Canada is launching two new immigration pathways for Hong Kong residents, and implementing new measures for asylum claimants.
Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino made the announcement on November 12, saying these initiatives build on the 2021-2023 Immigration Levels Plan.
These measures also support Canada’s commitment to maintain the connections between Canada and Hong Kong in response to the Chinese government’s implementation of the national security law in Hong Kong on June 30, 2020. This law criminalizes “secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces,” and provides very broad definitions of these crimes, which undermine human rights and freedoms.
The minister also said that Canadian citizens, and permanent residents in Hong Kong will receive expedited processing of any documents they require to return to Canada. Family members of Canadians may also travel to Canada under the current exemptions, and must quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.
An estimated 300,000 Canadians are currently living in Hong Kong, one of the largest Canadian communities abroad.
Two new immigration pathways for Hong Kong residents
Canada is expediting the processing of permits for eligible Hong Kong youth who want to work or study in Canada.
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) will also offer a new open work permit to Hong Kong graduates. This permit can be valid for up to three years, and the experience gained can go toward an application for permanent residence. These work permit holders can apply for immigration through existing pathways like the Express Entry system, or one of the two new immigration programs specifically for Hong Kong youth.
Eligibility criteria for this open work permit will look at candidates’ post-secondary education completed in the last five years, either in Canada or abroad. Spouses, common-law partners, and dependent children can also apply for a study or work permit, if they are eligible. The government does not offer a date for when this program will begin, but says it is “expected to launch soon,” in a media release.
The two new pathways to permanent residence for will be available in 2021. The first will be available for former Hong Kong residents who have at least one year of authorized work experience in Canada, and who meet minimum language and education levels. The other will be for those who ave graduated from a Canadian post-secondary institution. These people can apply directly for permanent residence.
For both of these new pathways, applicants will be able to include inland spouses, partners, and dependent children in their application.
Canada is also expediting the processing of permits for eligible Hong Kong youth who want to work or study in Canada.
Measures for asylum claimants from Hong Kong
Given that taking part in peaceful protests is not considered a crime in Canada, people who are arrested or convicted for protesting will not be denied on grounds of inadmissibility.
Canada is implementing an exemption to the 12-month bar on a pre-removal risk assessment for Hong Kong residents. These assessments examine the risk a person may face if they are returned to their home country. Normally, people who are refused a refugee claim are not eligible to apply again for at least a year from the date of the decision. As a result of this new exemption, some people who were previously ineligible may now apply for another assessment before being removed from Canada.
Hong Kong residents, and other foreign nationals, who are in Canada still have access to the asylum system. Eligible asylum claims are decided based on individual merits and evidence presented to the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada.
Residents of Hong Kong who are at risk of persecution and who have fled to another country may also be eligible under Canada’s existing resettlement programs, such as the Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program and the Government-Assisted Refugees Program.
Additional measures for Hong Kong residents
Canada is temporarily waiving the application processing fees for Hong Kong residents in Canada who apply to extend their stay.
IRCC is also increasing promotional and recruitment efforts to attract Hong Kong youth to study in Canada. The immigration department will resume processing International Experience Canada (IEC) applications for Hong Kong youth, which has been paused due to the coronavirus pandemic. Even with travel restrictions people can travel to Canada under the IEC as long as they have a job offer.
IRCC will also promote super visas for parents and grandparents. This will allow them to come to Canada multiple times over a 10 year period for up to two years at a time.
Finally, IRCC has also allocated resources to speed up processing of permanent residence applications, including for family sponsorship. Spouses or common-law partners who are applying in Canada can apply for an open work permit.
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