integrate, but rather a sense that Canada had sold out too cheaply. Finance Minister Jim Flaherty summarized this sentiment in his annual budget message last week: “For decades, [the investor scheme] has significantly undervalued Canadian permanent residence, providing a pathway to Canadian citizenship in exchange for a guaranteed loan that is significantly less than our peer countries require.”
A Canadian passport, after all, is a nice one to have. I wouldn't mind having one myself [bada-boom]. It ranks fourth in the number of countries (170) you can visit visa-free. And, of course, they don't shout "Yankee go home!" at you wherever you go, ey?

Ah well, there's always, er, Malta.