Opinion: The Dwindling Future of the Quebec IIP – A Shadow of Its Former Self 

Nicolas Laurin
Hong Kong

Editor’s note: Yesterday, we reported on the proposed new rules for the soon-to-reopen Quebec IIP. While industry observers welcomed the news of the program’s reactivation after years of suspension, the more stringent terms proposed – which included mastery of intermediate French and a C$200,000 donation requirement – have made many question the program’s future marketability.

The Quebec Immigrant Investor Program (QIIP) holds a special place in my heart, as it brought me from Montreal to Hong Kong 17 years ago. Back then, as a young lawyer, I assisted numerous QIIP applicants during their immigration interviews at the Quebec Immigration Office at Exchange Square. 

The 2000s were often referred to as the golden years of the QIIP. Thousands of applicants were accepted annually, and the federal government swiftly issued visas upon CSQ issuance. However, as is often witnessed in our industry, a decline follows periods of prosperity, and the QIIP is no exception. 

Amidst Vancouver’s astronomical surge in property prices, some journalists found an easy target: Wealthy Chinese QIIP investors who had never set foot in Quebec. While the real estate boom was primarily a local phenomenon fuelled by historically low-interest rates, it cannot be denied that the retention of QIIP investors in Quebec has always been disappointingly low.

Then, in September 2018, a piece by CBC dealt the final blow to the QIIP as we knew it. The program was suspended shortly after, and we had to wait until now to learn its fate. 

I can’t help but feel perplexed that this once-thriving program is now teetering on the edge of becoming a mere shadow of its former self if the changes proposed this week are implemented without significant adjustments. 

Let’s consider the numbers. The government’s decision will likely result in a walk-away option of at least C$500,000, firmly establishing the QIIP as one of the more expensive immigration programs worldwide. Under such circumstances, why would an investor interested in Canada choose the QIIP when they could apply for a Provincial Nominee Program or the Startup Visa program at a significantly lower cost and with some expectation of capital return? 

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Furthermore, the proposed changes require applicants to demonstrate a minimum proficiency in the French language, scoring at least 7 out of 12 on the Quebec scale of French language proficiency. This new language requirement poses a significant challenge for applicants from non-francophone countries, substantially limiting the pool of potential candidates. 

Now, let me be clear— as a proud Québécois, I wholeheartedly support initiatives that enhance and strengthen the French language in Quebec. However, let’s face reality here: We’re talking about a few dozen applicants per year who can meet this criterion. Meanwhile, the vast majority of French-speaking applicants can immigrate to Quebec through other programs without the burdensome requirement of investing over half a million dollars. Why, then, would they choose the QIIP? 

Another concern is the pre-CSQ settlement in Quebec. While it may seem like a sound idea in theory, the practical reality is far from ideal. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) currently takes an astonishing 68 months to issue permanent residency after obtaining the CSQ. Moreover, industry stakeholders increasingly share reports of federal authorities rejecting QIIP applications for trivial reasons. How can we expect businesspeople to resettle in Quebec for a year without any guarantee of permanent residency, all while an IRCC sword of Damocles hangs overhead, ready to strike due to a forgotten document?

It becomes evident that the QIIP will no longer be the attractive and accessible pathway it once was. As someone who has personally assisted thousands of QIIP applicants over the past 17 years, I am deeply saddened. 

I hold little hope that any significant adjustments will be made during the next 45 days to salvage its viability. The only glimmer of positivity in this news is that they have not terminated the program altogether, leaving a slight possibility for future revisions after years of near-non-existent application numbers.

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Nicolas Laurin AuthorSubscriberParticipant
Managing Partner , Eterna International

Nicolas Laurin is Managing Partner at Eterna International. Mr. Laurin has nearly two decades of experience in the practice of law and global mobility.

Realizing the rapid development of residency-by-investment in the Far East, Mr. Laurin permanently resettled in Hong Kong in 2006, where he could better assist a growing clientele from China, Vietnam, Taiwan, Japan, Korea and South Asia (India, Bangladesh, Pakistan) interested to avail themselves of the several business immigration options.

Mr. Laurin has represented thousands of business immigration applicants wishing to settle in Canada via its different programs (such as the Quebec Immigrant Investor Program – QIIP and the Start-up Visa Program – SUV). He has also participated in the distribution of a number of EB-5 projects which made available hundreds of millions of dollars of capital for the development of public education in the United States of America.

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