As civil liberties continue to be suppressed in Hong Kong by mainland China, Canada has seen a massive increase in migration from the former British Colony.
Canada hasn’t seen numbers this high since 1997 when Great Britain handed the colony back to China.
In response to the crackdown on anti-government protests in 2019 and Beijing’s implementation of national security law in 2020, Canada has opened new exit routes and special visa’s for young Hong Kongers.
However, the flow of Hong Kongers to Canada has permeated other immigration and visa categories as well.
Prior to the handover in 1997, Vancouver became a popular destination for Hong Kongers, and the new data depicts a further increase across the Pacific.
Canada gives a pathway to citizenship
In 2021, 3,444 Hong Kongers were granted permanent residency in Canada, more than double the number in pre-pandemic 2019, and more than 15 times the number in 2010. It has been 24 years since the levels were so high.
Those numbers were dwarfed by those granted study or work permits, which do not confer permanent residency right away but do offer paths to citizenship.
The Canadian government created thousands of three-year open work permits in February 2021 for Hong Kongers who had completed post-secondary studies in the five years prior to their applications.
The number of Hong Kongers who were granted study or work permits in Canada last year, including extensions, was 19,064, more than four times what was granted in 2019.
They include 7,952 new work permits for Hong Kong citizens.
After graduating from a Canadian post-secondary institution or gaining Canadian work experience, Hong Kongers can also qualify for permanent residency in the country.
Hong Kong Tradespeople Migrating to Canada
Canadian Hong Kong-based immigration lawyer Jean-Francois Harvey says a rising number of Hong Kongers are heading for the country via routes large and small.
In addition to graduates from Hong Kong, Harvey said a growing number of tradespeople were migrating to Canada, such as carpenters, plumbers, and electricians.
In 2021, 22,508 Hong Kongers were granted Canadian permanent residency, work permits, or study visas, up 25% from 2019. In 2021, 11202 work permits and extensions were granted to Hong Kong residents, a 544% increase from 2019, while 7,862 study permits and extensions were issued.
According to Harvey, a “massive return” of these people to Canada has occurred since the national security law was passed.
CEO Queenie Choo oversees Success, a Vancouver-based non-profit that has been providing social services to immigrants in Canada for 49 years. She said the group had not experienced so many inquiries from Hong Kongers since before the handover.
Most recent Hong Kong clients who shared their views were displeased with the city’s turmoil, Choo said.