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“One Canadian Citizenship with a side of fries and a milkshake, please.”

Imagine a world where becoming a citizen was as easy as swiping your credit card or writing a cheque! Sure, that may sound like a dream, but “buying” your way into Canada looks nothing like a simple transaction.

In fact, the concept of purchasing your Canadian citizenship is a misnomer in itself: while there are a couple of different immigration routes that loosely tie an applicant’s investment to obtaining status in Canada, the process is far more nuanced and complex than many people realize.

Permanent Residency vs Citizenship:
What's the difference?

Canadian permanent residency (PR and citizenship) are like immigration cousins. They share some of the same privileges, but ultimately, they are very different.

The most important distinction is that PR is the step that comes before citizenship: it provides foreign nationals with a way to work and live in Canada on a temporary basis while they wait for their citizenship application to be processed.

Individuals can obtain sponsorship for their PR through a family member (spouse, parent, etc.) or an employer. Unless you are born in Canada, becoming a permanent resident is the only way to open the door to eventually becoming a citizen.

  • Access to social benefits
  • Responsibility to pay taxes
  • Ability to work and live in Canada
  • Ability to study in Canada
  • PRs cannot vote in Canadian elections
  • PRs remain citizens of their home country
  • PRs cannot hold some jobs with high-level security clearance
  • PRs cannot apply for a Canadian passport

Which program makes this
technically possible?

While Canada used to have an Immigrant Investor Program of its own, it was finally shut down for good in 2014. These days, the only program that allows foreign nationals into Canada based solely on their net worth and a passive investment is the Quebec Immigrant Investor Program (QIIP).

The goal of the QIIP is to encourage well-off foreign nationals with business experience to immigrate to Quebec, so they can help contribute to the economy. This contribution is in the form of an investment made directly to the government, who in turns uses this capital to promote and fund a number of economic programs for the province.

In exchange for their investment, QIIP applicants are granted unconditional Canadian permanent residency, opening the door to becoming a citizen in the future.

How much does it cost to "buy" Canadian Permanent Residency?

Foreign nationals who apply for PR via this program must make a five-year, interest-free investment of $1.2 million with Investissement Québec – Immigrants Investisseurs Inc. through an approved financial intermediary. These intermediaries also offer financing options for investors looking to fund their investment through a structured loan.

On the personal wealth side, applicants must also have a legally acquired net worth of at least $2 million, either on their own or combined with a spouse. They must also have spent two of the last five years in a sufficient managerial role, namely as someone involved in the planning, management, and control of financial, human, or material resources.

Finally, QIIP hopefuls must intend to settle in Quebec. Which brings us to our next point.

Why can Quebec do this?

While every other Canadian province said goodbye to the IIP, Quebec was able to keep their program alive due to a simple legislative detail: the Canada-Quebec Accord gives Quebec unique freedoms regarding how they govern immigration to the province. In this case, they chose to exercise that freedom by holding onto the QIIP.

Both the Canadian IIP and now the QIIP have been subject to criticism, with people questioning whether it’s right for wealthy foreign nationals to use their financial privilege as a lever for immigration. This is also why authorities are looking at ways for the benefits of the program to become more visible for Quebeckers.

At the time of this writing, intake for the QIIP has been suspended until April 2021. Prior to this most recent extension, the program had been paused until July 2020 for two reasons: the first being a massive backlog of applications, and the second, concerns regarding how many QIIP residents end up using Quebec as a “door” to the rest of Canada, eventually leaving for other provinces.

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