On Wednesday, the Winnipeg Free Press ran an article on Manitoba’s failing business immigration program. Today, I chipped in my suggestion in a Free Press Op-Ed on how to fix the business immigration program.
Manitoba’s business immigration systems suffers from two things:
- Long immigration processing times that do not reflect the reality of doing business; and
- A program structure that contains no real mechanism to ensure that immigrant investors carry out their business plans.
The plan that I laid out in today’s Free Press provides a framework for discussion on how to reform this program. Essentially, I believe that Manitoba must set-up a structure that allows investors to come to Canada on work permits to start their business BEFORE granting them permanent residency. This would greatly increase the ability for them to carry out their business plan (because the plan would still be current) and would create a disincentive for using Manitoba as a transit point to settle in other provinces (because they will have already committed more significant money here).
The work permit idea for entrepreneurs is not new. For years, Canada has had on its books various work permit options for individuals seeking to set-up businesses here. Since 1988, U.S. citizens have been able to get work permits to set-up businesses here under the original Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement. In 1993, these “business set-up work permits” were extended to Mexicans and, in the years that followed, additional countries’ citizens also got these opportunities under free trade agreements.
For business people whose counties do not have free trade agreements with Canada, other provisions for “business set-up work permits” have existed for some time.
By using the work permit route, business people can execute their business plans relatively quickly and Manitoba can assess their abilities before Manitoba commits to permanent residency nominations.
Now, some will argue that business people will balk at this. After all, why make an investment in Canada if they are not guaranteed permanent residency.
This argument is really not that strong (at least for business people who really intend on doing business here). If Manitoba nominates a person for immigration to Canada, the typical reasons that the immigration application could be refused is if the foreign national or one of his or her family members has a criminal record, is a security threat, lies on the application, breaks the law, or provides false documents. All of these issues are within the foreign national’s control. As a result, if an application is refused on this ground, applicants have no one to blame but themselves.
The one ground of refusal that could be problematic are medical refusals. There have been cases of individuals who have arrived in Canada totally healthy only to be refused permanent residency on medical grounds because of a condition that did not emerge until after they arrived here.
Clearly, this is a problem that would need to be addressed. However, this problem already exists for the hundreds of foreign workers and foreign students who arrive here and apply for permanent residence. Under the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program, these individuals have to work here for 6 months before applying for permanent residency. These people can also be refused for medical problems that do not emerge until after their arrive here.
The solution to the medical problem is simple. Canada should allow foreign nationals coming to Canada to voluntarily do immigration medicals (which are paid for by the foreign national anyway) and to “lock-in” the results for a period of time – say, 1 year. If the foreign national makes a permanent residency application within this time, the medical results will be locked in and their medical condition at that time will be what is assessed for immigration purposes. This would give applicants assurance that any change in their medical condition would not result in visas being refused.