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Canada's Immigration Minister Jason Kenney delivers a speech to the Economic Club of Canada in Ottawa March 7, 2012.
Canada's Immigration Minister Jason Kenney delivers a speech to the Economic Club of Canada in Ottawa March 7, 2012.

Innovation

Ottawa targets 'high-value' entrepreneurs with immigration program Add to ...

Restaurants, corner stores and franchises were the most common types of businesses created by immigrants under the old Entrepreneur Program, which required that applicants have previous experience, a net worth of $300,000, and plans to open and manage a business that would create at least one other full-time job.

“That’s not to diminish that kind of business, there is value in any kind of business activity,” Mr. Kenney said. “But quite frankly, we’d like to be focusing our attention on attracting bright entrepreneurs who have been capitalized to create companies in high-tech, value-added businesses that have potential to create hundreds of jobs over their lifetime rather than two or three.”

One idea the ministry is researching is a visa program in the United States that expedites immigration of foreign entrepreneurs who are backed by venture capital or investors, Mr. Kenney said.

“The market frankly is a much greater incentive in determining who can successfully integrate into the economy. If an angel investor or venture capital firm has backed and done their due diligence on some bright entrepreneur’s business plan and they’re actually supporting it with their dollars, it seems to me to be a reasonable basis for us to approve expedited residency in Canada.”

The long backlog of applicants was the result of a policy mistake when the current immigration act came into effect a decade ago, Mr. Kenney said. “It imposed on Canada an obligation to process to finalization every application it received in every program, which was crazy given that Canada will always have surplus of applications over our capacity to admit people. Over time, this surplus led to an unacceptably long wait time.”

In a speech to the Economic Club of Canada in Ottawa Wednesday, Mr. Kenney made it clear the immigration backlog is system-wide, and he discussed the possibility of legislating away the total of more than one-million applications waiting to be assessed.

The government plans public consultations on the new approach to the entrepreneurship program in the coming months, starting with industry associations. “We want the market to play a greater role in selection, either through arranged job offers for skilled workers or Canadian investors backing foreign nationals for business ventures,” Mr. Kenney said. The government would also promote the program in a broad range of countries, according to the ministry, as the majority of immigrants under the former entrepreneur class came from just four places: China (and Hong Kong), Egypt, India and Korea.

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PROVINCIAL IMMIGRANT NOMINEE PROGRAMS

Agreements with Ottawa allow provinces to nominate candidates for accelerated immigration

Immigration remains a federal responsibility, but agreements with Ottawa allow provinces to nominate candidates who want to invest and run a business for accelerated immigration. Here are the requirements for entrepreneurs applying under provincial nominee programs:

Alberta

No specific entrepreneur category, but the nominee program includes a self-employed farmer category, for those able to invest at least $500,000 in a farming operation.

British Columbia

Applicants must show that they can develop and actively manage a business that will provide significant economic benefits to the province. Excluded businesses include coin laundries, payday loan offices and home-based businesses.

Saskatchewan

Entrepreneur applicants must have at least three years of entrepreneurial or relevant business management experience and a verifiable minimum net worth of $300,000, and ability to invest at least $150,000. A $75,000 refundable deposit is required.

Manitoba

Applicants must have three years of successful experience in senior management, have a minimum net worth of $350,000, and the ability to invest at least $150,000. An exploratory visit for a week to Manitoba is required along with a $75,000 cash deposit to guarantee establishment of a business in the province.

Ontario

A business investment component of Opportunities Ontario’s nominee program requires a minimum $3-million to invest in a new or existing business, and business ownership or management experience. Applicants must have a comprehensive business plan that creates at least five permanent full-time jobs and be actively involved in the day-to-day management of the business.

New Brunswick

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