#18: Marc-André Carrière talks about economic immigration

What paths can you take to come and study, work, undertake or invest in Quebec? Does the Act prohibiting the purchase of residential real estate in Canada in 2023 and 2024 by non-Canadians impact those who are in the process of immigration? Immigration programs vary from province to province, how do you navigate them to shorten the delay? Does an immigrant wishing to start or acquire a business have an advantage over a working immigrant? When will the immigrant investor program reopen?

The 18th episode of the Real Talk with CHIA podcast has been aired on March 15, 2023 and is rebroadcast on our Youtube channel, here is its translated transcript:

-Hello everyone, I'm Chia, your facilitator for speaking out with Chia. Today, I have the pleasure of welcoming Marc-André Carrière, immigration lawyer at Exeo Avocats.

-Marc-André, one of the first curiosities I had when I met you and I also think that the audience would be interested to know, is your origin. I knew that you and I are both Made in Taiwan. How come a Taiwanese has such a Quebec name: "Marc-André Carrière"? In your biography, I saw that you also went to Beijing to do your master's degree in law. Then, today, you travel everywhere for your work in immigration. Can you share your journey with us?

The story is quite simple, I was adopted by a Quebec family. And I grew up in Quebec, that's why I have a Quebec name. In the past few years, I had the opportunity to return to Taiwan and reunite with my biological family. So I was able to reconnect with the Taiwanese family. That's why I've been in contact with them for almost seven, eight years. So I go back to Taiwan quite often. I was in Taiwan, just last January. So I will see them. Then hey, I develop the relationship. Then, we see each other quite regularly. 

Wow, well done! Because I know it's quite a process, isn't it?

Yes, indeed, it is a journey that takes place over several months, several years. Then, which continues thereafter even after the reunion. I mean, we still get to know each other through the years. It's a nice step, then it goes well. I really have a good relationship with them. I am lucky to have connected well. Then, I have two biological sisters, who also came to see me here in Montreal. So it's really an exchange of backgrounds and cultures.

Yes, it's really fascinating because I have a friend Manu and she was adopted from Korea, not Taiwan. Several years ago she even initiated a movement to gather several adopted children and go for a trip to Asia to identify their biological parents.


She shared some stories with me. I find it really, really fascinating. Thanks to be here. Do you speak Mandarin? Did your Quebec parents tell you: well, we absolutely want him to learn Mandarin.

Unfortunately, I didn't have that chance to learn Mandarin at a young age. So, I really started taking quite intensive classes, quite intensively when I was in Taiwan.

By your own interest?

Yes exactly. So when I went to Taiwan the first time, I started taking lessons and I learned that. I would say today that it has been around maybe seven years since I studied Mandarin intensively. Then, as you said, I also studied in Beijing where I did a master's degree at that time, but I also took intensive courses there, to really try to improve my level of Mandarin. 

Great. Can we say that immigration, therefore your profession today, has a link with openness to multiculturalism and your interest in people from diverse cultures?

Inevitably, I think that immigration really came to get me at this level. This openness that we have with people of different cultures, of different nationalities. And I think that my exchange that I did in Taiwan, my master's degree that I studied in Beijing, it was the moment that it consolidated the idea that I wanted a job that was in that environment, who had this opening. Then, which allowed me to help people, in fact, who wanted to either come or invest in Canada or who simply wanted to immigrate to Canada. Then, I think that my personal and academic journey has really led me towards immigration today.

Fantastic. I postulate! Because obviously, I share the same interests. I love building bridges between cultures. I know you recently toured Asia for your work. Precisely can you tell us: what types of immigration you do and also what exists on the market. Because quickly, even if I don't practice your profession, I know that there is the "temporary" type and there is also what is "permanent". Among other things, student visas, work visas, then there are permanent residents. And in there, there are also different categories, right?

Yes exactly. I find it interesting that you bring both aspects because my practice is really on these two levels. I would like to point out that here at Exeo, we really do economic immigration. So it really has more to do with that type of immigration. But we really have both aspects, whether permanent or temporary immigration.

So when we talk about permanent immigration, what we do is immigration to entrepreneurs, investors. People who have acquired work experience and who want to immigrate to Canada as a result of this work experience. And as you said, also the whole temporary aspect. So, people who do not necessarily come to immigrate to Canada but who will come to study who will often come to work. Sometimes it will be people who will come to visit, who will go on business trips to see if there are business opportunities in Canada. Just to come as a business visitor. To come and explore, in fact, what are the different opportunities that Canada can offer them.

And I love Montreal, so welcome everyone!

Yes, it's a great city. Then, I think that many of our clients, we have many of our clients who come to settle either to work or to immigrate to Montreal. I think it is a beautiful place that is welcoming to various types of immigrants and workers.

Well, I imagine that among the audience, some have followed the news. So, when we talk about the word immigration, we immediately think of the new law prohibiting the purchase of residential buildings by non-Canadians. So how do you see this law? Maybe explain a bit the outline. On this new law, does it impact people who are in the immigration application process. Because on my side what I experience is that very often, in my work as a real estate broker, it is that very often, immigrant-investors, therefore entrepreneurs, they will contact me as soon as they begin their application process. And then, there they already want to start looking at what they are going to buy, what they are going to invest, then how are they going to structure themselves for the new company, etc. Then there, with this new law, it has a big impact where very often, for example, there are a lot of Chinese families, they will first settle the children for studies, while waiting for the papers to be finalized for come here to settle, they too on a more permanent basis. Then, is it creating chaos right now? According to you?

I don't know if it creates chaos. Because we have been seeing the coming of this law for several months. The Canadian government had announced it and announced it. I think there is really a desire here from Canada to want to reduce the demand for the purchase of residential property a little. So, roughly speaking, this law what it does is that it prohibits all non-Canadians, what we mean by non-Canadians here are obviously Canadian citizens. But no, in fact, what the law excludes, sorry, are Canadians of course and permanent residents.

Therefore, people who have obtained their permanent residence are not covered by this law.

On the other hand, what we include within this law are visitors, commercial visitors as you just mentioned, students, workers. There are some exceptions that are quite high, I would tell you there. So, for some students who have spent several years of study, four years of years of study. Some foreign workers who have worked here for a few years in Canada, they will have an exception, it will allow them to still be able to buy a residential building despite the law. But outside of that, other foreign citizens, foreign nationals will not be able to buy residential property at this stage.

You still have to understand that the current law was adopted for a period of two years. So, at the end of these two years, so it was adopted on January 1, on January 1, 2025, will the law be renewed, will it be repealed? That, for the moment, we do not know. Then, I think there is a trial period here for the Canadian government. So, it's going to be interesting to follow what's going to happen. Will the demand from foreign nationals decrease or increase, which will make the government want to review its vision, its way of doing things. But yes, for sure right now, for many of our clients it's becoming a bit of a headache in that if they're on a work permit, then they haven't been here long and they intend to immigrate but who have not yet obtained permanent residence, they are unfortunately blocked by this law.

So what we are suggesting is, first, to wait until the end of the two years to see what will happen. Then, to start the procedures for permanent residence. Because, as I said at the beginning, permanent residents are not covered by this law. So they can acquire a residential building.

But what happens if someone is in process? I give a very very concrete example: there is a great Asian entrepreneur who contacted me more than two years ago. And then he owns multiple businesses in Asia. So, he is someone who is excessively qualified. So he wanted to come here. Then, we have been working on his file for several months. And finally he told me, I'm really, really discouraged because I've been applying the program for five years, and then for some reason that I don't even understand, they still won't give me my paper. You know I go to Singapore all the time but each time it was for nothing!

So in his case, currently, for the next two years unless he gets permanent residency.

Yes that's it. So he couldn't buy.

Unfortunately, the answer is that the law targets those foreign nationals who have not yet obtained permanent residence. Although there is an application for permanent residence that is in progress. It is really obtaining permanent residence that will allow them to be excluded by this law.

And I understand very well what you are talking about, the situation of an entrepreneur or investor who has to wait for several years. It is really a situation that is difficult for our customers, also at this time. People who have to wait three, four, five years before being able to obtain permanent residence even though they meet all the criteria. It is really at the administrative level of Immigration Canada where we see that certain applications are taking delays. There, we are talking about the backlog as we use in the jargon. The number of requests has increased so much. There was also the covid period which can no longer really be used as an excuse today but which has increased the number of cases. Which means that there are requests like that, like the example you gave me, that it really takes a long time before he gets it. Me, what I would say to them is: do not be discouraged. The Canadian government, I think it is aware, Immigration Canada is aware of the situation, there are people who have been hired. Then we start reviewing new applications that have been accepted recently in the last few weeks. You can really see it starting again.

The pile begins to be accepted!

Exactly, so I don't think we've reached the end of course, but I think it's starting again. Then, really, we announced good news to some of our clients at this level in the last few weeks. We feel that it is starting again, there are requests that are accepted that had been pending for a long time. I understand that the situation can be a little frustrating but we are starting to feel that it is slowly picking up. So these people, once they have obtained their permanent residence, will be able to acquire a residential building.

Stunning. Precisely, in fact, there are really different immigration programs, which I understand. Can we rather talk about entrepreneurs or investors, currently what programs are open, valid in Quebec to welcome these entrepreneurs?

We are currently working a lot, with our clients, with the Immigrant Entrepreneurs program, which is a program for people who want to start a business in Canada, in Quebec more specifically. It must be a project that is somehow quite innovative.

In the sense that we couldn't just come and open a restaurant and then try to start a business on that. You have to have a business project, you have to be able to develop a business idea, to have a lot of business, to be able to develop a business in the short, medium, long term. And in exchange, the Quebec government will issue what is called a Quebec selection certificate.

CSQ which is for immigrants. And from that, it allows us to apply for a work permit for these people. So, they can either come to obtain their work permit, settle in Quebec on a temporary basis and start developing a business while waiting for permanent residence. They can already come to Quebec to start developing their business. The family can also come to accompany them, the children can go to school, etc.

-It is done in two stages. 

-It's in two stages, it's done in two stages. But the first step to obtaining the CSQ is done inside… We are talking about months rather than years. So there really is a way for these people to come to Canada, to Quebec, to settle temporarily, of course, but fairly quickly compared to permanent residence. Well, of course, we have already mentioned the delays in relation to permanent residence, which can be longer afterwards. But at least these people can come and settle down and start their business. So, that's for the entrepreneur component.

As for investors, you mentioned investors. Currently, the program is closed, the Quebec program is closed. It could reopen this year. We are not sure, it has been several months in fact that there has been news from the government which suggests perhaps a reopening of the program. But for the moment, we are still waiting for the reopening of this program.

-I see.

-I may be taking a little extra time to discuss the Start-up Visa program, the business start-up program. But that is a federal program that applies to people who want to settle outside Quebec. So it applies to all other provinces, except the Province of Quebec.

-No, because in fact the Start-up Visa program or the Business Startup program is a bit like the counterpart of the Entrepreneur program that I have just described but outside Quebec for people who want to to settle outside the Province of Quebec, and which is overseen by Immigration Canada. So, there are not these two times as we saw for the Quebec program. So, we apply directly to Immigration Canada and we can also apply directly for a work permit once we have obtained the support of an incubator of the organization.

- If I understand correctly, it is much faster.

-The delays at the moment that we see are between 33 and 30 months for obtaining permanent residence. So we are talking between two and a half and three years. Except that the work permit can also be obtained for the Start-up Visa program within similar timeframes, I would say, to the Quebec program. So a little faster I would say. Not necessarily much faster but a bit faster.

-For someone, example for an entrepreneur who wants to start a business in Canada, for him, Canada is a whole. And at that point, how do you, precisely as a legal adviser, where do you guide them?

-The particularity, I would tell you, at the moment of the Quebec program is the language requirement.

-So the program has been revised in recent months, in recent years, to target francophone, francophile entrepreneurs. So, you have to have a certain linguistic level in French to be able to apply for the Entrepreneur program. So, often it is probably one of the first criteria that we look at with our customers. Well, where are you interested in settling? If they tell us a bit like you say: I want to come and settle in Canada, I don't really have any preferences. Well, the first thing we will look at is what your language level is. Is your ability more in English, in French? So that is really going to be a first criterion. Afterwards, of course, the different provinces in Canada, including Quebec, will offer certain advantages, certain attributes specific to each province. So, we try to have for reasons, afterwards it is the candidate who must see it more, but for more entrepreneurial reasons. What is more strategic to settle in Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, Prince Edward Island. Afterwards, there are more business considerations. 

-The economic environment.

-Exactly, the work environment and everything. I also imagine that the real estate market must also have an impact… Because, well, it’s not the same thing to invest in premises in Montreal versus in Vancouver!

-Three times the price, yes!

- You are well aware of that! After that there are also slightly more entrepreneurial considerations that come into play. But at the immigration level, the big element for us, I think, is the linguistic attribute that we look at first. 

-What I also observed on my side, is that there are also people who land in a place in Canada, then afterwards, they say to themselves that, ah well, finally, I'm going to try Montreal .

-So, there at that time, they contact me to come and open their business here or invest here, to live here. So there is also a kind of movement afterwards. Just because you land somewhere doesn't mean you stay there forever.

-Necessarily. Yeah, but I think those people often see Canada as a whole, as you said. So, of course, each of the provinces, each of the cities have their own particularities. So, for sure, for them, once they have had the experience of living, I don't know, in Toronto, in Winnipeg, after maybe they want an environment that is more similar to Montreal. Then, I understand them if this is the case!

-Absolutely ! Me, from my observation, when I chat with people everywhere I travel, it's not necessarily everywhere everyone who already knows Montreal. Some of them have already heard of it, then some who have already traveled to Montreal or had families here. So, for sure, it opens up a lot of conversations, it's nice. At the same time, for those who do not yet know Montreal, they will say, where is it? You know, I'll say it's in Canada. Often they will say: Ah ok! Vancouver! Ah, Toronto!

-I think that for the Asian communities, you probably also experienced it there, I think that often the first instinct for these people was to settle in Vancouver because well there is already a large Asian community that is there. Sometimes they have friends, they have family who have already done it. The second place, often, will be Toronto which is developing enormously. Then, you know Montreal is still a little unknown, I think, but there is a certain enthusiasm. We have a lot of clients from Vietnam who come to settle in Montreal, so I think it is a place that is called upon to develop in terms of immigration and then in terms of real estate as well.

-Yes, many developments. Right now it's a bit slow. And we hope that policies can facilitate, promote development. Because without economic development...

- I understand very well what you mean.

-To conclude, I have a very specific question, if I may. Is someone who gets... Is an immigrant-investor... Suppose the Immigrant-investor program that's open again. Can this investor invest in a shopping center?

-He must invest... The investment must be made... Well, probably there are amounts and there are geographical locations that must be specified because the amount may be different...

-Example, a 20 million USD shopping center in Laval, which is already under a commercial management company.

-The investment must be overseen by a Quebec government agency that is part of the Investors program. But yes, this investment will probably be accepted for an Investor program. But I don't want to go too far, it's simply because given that the program will be called upon to reopen, with the new government that we have at the moment, there is a good chance that this program will be reviewed and that several conditions that existed before are modified today. Especially, for example, about the language requirements of the program. So, I don't want to go too far since we don't yet know the new version of the program that could be called upon to be unveiled this year. But yes.

-Perfect. Basically, we live a bit the same thing. So, when we are professionals, we continually update ourselves because the law on immigration and the law on real estate brokerage are constantly evolving.

- Exactly, and this is where we continually acquire knowledge to be able to advise our clients well. Thank you very much, Marc-André!

-Thank you very much Chia, it is a pleasure to participate in your podcast.

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