Canada received more than 500 applications in its first three weeks for an immigration program designed to help young Hong Kong residents make the move to Canada in the wake of China’s crackdown on the pro-democracy movement.
“In the first three weeks that the program was open (Feb. 8 to Feb. 28), IRCC (Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada) received 503 applications for work permits and 10 applications for work permit extensions,” Alexander Cohen, an IRCC spokesperson, reportedly wrote in an emailed statement to the Reuters news agency.
“Canada shares the grave concerns of the international community over China’s National Security Legislation and strongly supports the right to peaceful protest, freedom of expression and freedom of assembly,’ noted the statement.
Under the new program, Hong Kong residents who have graduated with a Canadian post-secondary diploma or degree in the last five years or hold an equivalent foreign credential can apply for the new open work permits which last up to three years.
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“The launch of the Hong Kong immigration pathway is a historic initiative that will attract young, talented and experienced graduates who will help to drive Canada’s economy forward,” said Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino in announcing the program earlier this year.
“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.”
The qualifying post-secondary diploma programs for this program must be a minimum of two years.
Hong Kong Nationals Can Apply Online From Within Canada
Hong Kong residents currently in Canada temporarily, including visitors, students and workers, can also apply online from within Canada.
Those applying from abroad are subject to current travel restrictions and may not be able to come to Canada at this time unless they have a job offer or meet a travel exemption and comply with all public health requirements.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government opened its arms to Hong Kong residents when China clamped down on pro-democracy supporters in the former British protectorate in June last year.
In addition to the crackdown on the pro-democracy movement with its national security law, China has also insisted Hong Kong residents who hold dual citizenship have to give up one of their nationalities.
“Under the Nationality Law of the People’s Republic of China, dual nationality is not legally recognized in Hong Kong and local authorities may refuse to grant consular access to detained dual nationals who declare themselves as Chinese nationals,” said Global Affairs Canada spokesperson Christelle Chartrand earlier this year.
“Canada has expressed its concern to the Hong Kong government and continues to seek additional information from local authorities on any changes to the treatment of dual nationals.”
China’s Demand Dual Nationals Give Up One Citizenship Noticed In Mid-January
Ottawa first became aware on Jan. 18 of China’s demand that a Hong Kong resident must renounce one of the two nationalities. That dual citizen, then a prisoner in Hong Kong, is one of several such cases involving dual citizens of other countries in Hong Kong.
Canadians who wish to receive consular services need to present themselves as Canadian to authorities at all times.
“We continue to work with our like-minded partners to ensure the rights and safety of dual nationals in Hong Kong are protected,” said Chartrand.
China’s heavy-handed treatment of pro-democracy activists has already reportedly resulted in tens of billions of dollars to leave Hong Kong as investors seek out safe havens elsewhere, including Canada where thousands are hoping to forge a new future.
Under the new open work permits announced today by the immigration minister, Hong Kong residents at risk of persecution who have fled to another country may also be eligible under Canada’s existing resettlement programs, including the Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program and the Government-Assisted Refugees Program.