Nearly 400,000 Chinese nationals were approved last year for multiple-entry visas, to come and go as they please from Canada for up to six months at a time, according to statistics obtained by Business in Vancouver.
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada issues the visas that are valid for up to 10 years. Its figures show that only 27,739 Chinese were approved in 2010, the year that Beijing’s approved destination status for tourism to Canada came into effect.
By 2012, when China overtook India in top spot, approvals hit almost 83,000. The 2013 figure of 113,110 nearly tripled in 2014 to 337,066. Last year, Chinese nationals were approved for 390,292 multiple-entry visas. India had the second most approvals last year, at 162,807.
“Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada promotes the issuance of long-term multiple-entry visas to facilitate entry to Canada for legitimate travellers,” spokesperson Nancy Caron said via email. “As of February 6, 2014, all visa applicants are automatically considered for a multiple entry visa. A visa officer may be able to grant an individual a multiple-entry visa even if they applied for a single entry visa.”
Additionally, in 2015, Canada received 594,897 applications for temporary resident visas from Chinese nationals. There was also a nearly 95% increase in study permits issued between 2010 and 2015 to Chinese nationals.
Despite the increase in visits to Canada by Chinese nationals, who prefer travelling to and settling in Vancouver and Toronto, the B.C. Liberal government played down their influence on the province’s real estate market in a July 7 release of residential real estate transaction data. Based on self-reporting, only 5% of purchasers between June 10-29 reported foreign citizenship, but the ratio was 11-to-1 in favour of Chinese purchasers over U.S. investors.
But, less than three weeks later, the government about-faced, opening a four-day sitting of the legislature on July 25 by announcing the Aug. 2 imposition of a new 15% tax on residential purchases by foreign citizens, taxable trustees and foreign-controlled corporations in Metro Vancouver, except the Tsawwassen First Nation treaty lands.
A June online poll by Insights West found 80% of respondents thought a tax on non-resident property owners would be a good or very good idea. It was even higher – 83% – among respondents of East Asian descent.
The BC Liberals recalled the Legislature to amend the Real Estate Services Act to cancel the self-regulation the industry enjoyed since 2005 and to amend the Vancouver Charter to enable City of Vancouver to tax vacant houses and apartments.