Would-be immigrant investors sue federal government over processing delays
By Tobi Cohen, Postmedia News November 3, 2012
A half-dozen Chinese immigrant investors have filed a lawsuit against the federal government over lengthy processing delays.
The would-be investors applied to the popular cash-for-visa program before September 2009 and want the courts to force the government to review their applications within six months to a year, according to documents filed in Federal Court this week.
As the immigrant investor stream is under review by Citizenship and Immigration Canada, they’re also calling on the courts to bar the government from tossing their applications should “more stringent” criteria be adopted and are seeking $5 million in compensation if in fact their applications are returned without consideration.
Toronto lawyer Tim Leahy said his clients are ultimately afraid Immigration Minister Jason Kenney is going to do to the immigrant investor backlog what he did to the pre-2008 federal skilled worker backlog – eliminate it through legislation and simply return application fees to those who have been waiting patiently in the queue.
“The minister has caused great fear amongst everyone about what’s going to happen to their file,” he said. “They’re willing to wait in the queue, but they just don’t know whether the queue is going to be abolished. That’s what motivated this litigation.”
He’s planning to ask the court for an injunction that will prevent the government from tossing the immigrant investor files so long as his case is still before the courts. It’s something he did not think to ask for when he filed a similar suit on behalf of skilled worker applicants.
He essentially won his case in June but when the government passed a budget weeks later that eliminated 280,000 unassessed applications from federal skilled workers and their dependents received before February 2008, the bulk of his clients found themselves out of luck. That said, his skilled worker case is ongoing, while another group of lawyers are planning a class-action lawsuit.
As for the immigrant investor class, the current backlog stands at about 25,000 – 86,000 if you include dependents. Many, including Leahy’s clients, applied when the minimum investment was just $400,000. It has since doubled and the government has fast-tracked those who have applied under the new criteria.
Critics say the program is really just a cash-for-visa scheme that fast-tracks permanent residency for those who can cough up $800,000 – not much compared to other countries that have set thresholds as high as $1.6 million. And since the money is returned after five years, Kenney has said he also wants the investment to become a permanent contribution to the Canadian economy. Kenney capped the program at 700 last year, prompting an application frenzy.
He ultimately froze the program in June pending its restructuring.
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