The B.C. provincial government has relaunched the Business Immigration stream of its provincial nominee program (PNP), rebranding it as the Entrepreneur Immigration stream. The B.C. PNP has streamlined the two prior categories – Business Skills and Regional Business – into the single points-based Entrepreneur Immigration stream to improve efficiency, and also introduced the online Entrepreneur Registration system to simplify the application process and speed up processing times.
The Entrepreneur Immigration stream of the PNP is aimed at encouraging immigrant entrepreneurs to find and create business opportunities in B.C., while at the same time building up job opportunities for Canadians. The stream provides a pathway to permanent residence for experienced business people who are looking to invest in and operate a commercially viable business in B.C. that can provide significant economic benefits to the province.
Some common businesses that have been used in the past for the Business PNP include restaurants, cafes, small manufacturers, clothing retail and small hotels.
Prospective applicants to the Entrepreneur Immigration stream must first register through the mandatory online Entrepreneur Registration system. All registrants will be assessed on a number of factors, such as work experience, personal net worth, and adaptability, before the highest-scoring registrants are invited to submit applications to the Entrepreneur Immigration stream. Registrants who are invited to apply will have up to four months from the date of invitation to submit a complete application.
The new points based system focuses on investment, job creation, business concepts and level of demand for types of businesses in certain regions. Points are awarded on the basis of personal net worth, business ownership experience, work experience, adaptability factors (including language proficiency), age of applicant, Canadian experience, commercial viability of proposed business, economic benefits, and location of proposed business.
Experts says one challenge the province faces is the growing trend of immigrants to be passive but wealthy applicants, who are motivated by immigration and the quality of life. Rather than being business minded entrepreneurs, investors have tended to buy a business as a way of gaining fast track entry into B.C.
The Business Immigration stream was suspended earlier this year due to a surge of applications received following the cancellation of the federal immigrant investor program last year, and also because other business PNPs in the region had reduced their intake. Between 2009 and 2011, the average number of Business PNP applicants in B.C. was 161 per year, but this figure went up sharply, reaching 1,077 applications in 2014.
With the province only equipped to issue up to 200 Business PNP work permits a year, processing times had risen from about three to four months last year to over 13 months by the time the scheme was suspended in March.
With Quebec’s immigrant investor program being used by many as a path to permanent residency in exchange for a $800,000 passive investment, B.C. is keen to avoid following in Quebec’s footsteps. The new points-based Entrepreneur Immigration stream has been introduced in an attempt to ensure the immigration stream is solely a pathway for serious entrepreneurs.
Businesses will be required to provide six month reports with support documents to show the activity of the business. Suspicious activity may result in inspections by PNP staff, with any breaches resulting in the applicant not receiving an extension of their two-year work permit, or a nomination for permanent residency.
“There needs to be much greater enforcement for businesses to have to remain in business, not for the business just to be a throwaway vehicle for immigration,” says one immigration expert.
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