Canada’s sudden decision to cancel its investment migrant program will do nothing to stem the flood of migration of rich and qualified Chinese. Countries around the world are competing to welcome their money and talents.
In mid-February, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announced that the government was terminating a 28-year-old immigrant investor program, which resulted in 65,000 would-be immigrants having their visa applications scrapped.
Under the program, applicants worth a minimum of C$1.6 million (US$1.44 million) would loan the government C$800,000 for five years in return for residency visas for them and their family, with the option of applying for citizenship later.
“Given the large backlog of applications, we had long expected this,” said Wang Xin, deputy general manager of the Zhuhai branch of Guangdong Overseas Emigration Service Company. “If the education of children is the main concern of the applicants, then the quickest alternative is to apply for investor immigration into the US.”
Greece, for example, offers a five-year permanent resident status to an investor and his family if they buy a property worth at least 250,000 euros (US$343,500). Hungary offers permanent residency to a foreigner who buys a Hungarian Residency Bond with a minimum value of 250,000 euros; he must hold it for at least five years and also pay an administration fee of 40,000 euros. After six months, he can apply for permanent residency.
According to the United Nations International Migration Report of 2013, 418,000 people left China between 2000 and 2010, ranking fourth in the world behind Bangladesh, Mexico and India in outbound migration: from 1990 to 2000, 143,000 left China, ranking eighth in the world. This nearly tripling of the number was possible because of the sharp increase in the number of Chinese with the wealth, qualifications and skills enabling them to migrate.
China is enjoying a rate of growth and prosperity, with an abundance of material goods and a range of freedoms, that is unparalleled in its history – so why do so many of its citizens want to leave, especially the rich and well qualified?
“China is a country run by men and not laws,” said Wu Qiao, a Shanghai-based consultant who advises the rich on where to invest. “It does not matter how wealthy you are. It can all be taken away. Guanxi are fragile – they are tied to a particular individual. When he leaves his post, you lose the guanxi.
“Therefore, the rich prefer to transfer their assets or a proportion of their wealth to countries where laws and regulations protect them, regardless of the government, and which are politically stable,” he said.
Another major factor is that many wealthy people want their children educated abroad. To facilitate this, they buy a property abroad and send their wife to be with the children; if they settle abroad, then the father may follow.
One example is Huang Lin, a businessman from Guangzhou who emigrated to Canada in 2001. “The rich class want a better environment in which the next generation can grow up,” he said.
Like many migrants, Huang could only find jobs with a fraction of the pay and responsibility he had enjoyed at home.
He worked in supermarkets, as a salesman and other temporary jobs. His greatest happiness is that his daughter is studying physics at Toronto University. “Her personal growth and academic success made our choice the correct one and our sacrifice worthwhile,” he said.
Like many parents, Huang did not like the intense competition and rote learning needed to pass the university entrance exam in China. In addition, parents need to pay many fees, legal and illegal, to schools and teachers to ensure that their children enter the best schools and have the level of teaching that will bring success in the exam.
“In schools in Canada, the teachers pay great attention to the students. They ask them to do a wide range of activities outside the classroom, making my daughter independent. We parents were invited to take part in life at school. We were asked not to criticize or compare children,” he said.
A growing number of rich Chinese are sending their children to secondary schools abroad, according to the Chinese Luxury Consumer Survey 2014 published by the Hurun Report, which polled 400 parents with at least 10 million yuan in disposable assets.
A third factor is the serious pollution in most major Chinese cities, which will take years to resolve. However large a person’s property and luxurious the quality of his life, he cannot escape the poor air quality in China.
Canada is in the happy position of having so many applicants, from countries around the world, that it can pick and choose among them. Rich Chinese need not worry. Many countries are ready to offer them permanent residency and citizenship in exchange for their money.
– Contact HKEJ at [email protected]