Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Nominee program faulted

Immigrants filing false applications

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An audit of Manitoba's nominee program for business found some immigrants arrived in the province based on false applications.

Auditor general Carol Bellringer said in a report released Wednesday the province also does not follow immigrants after they've settled to monitor the success of the program.

She recommended the program tighten its procedures to verify application materials -- banking information, employment history and asset holdings -- more quickly and then reject it if it's found to be false.

Rick Zebinski, director of the business immigration program, said the province is in the process of setting up a new application process where all documentation is filed at once rather than in stages. The new process is intended to give evaluators more time to check for false information.

"We continue to focus on our recruitment activities all over the world," Zebinski said. "There's lots of very successful businessmen who can make a valuable contribution to Manitoba. So far, we've seen about $200 million in direct investment in the province plus additional investment in homes and equipment."

The Free Press reported late last year some immigrants pay the $75,000 deposit under the program to enter Manitoba under the business class but do not fulfil their obligation to invest a minimum of $150,000 into a Manitoba business. They default their $75,000 deposit but still receive permanent residency status.

Bellringer's audit report said from 2005-10, 735 nominees landed in Canada with 392 (53 per cent) of them making their investment in Manitoba. However, 272 (37 per cent) of nominees did not meet the requirements and forfeited their deposits. The program has not tried to locate the other 71 (10 per cent) of nominees.

Bellringer recommended the program assess its long-term performance by tracking and regularly monitoring whether nominees continue to live and operate a business in Manitoba after their deposit is returned.

Zebinski also said the province is moving to better monitor immigrants for three years after coming to Manitoba.

"Permanent residents have mobility rights all across Canada," he said. "It is somewhat problematic, but we're certainly going to do the very best job possible."

Bellringer said the audit of Manitoba's nominee program began more than a year ago, after immigrant investor programs collapsed in Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Months earlier, it had surfaced immigrants were fast-tracked into some of the Maritime provinces while other immigrants claimed they had been taken advantage of through the programs.

Bellringer said her audit team found none of those issues in Manitoba. It only launched a full investigation when her office found a prior application that had been falsified.

bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 17, 2013 A6

History

Updated on Thursday, January 17, 2013 at 11:04 AM CST: replaces photo

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