Canada’s immigration minister Chris Alexander told TOI in a conversation, “We are telling all brilliant young technology minds, ‘if you can get Canadian venture capital, or an angel investor to back you with funds or just with their time, we offer you permanent residence.’ No one else in the world does that. It’s a pilot project and we already have a couple of hundred applications in process.”
On the other hand, if you are an investor yourself, the path to permanent residency in Canada is easier. “If an Indian wants to buy a Canadian company, he is most welcome. If they are there as the manager or the principal for a year they can apply to be a permanent resident,” Alexander said.
Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft are among a host of tech companies which have set up campuses in Vancouver to take advantage of easier immigration and visa rules that make Canada more attractive to immigrants from countries like India. According to reports, foreign workers do get paid around 10 per cent less than locals.
But Alexander was clear the popular reaction is positive. “We are an immigration country. We have built our success on immigration and we have protected that legacy through the economic crisis of 2008-09. We are still a growth play, whether in the technology and resource sectors or finance.”
For many reasons – English education and skills – Indians score high in the acceptability chart. “We have three countries that are in a league of their own as sources of immigration – China, India and the Philippines.”
In 2013, over 33,000 Indian immigrants came to Canada, Alexander said. Around 60 per cent were economic migrants, rest were families.
It is far easier to get permanent residence in Canada. Alexander said, “It only requires you to be in Canada for two years out of five. So someone who is global and wants to go back and forth can do the- be a Canadian permanent resident while doing some part of business here (in India).”
Recently, Canada stopped an immigration programme which enabled rich Chinese to “buy” permanent residency with a “soft loan” of $800000 to a district or province in that country after media reported protests from locals. “It was a programme that was not meeting its objectives. It was called the immigrant investor programme but it brought us neither immigrants, nor investors.”
Alexander said there were a lot of people who were trying to make it seem as if they were living in Canada, when in fact they were not. “We had absentees making soft loans to the provinces rather than immigrants.”
Canada now wants to replace it with a new pilot programme. “We will require (potential immigrants) to make a larger investment, a real investment in the venture capital field.” The programme is expected to be rolled out later this year.
Alexander kicked off a new visa processing programme for Indian visitors- under the new CAN+ programme, Indian nationals who have travelled to Canada or the US in the past 10 years can go through faster processing of visas. In 2013, Canada issued more than 1,30,000 visitor visas to Indians and nearly 14,000 Indian students travelled to study.