11 May 2012

Minister orders investigation into Canada visa corruption claims

Canadian Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has ordered an investigation into claims the now defunct Provincial Nominee Program of Prince Edward Island allowed applicants to effectively purchase a Canada visa.

Canada visa

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has ordered an investigation into claims that migrants could potentially buy a Canada visa.

An investigation by student journalists from the University of King's College in Halifax, Nova Scotia revealed startling records within the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) in Prince Edward Island (PEI). The PNP allowed migrants who invested in Canadian companies to be nominated by that company and the government for a Canada visa.

Once in the country, it was implied that the migrant would then work for the company which they invested in. However, the PEI government decided that being a member of a board constituted enough involvement for a potential immigrant to receive sponsorship.

The investigation, published in the Huffington Post this week, claimed that there are hundreds of companies within PEI with foreign nationals' names on their boards of directors yet rarely do the same names appear on any other documentation regarding that company, particularly staff members.

The report claims that for approximately CA$200,000 (£120,000), an immigrant could receive a Canadian visa without ever having to actively participate in the company's fortunes.

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has called for an investigation into the report's findings.

"If what has been reported is true, it confirms what I have been saying about problems in some provincial nomination streams. It also confirms what I have heard for some time about the cynical abuse of passive immigrant investment programs," said Mr Kenney in a statement.

"It appears that some provinces, including PEI, have been raking in huge fees for both government coffers and financial 'arrangers' while paying little or no attention to the needs of the immigrants themselves or of the local economy.

"It's wrong, it's not what provincial nominee programs are intended for and we do tolerate this sort of abuse."

Prince Edward Island's premier, Robert Ghiz, has reacted strongly to the minister's allegations by claiming Canadian immigration, and therefore the PNP was implemented at a federal, not provincial, level.

"[The federal government] were the ones who put the [PNP] there in the first place. So he can start by investigating his own department," said Mr Ghiz.

However, PEI's leader of the opposition, Olive Crane, has supported Mr Kenney's report, claiming the Ghiz government has struggled with the PNP programme for years:

"[Ghiz's] job as premier is to protect Islanders, the business community and the immigrants, so again, because he has chosen not to do that, this issue is going to continue and continue and continue."

The Canadian Visa Bureau is an independent migration consultancy specialising in helping people make their application to the Canadian Embassy.

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