Who are Canada’s Chinese Investor Immigrants? Why has their value to Canada not been fully realized?
The existing Chinese investor immigrant stereotype
Over the past two decades, Canada’s “preference” of immigrants has shifted from employment-based employees to the entrepreneurial, investor immigrant. Gone are the days when an immigrant from China with a degree, $60 in pocket and a letter from an employer is welcomed to our country with open arms.
Regardless of your stance on this issue, the brutal reality is that the cost for a Canadian employer to have this employee here, more often than not, outweighs the cost of hiring a Canadian. For a middle-aged individual from China who has limited English language skills and Canadian experience, the best route to permanent residence in Canada is now through various government-run investor and entrepreneurial programs.
From the government’s perspective, the idea is that these schemes will create businesses in Canada that in turn will create local jobs and generate capital. For most of us, however, this is not how we view investor immigrants. Investor immigration is generally viewed as a bad thing. We blame these “rich immigrants” for increases in property prices and abuses of our social services. Our existing stereotype of the typical Chinese investor immigrant is an extremely wealthly, multiple property owner who tends to be reclusive and not eager to assimilate into Canadian society.
A different narrative: my own experiences with investor immigrants
In the past year, I have, as a student-at-law, worked closely with Chinese investor immigrants, both in Canada and in China. My experiences have given me a completely different narrative of investor immigrants.
From the outset, I would say that the “stereotypical” profile of my client is a successful, middle-class working couple in their late thirties, with a three-year old son.
In my experience, the primary motivation for most Chinese investor immigrants to come to Canada is for their family’s future. Many have or expect to have a young child who they wish to educate in Canada. They feel the Chinese education system places too much pressure on young children and is stuck in traditional ways of learning. Also high on the priority list is access to a cleaner environment and better health care. While business does often take a backseat to family, investor immigrants generally are well-educated and passionate about the work they have done in China and are trying to bring their knowledge and skills to Canada. I have yet to meet a client who did not genuinely want to run a successful Canadian-based business. Given the above factors, I would say that the hopes and ambitions of these investor immigrants are as laudable and similar to the ones we hold for our own families here in Canada. Upon immigration, they too are tax-paying residents of Canada, contrary to what is often reported in the media.
BC’s Provincial Nomination Program: finding value for Canadians and small businesses
Finally, I think that we have not yet searched for the “value-added” that these investor immigrants can provide for Canadian society. For example, under British Columbia’s Provincial Nominee Program, there are multiple requirements for investor immigrants to directly engage with other Canadians. First, there is a requirement on the investor immigrant to either start up a business or purchase shares or assets of an existing business. These businesses will require Canadian services and clients to succeed and must also hire at least one Canadian permanent resident or citizen.
There are also particular opportunities for regional businesses that have operated for over five years and are looking for what is called a “succession buyout.” This category is the quickest option for immigrants and provides a tangible option for a struggling business to either get out of the business or receive a capital injection.
Needless to say, there is an ocean of opportunity for Canadians if we get beyond the vast differences we perceive.