Canada to offer temporary residence to Hong Kongers with a college education

Hong Kong residents weary of the tightening grip of Communist China will find a new exit pathway on Monday, when Canada opens a special immigration program that offers temporary residence for those with a college education.

Almost three months after an initial announcement, Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino said Hong Kongers will be able to apply for new open work permits to Canada beginning on Feb. 8. It will be open to those already in the country and their peers abroad, and the permits are valid for as long as three years.

The kickoff followed Beijing’s latest arrest and prosecution of 55 democracy activists and supporters in January. Its continuous crackdown on opposition has already prompted a growing number of Hong Kongers to seek political asylum overseas, including in Canada.

“With flexible open work permits and a fast-track to permanent residency, skilled Hong Kong residents will have a unique opportunity to develop their careers and help accelerate Canada’s economic recovery,” Mendicino said in a news release Thursday.

“This is a landmark immigration initiative that will strengthen our economy and will deepen the ties between Canada and the people of Hong Kong.”

The program is part of Canada’s response to Beijing’s imposition of the new national security law last summer that makes it easier for authorities to go after dissidents — a move condemned domestically and internationally for restricting people’s rights and freedoms.

The new initiative is expected to draw further ire from Beijing in the already strained Sino-Canada relationship that tanked in 2018 with the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver and the subsequent detention of Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig in China.

Under normal circumstances, Ottawa only issues open work permits to foreign nationals with approved job offers from Canadian employers.

To be eligible for the special program, Hong Kong residents must have graduated with a Canadian post-secondary diploma or degree in the past five years, or hold an equivalent foreign credential. A post-secondary diploma program must be a minimum of two years.

The Canadian program follows a similar scheme launched by the United Kingdom last Sunday that offers temporary residence status to Hong Kongers, which can lead to permanent settlement after five years, then citizenship after a further 12 months.

Unlike the U.K. program that’s only open to those born before Hong Kong’s return to China in 1997 and eligible for the British National (Overseas) passport or BNO, the Canadian program also applies to those with a Hong Kong special administrative region passport.

It’s not known how many people will qualify or apply to the Canadian program, but the latest Hong Kong census in 2016 found that 2.1 million residents or 32.7 per cent of the population 15 or above had attained a post-secondary education.

The British program, according to a BBC report, is expected to draw 300,000 applicants and has already prompted Beijing to stop recognizing BNO as a valid travel document for Hong Kong residents.

In addition to the work permits, Ottawa is also planning to roll out two other programs for qualified Hong Kongers to directly obtain permanent residence. Those programs are intended for those who previously have acquired Canadian employment or education credentials.



Both Britain and Canada have a special relationship with Hong Kong, which was a British colony until 1997 and a main immigration source for the latter in the 1980s and 1990s to escape from Beijing’s takeover. An estimated 300,000 Canadians currently live there.

“The ties that bind Canada and Hong Kong run deep,” said the Immigration Department’s news release. “Canada continues to stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of Hong Kong, and is deeply concerned about the new National Security Law and the deteriorating human rights situation there.”

Nicholas Keung is a Toronto-based reporter covering immigration for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: @nkeung

Source link