Canada has received just six applications for its pilot immigration program for millionaires, Reuters reported.
That is a pale shadow of the thousands of applications for its investor class visa, scrapped last year amid criticism it was allowing rich Chinese to buy their way into Canada.
“I knew it wasn’t going to work. It was poorly designed,” the report quoted Richard Kurland, a Vancouver immigration lawyer who filed an Access to Information request for the data, as saying.
Canada said in December it was looking for 50 wealthy foreigners to join the pilot run of the Immigrant Investor Venture Capital (IIVC) plan, under which applicants must be far richer than those who entered under the previous program.
Kurland said the revamped program will likely “wither on the vine and quietly go away” given the clear lack of demand from would-be immigrants, who balked at the high price tag and uncertainty about their investment.
Despite the low number, an official at the Citizenship and Immigration department said the government would not consider going back to a program similar to the previous investor class visa.
“We believe it is important to continue testing demand, because we know that the IIVC pilot program can deliver significant benefit [to] Canada,” the official said in an email.
Under the new program, would-be immigrants must invest a minimum of C$2 million (US$1.54 million) in Canada for a 15-year period and must have a net worth of at least C$10 million.
They must also meet a new requirement that they speak English or French.
“Few were prepared to throw good money away, and C$2 million is a lot of money to get a visa,” said Kurland.
The federal government started accepting applicants in January, and had received the six applications by June 8, the documents show.
Launched in the mid-1980s, the previous immigrant investor program promised fast-track visas for foreigners with a net worth of C$800,000 and C$400,000 to invest. The minimums were later raised to a net worth of C$1.6 million and C$800,000 to invest.
The program was wildly popular, particularly with Chinese investors, first from Hong Kong and Taiwan and later from mainland China.
Applications surged over the past decade, and the program was frozen in 2012 as officials scrambled to clear the backlog.
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