Canada extends, expands special permit program for Hong Kongers

Feb 9, 2023 | Canadian News, International News, News

Immigration Minister Sean Fraser announced on Monday that Ottawa is allowing Hong Kongers who graduated within the past 10 years from a post-secondary institution to apply for work permits in Canada.

Fraser said the federal government would also extend the application deadline for the program by two years, to Feb. 7, 2025.

The announcement came one day before a temporary scheme for Hong Kong residents was set to expire on Tuesday.

Fraser said the expansion is a win-win for both Hong Kongers and Canada.

“It gives Hong Kong residents more opportunity to gain work experience in Canada,” he said. “But it also allows them to support the Canadian economy by bringing workers at the time when we needed most.

“Canada will continue to support the many meaningful exchanges between Canada and Hong Kong while standing up for the people of Hong Kong,” Fraser said.

Immigration Minister Sean Fraser is seen at a press conference in Toronto to announced the changes for helping Hong Kong residents to come to Canada on Monday. Photo Credit: John Wong
Immigration Minister Sean Fraser announced on Monday plans to continue helping Hong Kong residents to come to Canada. Photo credit: John Wong

Ottawa announced the special program in 2021, in response to Beijing’s sweeping National Security Law imposed on the city in July 2020. The program includes a three-year open work permit and special pathways for permanent residency.

However, Humber News reported last week that some Hong Kong residents in Canada are finding it difficult to stay in the country.

The program said Hong Kong residents can apply for permanent residency after working in Canada for at least one year and fulfilling the five-year post-secondary requirement at the time of application.

Although Ottawa has relaxed the requirement to apply for open work permits, Fraser said the five-year requirement for permanent residency remains unchanged as of now.

Non-profit groups said some might have to opt-out from seeking permanent safety under the existing requirement.

Those who graduated in 2016 and 2017 can fulfill the requirement for open work permits, but not for permanent residency by the time they have worked in Canada for one year.

Anna Victoria Wong, executive director of the non-profit organization Community Family Services of Ontario, said the federal government’s announcement was disappointing but has taken necessary steps to resolve some of the problems.

“We have provided the statistics clearly to the IRCC (Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada) that most of the 2016 and 2017 graduates (find it) hard to get into other immigration pathways,” Wong said.

“It’s clear that they didn’t react to our demands,” she said.

Wong said while the new policy allows more Hong Kongers to come to Canada, it is not clear whether they will be able to stay in the country as barriers to permanent residency pathways remain unresolved.

“I think this is incremental progress that more people become eligible for the temporary work permit,” Wong said. “But I’m also concerned there will be more people stuck between the two doors as there are still many uncertainties unresolved after they arrive.”

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Fraser said the government needs time to examine whether there is any room for adjustment for permanent residency pathways.

“When we are dealing with permanent residency, we want to make sure we are creating pathways for people who are going to have the biggest impact on the Canadian economy,” Fraser said.