There was a myth circulating in the deeper reaches of the internet that one could buy a Canadian citizenship from the Province of Quebec, assuming you were rich enough. Or so I thought it was a myth.
As it turns out, it’s just about true. It is entirely possible to essentially purchase Canadian Permanent Residency status, that is the level just beneath Canadian Citizenship, through something called the Quebec Immigrant Investor Program.
I’ll explain how this dubious bureaucratic quid pro quo transaction works in a moment, but first, what is the difference between Canadian Permanent Residency and Canadian Citizenship?
Frankly, there’s not much of a difference when it comes to everyday life.
Permanent residents are able to work most jobs (excluding those with high level security clearances), live and travel anywhere in Canada, and are able to collect most forms of government welfare.
The main difference is that permanent residents cannot vote, do not carry Canadian passports, and may have their legal status revoked should a judge deem it necessary (if they commit a heinous crime, let’s say). Although in most cases, permanent residency status leads to citizenship, and is rarely revoked—even for violent offenders.
So before moving on, let’s be clear: you cannot buy a Canadian citizenship from Quebec, but you can buy the next best thing, permanent residency status—this usually leads to Canadian citizenship.
The Quebec Immigrant Investor Program allows foreign investors to acquire Canadian permanent residency status by investing CAD $800,000 in the province of Quebec, either through a financial intermediary (a bank) or through direct investment (setting up or buying a business).
This $800,000 is guaranteed by the Quebec government—it’s a certain investment. This is bizarre if your goal is really to attract investors. Investing is inherently risky.
Although the program is capped at 1,900 immigrants, people with an “intermediate” knowledge of French are exempt from the quota. That is, the real number of immigrants entering through the program could be significantly higher than the cap, given that those who speak French are not counted towards said quota.
Of course, the cap does not include family members either. If we assume that the average immigrant family consists of five individuals (two parents, three children), this means at least 9,500 people are entering Canada per year through Quebec’s program.
And again, it could be much higher depending upon how many French-speakers are applying.
Another interesting point of fact is that the quota limits the number of accepted applicants from China, Hong Kong, and Macao at 1,330 (again, not including family). This suggests that the program was likely being swamped with rich Chinese immigrants abusing the system—otherwise why impose such a specific cap in the first place?
Beyond this, it is also worth mentioning that Quebec is a French-speaking province. If French-speaking immigrants are not counted towards the quota, this means that the 1,900 person cap is really a cap on English-speaking immigrants, who probably don’t want to stay in Quebec to begin with.
When looking at the system as a whole, its purpose becomes clear: Quebec is selling Canadian permanent residency statuses to English-speaking, predominantly Chinese investors, who have no intention of settling in Quebec.
The impact of this is clear in cities like Vancouver, which are magnets for Chinese investment.
Now let’s get back to the money: what does Quebec get out of this?
Well, they get the $800,000 investment. But that’s a naive way of looking at it: Quebec could easily finance identical investments by issuing bonds. Over the course of five years the interest on said bonds would amount to roughly $70,000.
By getting foreigners to invest, this saves Quebec some $70,000 in interest payments. Basically, Quebec makes $70,000 per immigrant—that is the cost of Canadian legal status.
I suppose you could argue that Quebec is gaining business experience, and high net worth residents, but at what cost? As the American experience with the mass immigration of physicians shows, it is possible to have too much of a good thing. Citizenship, and pathways to citizenship, should not be for sale—it is too valuable. Citizenship is sacred