The term “foreign buyer” is often used pejoratively in Canada—it’s become synonymous with speculators who have nary a vested interest in the country apart from using empty homes as appreciation vehicles, to the detriment of the domestic population—and it couldn’t be more misguided.
Turns out, many of these new Canadians bolster the national economy in ways few people can, and it is not without personal risks, either. Richard Leuce, an immigration consultant and owner of Richard's Business Immigration Corp., specializes in high-net-worth individuals from South Africa, most of whom yearn to replicate their success in a safer environment.
“South Africa is a beautiful, beautiful country—I fell in love with it the minute I landed there—but it’s not very safe, and a lot of times South Africans, who are ready to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars, are looking for safety,” Leuce told CREW. “My clients’ intents are to become Canadian citizens. Their first language is either English or Afrikaans, and if that’s the case then English is their second language. They seek to become permanent residents as soon as possible; they’re not just coming to buy properties and leave them vacant.”
Leuce primarily works through the Ontario Provincial Nominee Program (PNP), which requires his clients to create business plans, pass interviews with Canadian immigration officials, and take an exploratory trip to the region of the province where they want to set up shop. But Leuce says it isn’t as simple as it sounds.
“After all of the relevant information is submitted, the province scores the applicants and, if successful, follows up with a performance agreement, which stipulates that the nominee has up to two years to meet all requirements, including investing at least $600,000 and creating high-paying jobs,” he said. “They’re not hiring family members; they have to hire Canadian citizens. They invest money and boost the economy here. They did it in South Africa and they want to do the same thing in Canada. They’re active contributors to the economy.”
Among the many innovative ideas from abroad that Leuce has helped turn into Canadian companies is a plastic recycling firm that hopes to assist Canada achieve its zero plastic waste by 2030 goal. Not all ideas have to be bankrolled by the applicant.
“In a lot of developing economies, you have people with these great, innovative ideas, but who may not have the money,” said Leuce. “For these individuals, the Start-Up Visa program is an excellent avenue. The entrepreneur with the idea enters into a partnership with a Canadian angel investor or venture capital firm already in Canada to bring the idea to fruition using the latter’s money.”
The Canadian government announced in November that it would welcome 1.2 million new immigrants into the country through 2023, 60% of whom Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) described as belonging to the “economic class,” which includes skilled workers, investors and entrepreneurs. But the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic may prove a spanner in the works, warns Leuce, because processing times have already ballooned and the country’s ambitious goal to settle record numbers of immigrants in each of the next three years might not be attainable.
“The second wave will slow everything down. The door is not closed, but there will be a slowdown and it will take a while until the backlog is cleared. I’m curious to see if, in the spring budget, [IRCC] gets additional funding to hire more officers, or gets the money to pay existing officers overtime, because if the agency doesn’t get an increase in its budget, there’s no way things will move along. The spring budget will be the biggest indicator.”
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