Overview

Alberta's rich soil and picturesque recreation areas are some of the province's most valuable resources. To ensure that these resources continue to be owned and enjoyed by Albertans and other Canadians, the Agricultural and Recreational Land Ownership Act and Foreign Ownership of Land Regulations were passed.

The regulations ensure private (controlled) land continues to exist primarily for Canadian citizens/corporations and permanent residents, while still encouraging economic investment. Joint business ventures between non-Canadian enterprises and Alberta companies have been and will continue to be encouraged.

The Foreign Ownership of Land Administration monitors and controls acquisition of prime agricultural and recreational land by non-Canadians. Most transactions are completed through the Land Titles Office, but applications can be made for an exemption from the regulations through an Order in Council.

Regulations

Controlled lands
Controlled land refers to land in Alberta but does not include:
  1. land of the Crown in right of Alberta
  2. land within the boundaries of a city, town, new town, village or summer village
  3. mines and minerals

Description of the Regulations

  1. Foreign citizens and foreign controlled corporations may own or beneficially own up to 2 parcels of controlled land not exceeding 20 acres in total.
  2. Canadian citizens and permanent residents (landed immigrants) aren’t affected by the Regulations.
  3. Essentially, a 'foreign controlled corporation' is one in which the share ownership is 50% or more foreign or is effectively controlled by foreigners
    1. For public corporations with shares traded on a stock exchange in Canada, only shareholders owning 5% or more of the shares are taken into account, provided 2/3 of the directors are Canadian citizens or permanent residents).
  4. Trusts cannot be used to circumvent the Regulations.
  5. The Regulations do not prohibit the acquisition of an interest in controlled land for pipelines, oil and gas processing plants, refineries, power plants, electric distribution systems or extractions of coal and aggregates.
    1. Under certain conditions, industrial processing, manufacturing, commercial or transportation facilities and residential subdivisions are exempt.
  6. The Regulations do not affect the succession by any person to an interest in controlled land if a person dies.
  7. Leases up to 20 years are exempt if registered at a Land Titles office within 60 days.
  8. An acquisition of the majority of the shares of a corporation owning controlled land by an ineligible person or foreign-controlled operation is considered an acquisition of an interest in controlled land.
    1. The same principle is involved for an amalgamated or merged corporation. In this situation, the foreign controlled corporation has 3 years to divest itself of the controlled land acquired.
  9. Mortgages are allowed but the foreclosure of a mortgage constitutes an acquisition of an interest in controlled land, and the ineligible person or foreign-controlled corporation must divest themself or itself of the land within 3 years.
  10. A 'foreign controlled limited partnership' is one in which 50% or more of the value of the outstanding contributions by limited partners are made by ineligible persons or foreign-controlled corporations.
  11. An ineligible person or foreign-controlled corporation may enter into an option to purchase controlled land for up to one year pending his or its becoming eligible under the Regulations.
  12. Enforcement will be by sworn declarations attached to transactions of land (such as transfers, caveats transmissions and leases) and investigations.
    1. The Registrar of Land Titles shall refuse to register a transfer, transmission, caveat or lease without statutory declaration as set forth).
  13. Penalties:
    1. The Citizenship Act (Canada) (PDF, 559 KB) sets a penalty for breach of the act or Regulations, a fine of up to $10,000 and imprisonment of up to one year or both.
    2. Where controlled land is acquired contrary to the Regulations, procedures for judicial sale are set forth.
    3. The Criminal Code sets a penalty of up to 14 years imprisonment for swearing a false declaration.
    4. Corporations may be required to supply information concerning the beneficial ownership of their shares.
  14. The minister may require information, verified by statutory declaration or otherwise, in order to determine whether a particular transaction meets the requirements of the legislation (the minister also may instruct the Registrar of Land Titles to refuse to register a document which appears to be in contravention of the Regulations).
  15. Specific exemptions may be made by Executive Council, where exemption will allow development which will be of economic benefit to the province of Alberta.

Parties involved or anticipating involvement in transactions which may fall under the controls should seek legal advice for an interpretation of the Regulations.

The Regulations are not retroactive for transactions that have been registered.

Apply for an exemption

The Foreign Ownership of Land Regulations provide for Order in Council exemptions in certain circumstances. You can get an information package on how to apply for an exemption from the Foreign Ownership of Land Administration Office. Contact the office for more details.

Applications are assessed on a case-by-case basis.

After you apply

The length of the review process will vary from request to request, depending on the information provided and the need to verify the information. Personal contact may be required in some cases. Assistance in preparing exemption requests is available by contacting Foreign Ownership of Land Administration.

Contact

To connect with the Foreign Ownership of Land Administration office:

Hours: 8:15 am to 4:00 pm (open Monday to Friday, closed statutory holidays)
Phone: 780-427-6584
Fax: 780-427-0938
Email: sa.folaoffice@gov.ab.ca

Mail or visit:
Foreign Ownership of Land Administration
Mezzanine Floor, John E. Brownlee Building
10365 97 Street
Edmonton, Alberta  T5J 3W7