It’s never been easier for Hong Kongers to immigrate to Canada with new pathways open and the country welcoming record numbers of new permanent residents from the former British protectorate suffering from China’s anti-democracy stance.
Last year, unions and other independent organizations were closed in Hong Kong. Pro-democracy activists unable to flee or hide were arrested under what was described as a draconian national security law.
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The communist superpower quashed dissent by closing newspapers, forcing all candidates running for office to take a loyalty test, and tearing down monuments commemorating the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989.
In the midst of all that turmoil, Canadians stepped forward.
Canada Offered Hong Kongers Two New Immigration Streams Starting Last Year
Ottawa offered two new pathways to immigration for Hong Kongers last year, one for students and the other for workers.
“With young Hong Kongers casting their eyes abroad, we want them to choose Canada,” said then-Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino in a statement last year.
“Our Hong Kong immigration pathway is a historic initiative, intended to attract talented applicants who will drive our economy forward. Skilled Hong Kongers will have a unique opportunity to both develop their careers and help accelerate our recovery,” he said.
Last year, Canada welcomed 2,295 new permanent residents from Hong Kong.
That’s more than double the 1,045 new permanent residents from Hong Kong in 2020 and 49 per cent more than the 1,540 new permanent residents from Hong Kong in 2019, the last full year before the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The latest data from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) also shows that 555 Hong Kongers became new permanent residents of Canada in the first two months of this year.
The longstanding ways of immigrating to Canada still, of course, apply for Hong Kongers looking to make the move.
Family Sponsorship Programs Are A Good Way For Hong Kongers To Immigrate To Canada
Those with relatives in Canada should, for example, still consider the family sponsorship immigration program.
There are also the:
Under the new, temporary pathway that started on June 1 last year and will last until Aug. 31, 2026, Hong Kongers living in Canada can get permanent residency for themselves and their families through two streams provided they intend to live outside the province of Quebec.
The first is for Hong Kong university and college graduates who completed at least 50 per cent of their program at a Canadian college or university.
The other steam is for Hong Kong workers who had at least one year of full-time work experience – or the equivalent of 1,560 hours in part-time work – and who had either a university degree or certificate or a college diploma. That education did not have to be completed in Canada or at a Canadian college or university.
Applicants under this new pathway must apply for either stream from inside of Canada using Canada Post’s epost Connect platform.
University And College Grads From Hong Kong Welcomed In Canada
Applicants must also provide copies of their language test results which demonstrate they have a level 5 score in all four skills – reading, writing, listening and speaking – as rated by the Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) or Niveaux de compétence linguistique canadiens (NCLC).
Those applying under the first stream need to provide a copy of their diploma or degree and a final transcript to show they graduated from a designated learning institution in Canada in the last three years.
Those applying under the second stream need to provide copies of their diplomas or degrees and final transcripts to show they graduated in the last five years. They must also provide proof for each job they list in their applications.
This could be:
- a letter from an employer, on company letterhead, that includes:
- their name;
- job title;
- dates they worked for the company;
- the number of hours they worked each week;
- their annual salary and any benefits they received;
- the company contact information (address, phone number and email address);
- their supervisor’s name, title and signature (or those of the company’s human resources officer);
- a copy of the T4 tax information slips and notices of assessment the Canada Revenue Agency issued to them;
- copies of their records of employment;
- pay stubs, or;
- copies of bank deposits showing salary payments.
If the college or university was outside of Canada, they must also get an educational credential assessment (ECA) to show that their studies are equal to a Canadian post-secondary diploma or degree.
The previously-existing methods of immigration, of course, still apply, including coming to Canada as a skilled worker.
Direct Skilled Worker Application
Canada manages its economic immigration intake through Express Entry through which qualifying candidates are issued with Invitations to Apply (ITAs) to one of Canada’s economic immigration programs:
Candidates submit an Expression of Interest profile, which is given a score and entered into the Express Entry Pool.
Candidates score Comprehensive Ranking System points for core factors such as age, education, work experience and language ability. There are also points available for a provincial nomination and a qualified job offer.
The highest-scoring candidates are issued ITAs through periodic draws and must then submit an application within 60 days.
Although processing times have been greatly slowed down due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the target processing time for these applications is six months once a full application is received by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).
Provincial Immigration Program Application
Canada’s provinces run their own immigration programs, targeting the specific demands of local labour markets.
Applicants who have specific skills can likely find provincial streams that are right for them.
Temporary Work Permits Can Allow Applicants To Transition To Permanent Residency
Immigrants coming to Canada as temporary residents are increasingly using that pathway as an intermediate step allowing them to later get their permanent residency.
This is a popular route for candidates who do not immediately qualify for permanent residence.
Time spent in Canada as a temporary resident counts towards a permanent residence application and, later, Canadian citizenship.
Work permits are issued through the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, International Mobility Program and International Experience Canada Program.
Caregivers also have their own streams for work permits (under the TFWP) and can transition to permanent residence.
International Students Can Study In Canada And Later Apply For Permanent Residency
Ottawa is always trying to encourage international students to come to Canada to attend college or university and later transition to permanent residency and build a life here.
Candidates initially come in on a student visa which can allow them to live, study and work in Canada.
Upon graduation, they might qualify for a Post-Graduation Work Permit, allowing them to begin their working lives in Canada.
Their time spent in Canada as a student and on the PGWP then counts towards an application for permanent residence.
Under Express Entry there are specific points for candidates who have graduated from a Canadian school. These are on top of the core education points available.
Once permanent residence is achieved, the Canada Citizenship Act makes it easy to get full citizenship.
The Start-Up Visa Program
Canada’s Start-Up Visa Program grants permanent residence and work permits to qualified immigrant entrepreneurs which it recruits and then links with private sector businesses in Canada.
After less than one year in Canada, candidates and their families can transition to permanent residence.
To receive permanent residence in Canada, the following criteria must be met under the Start-Up Visa Program:
- Applicants must be actively involved in the management of the business within Canada;
- The operations of the business, or an essential part, must take place in Canada, and;
- The business must be incorporated in Canada.
Canada’s Start-Up Visa program does not apply to applicants who intend to reside in the province of Quebec.
Successful candidates for the Canadian Start-Up Visa Program receive a letter of support from a government-designated entity (angel investor group, venture capital fund or business incubator).
The government-designated entity is primarily responsible to determine the viability of the applicant’s intended business and present an approved project along with a Commitment Certificate to immigration authorities. Applications are assessed on a pass-fail basis.
Applicants to Canada’s Start-Up Visa program must meet four basic eligibility requirements:
- Have a qualifying business;
- Obtain a commitment from a designated entity in the form of a Commitment Certificate and Letter of Support;
- Have sufficient unencumbered, available and transferable settlement funds, updated each year (the requirements are identical to those for skilled workers);
- Demonstrate sufficient proficiency in English or French through standardized testing (Canadian Language Benchmark level 5).
The required commitment from a designated entity must meet the following criteria:
- A designated angel investor group must confirm that it is investing at least $75,000 CAD into the qualifying business, or two or more commitments from designated angel investor groups totaling $75,000 CAD, or;
- A designated venture capital fund must confirm that it is investing at least $200,000 CAD into the qualifying business or two or more commitments from designated venture capital funds totaling $200,000 CAD, or;
- A designated business incubator must confirm that it is accepting the applicant into its business incubator Program.
In order to qualify, the intended business must be incorporated and carrying on business in Canada at the time the commitment is made and:
- The applicant must own at least 10 per cent of the voting rights in the corporation, and;
- No other person can hold 50 per cent or more of the total amount of voting rights in the corporation.
Up to five applicants may have their application for permanent residence supported by the same business investment. However, certain applicants may be designated essential to the intended business. If any of the essential applicants withdraw their application or are refused for other reasons, all other applicants under the same business investment will see their applications terminated.
Applicants who have secured a Commitment Certificate from a designated entity, and who wish to begin working in the business during the processing of their permanent residence application may apply for a short-term work permit on the basis of their Commitment Certificate if the designated entity supports such a request.
To receive a work permit, an applicant must provide:
- A letter of support from the designated entity, and;
- Proof they have sufficient funds to meet the low-income cut-off (LICO) for their family size, for one year.
Applications For Permanent Residency In Quebec
Quebec is the only Canadian province with full autonomy over its immigration system, setting its own immigration levels and managing its own programs.
The French-speaking province has an Expression of Interest system called Arrima, which works in a similar way to the federal Express Entry system.
Although it runs the popular, Quebec Immigrant Investor Program, the only passive investment immigration program that leads to Canadian permanent residence, that program is temporarily not accepting applications.
To be eligible for that program, applicants have to have a net worth, either by themselves or with their spouses, of at least $2 million and at least two years of management experience in the previous five years.
“This experience must include duties related to the planning, management and control of financial, human or material resources under your authority,” notes the province’s immigration website.
The applicant must also sign an investment agreement with a financial intermediary, like a broker or trust company, authorized to participate in the Investor Program and make a five-year term investment of $1.2 million.