Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is enhancing existing pathways to citizenship in order to make it easier for Hong Kongers to work in Canada. Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino announced the creation of an open work permit that will last for three years for people coming from Hong Kong. An open work permit is one that is not job-specific, meaning the holder of the permit can come to Canada and look for a job rather than be invited by an employer first.
“The people-to-people ties between Canada and Hong Kong are strong and deep, and these new measures celebrate those long-standing relationships,” said Minister Mendicino in a press release. “Newcomers from Hong Kong, including students, have made outstanding contributions to Canada, and the changes we’re announcing today will strengthen our relationship with the people of Hong Kong and bring us closer together.”
The IRCC made clear in their announcement the danger posed by the People’s Republic of China towards the people of Hong Kong. The press release did say that the announcement was in response to Hong Kong’s controversial national security law, one that is widely seen as imposed on the tiny country by the much larger, and more powerful, mainland. The law, at first, seems boilerplate. It criminalizes acts of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces. But critics have said that it is designed to curtail personal freedoms such as expression, a fact made worse by the lack of judicial independence in Hong Kong. This law came on the heels of another controversial Hong Kong law said to have been imposed by Beijing. The extradition bill sparked a wave of protests against the China-backed government. The bill would have allowed countries who do not have a treaty with Hong Kong to request extradition, including China, Macau and Taiwan. Hong Kong dissidents saw this as endangering their human rights, especially if they were to be sent to China to be tried. Protests resulted in extremely heavy handed crackdowns from the Hong Kong government.
Immigration options for Hong Kongers
With the potential for a mass exodus being high— as many as 40 per cent of the population is considering leaving, foreign governments have opened their doors to the wealth of talent. Britain, Taiwan and Japan are some of those countries. Canada is following in their footsteps.
The open work permit will be available to those who have graduated from a post-secondary school in Canada or abroad within the last five years. The criteria will be centered on post-secondary education, however it is not clear yet what exactly those specific stipulations will be.
Along with the open permit, the government will also be expediting study permits for those who want to learn in Canada. This measure is helping along the already existing interest Hong Kongers have in Canada. The IRCC says that there has been an increase in student applications coming from Hong Kong. Certain application processing fees will also be waived for those from Hong Kong who wish to extend their stay.
Mansoor Tanweer is New Canadian Media’s Local Journalism Initiative reporter on immigration policy. An immigrant himself, he has covered municipal affairs and the Brampton City Council in addition to issues relating to newcomers over several years.