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Business Immigration Can Help Support Canada’s Economic Growth, If Done Right

Ottawa, May 2, 2017—Entrepreneur and investor immigration allows Canada to attract people that can launch innovative businesses, increase the flow of foreign direct investment to Canada, and support economic development goals such as building infrastructure. A new report by The Conference Board of Canada, Entrepreneur and Investor Immigration: Creating Jobs and Growth provides recommendations to help strengthen business immigration’s role in spurring Canada’s economic development. The report notes that while Canada has operated entrepreneur and investor immigration programs to support economic development since 1978, the programs have had limited success.

“In recent years, Canada’s programs have struggled to meet policy objectives due to increased competition from all corners of the globe in attracting business immigrants,” said Craig Alexander, Senior Vice-President and Chief Economist. “However, as other countries are becoming less welcoming to newcomers, Canada can position itself to reap greater economic benefits from entrepreneur and investor immigration in the future by opening its doors to more foreign talent.”


  • Entrepreneur and investor immigration can support Canada’s economic development priorities, including building infrastructure, driving innovation, and attracting foreign direct investment and talent.
  • Enhancing matchmaking opportunities could help draw a greater number of highly talented entrepreneurs to Canada to launch innovative and globally-competitive businesses. It could also improve efforts to succeed retiring Canadian business owners.
  • A new federal immigrant investor program could draw more foreign capital to Canada but it would require strict monitoring and enforcement to ensure it benefits the economy and is supported by the Canadian public.
  • Providing entrepreneurs and investors with more supports could help them become more successful business persons in Canada.

To date, the success of Canada’s business immigration programs has been hampered by challenges around selection criteria, low interest rates that limit the ability of provinces and territories to use immigrant investor funds for economic development, fraud, low immigrant retention rates, the burden of monitoring programs, and public concerns. The report makes the following policy recommendations to improve Canada’s immigrant entrepreneur and investor programs.

Canada could attract more immigrant entrepreneurs by creating better matchmaking opportunities between prospective entrepreneurs and Canadian business persons. This would allow Canada to recruit more innovative entrepreneurs capable of launching globally competitive businesses that create wealth and jobs for Canadians. It would also allow Canada to support succession-planning for retiring Canadian business owners.

A new federal immigrant investor program could benefit the Canadian economy by drawing more foreign capital to Canada to support key priority areas as infrastructure, affordable housing and venture capital. However, careful consideration is required for structuring investment requirements to ensure Canada maximizes the program’s economic potential. Strict program integrity measures would also need to be in place to address common public concerns such as Canada “selling citizenship”. A public awareness campaign would also be required to placate concerns regarding the impact of immigrant investors on real estate prices in major cities such as Vancouver.

Canada must also be more cognizant of the international competition. While it was once a global pioneer in this field, many more countries operate entrepreneur and investor immigration programs. One way Canada can improve its global competitive standing is by shortening the time it takes to process applications.

Making immigrant entrepreneurs and investors more aware of available learning and mentorship supports will help enhance their chances of success as business persons in Canada.

The theme of this report will be further explored at The Conference Board of Canada’s 3rd annual Canadian Immigration Summit in Ottawa on May 9-10, 2017. The summit features the Hon. Ahmed D. Hussen, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship and three provincial immigration ministers from Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick.

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