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September 20, 2018

P.E.I Shuts Down Two Streams of its Business Immigration Program

Posted by Rikhav Shah - Bellissimo Law Group PC

As of Wednesday, September 12, 2018, Prince Edward Island has shut down two branches of its business immigration program: the 100% Ownership Stream and the Partial Ownership Stream. These streams worked in a similar fashion to Express Entry in that an expression of interest was communicated by applicants via an online profile. The P.E.I. government then invited applicants out of this pool to make full applications. No further expressions of interest will be accepted for the two streams. There will be a final draw that will take place on 20 September 2018 for those profiles still in the pool.

The decision to shut these streams down was made due to the low retention rate of entrepreneurs.  A major area of concern involved providing permanent residency to approved applicants before they ever entered P.E.I. As a result, many of these entrepreneurs settled in other areas of Canada, contrary to the intention they expressed to operate a business in P.E.I., which formed the basis of the decision to grant them permanent residence. Although unethical, this is not illegal, as Section 6 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms allows for freedom of movement. The P.E.I. government had anticipated this and imposed a $200,000 deposit, refundable upon the fulfillment of the entrepreneurs’ stated intention to operate a business in P.E.I. However, they overestimated the value of this money; last year, 177 applicants did not receive their deposits back, raising a total of $18 million for the province.

The sudden closure of the streams without any warning may seem unfair, however, this is the most practical route from an administrative standpoint. As stated in the Speaking notes for The Honourable Jason Kenney, PC, MP Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, released at a news conference held on 4 November 2011:

“As we redesign the program to make it sustainable, here’s the challenge we have: if we leave the program open for applications during that period of consultation and redesign, we know what will happen – we will get absolutely flooded with a huge increase in applications. Because people will say “if the criteria might change, we need to get our application in right away.”

Although these notes refer to a different program, the principle still stands; prior notice results in an influx of applications under criteria which are meant to be changed, defeating the purpose of the closure. Even with the removal of the two streams, all is not lost for entrepreneurs wishing to operate a business in P.E.I. There is a stream of business immigration which is still operational, under which entrepreneurs receive a work permit, if approved, to set up their business in P.E.I. Only once they meet the terms of a Performance Agreement will a provincial nomination be granted a route to permanent residency opened. One of those terms is the continuous operation of the business for one year, which may prove more effective in retaining entrepreneurs in the region than a sum of money.