CACN - Q&A Package - Nov 16, 2020

Hong Kong measures

How do these measures help Hong Kong residents if they can’t come to Canada because of the travel restrictions?

The new measures, which build on our existing programs and pathways, will help ensure that Canadians and Canadian permanent residents living in Hong Kong have the support they need to come back to Canada at any time.

Immediate family members of Canadian citizens and Canadian permanent residents, such as spouses, common-law partners, dependent children or parents or step-parents, are exempt from the travel restrictions, provided they are staying in Canada for at least 15 days and meet standard eligibility and admissibility, as well as public health and mandatory quarantine requirements. Extended family members of Canadian citizens and Canadian permanent residents, including people in an exclusive dating relationship and their dependent children, adult children, grandchildren, and grandparents, are eligible to travel to and enter Canada, as long as they can show they meet specific requirements. If the extended family member meets all the factors above, and is intending to stay in the country for 15 days or more, they will not have to demonstrate that they are entering for a non-optional or non-discretionary purpose. More information is available on our website: how to reunite if an extended family member of a Canadian citizen or permanent resident.

Changes also took effect on October 20, 2020, to allow asymptomatic international students to enter Canada if their designated learning institution has a COVID-19 readiness plan approved by the provincial or territorial government in place to support their safety and that of Canadians. A list of schools that provinces and territories have identified as having acceptable COVID‑19 readiness plans for the return of international students is posted on IRCC’s webpage for international students affected by COVID-19 restrictions and updated regularly. Immediate family members may also be allowed to enter Canada to accompany foreign students. This could include a student’s spouse or dependent child, or in the case of a minor who is coming to study in Canada, a parent or legal guardian who will provide care during the quarantine period. They must show that their reasons for travel are non-discretionary or non-optional (for instance, relocating and establishing themselves in Canada with the international student).

In terms of the new open work permit initiative, expediting work permit applications from Hong Kong residents and assuring them of a pathway to permanent residence will give them assurance and time to plan for a move to Canada once the restrictions are lifted. The new permanent resident pathways will also benefit Hong Kong residents in Canada who have work and study permits.

When will the new measures start? How many applications will you accept?

Recognizing the talent and skills Hong Kong students and graduates can bring to Canada’s economy and workforce, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is opening up a new initiative to allow eligible Hong Kong residents with recent post-secondary studies from Canada or abroad to apply for an open work permit, which may be valid for up to 3 years. This new initiative is expected to launch soon.

The open work permits would allow qualifying applicants to work for any employer in Canada, integrate into the domestic labour market, and establish themselves economically and socially, thus positioning them well to transition to permanent residency through a new Hong Kong-specific permanent residence pathway. A similar pathway will also be made available to Hong Kong students who complete an eligible program of study in Canada. Both of these new pathways to permanent residency will be available in 2021.

Why focus on youth?

Immigration remains a driver of Canada’s economic growth. Canada has an opportunity as we recover from the economic impacts of the pandemic to become the world’s top destination for talent, capital, and jobs. The new measures have been designed to encourage Hong Kong youth to choose Canada as a place to study, work, and settle given the skills and education many of them would bring to support our economy

These new measures will complement measures for youth that have been announced by our key international allies, including Australia and the United Kingdom.

For example, these measures complement the UK’s new immigration pathway for holders of British National (Overseas) passports and their families.

Australia is also introducing new measures for students, temporary graduates and skilled workers from Hong Kong, which are similar to programs and pathways already provided by IRCC.

Canada is one of the top preferred destinations for Hong Kong students, and we expect this trend to continue. By increasing student recruitment in Hong Kong and speeding up the processing of their study permit applications, we are giving Hong Kong youth an important opportunity to study in Canada where their academic freedom is guaranteed, with a pathway to permanent residency. Tens of thousands of former students transition to permanent status in Canada each year.

We are also resuming processing of International Experience Canada (IEC) applications for Hong Kong youth. Approved IEC participants can already travel to Canada under the current travel restrictions, provided they have a current and active job offer. The work experience Hong Kong youth gain via IEC can help them qualify for permanent residence in Canada.

Why are you expediting applications only for Hong Kong residents? What about other vulnerable people who are waiting for their application to be processed?

Canada continues to be a country that welcomes immigrants and those fleeing conflict and persecution abroad.

In keeping with this tradition, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has reiterated that Canada is extremely concerned about the situation in Hong Kong under the new National Security Law and, together with its key international allies, was examining measures to ensure the safety of residents of Hong Kong, as well as Canadians and permanent residents living there.

At the same time, we continue to be open to those wanting to come to Canada, and, although travel restrictions are in place, we continue to prioritize applications from Canadians who need travel documents to return to Canada, vulnerable people and people who perform or support essential services.

Can Hong Kong residents who are already in Canada apply for asylum?

Individuals in Canada continue to have access to our asylum system.

Every eligible asylum claimant is afforded due process and the opportunity to make their case for needing Canada’s protection.

Individuals who are eligible to make a claim are referred to the independent Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB), which decides whether or not an individual is in need of protection.

If pressed on the number of claims made

What happens if the asylum claim is rejected?

In most cases, an individual can appeal a negative decision on their asylum claim to the Refugee Appeal Division within the IRB. They may also be able to ask the Federal Court to review a negative decision.

Should these recourse options be exhausted, individuals from Hong Kong may now be eligible to apply for a pre-removal risk assessment (PRRA) if they received a final negative decision from the IRB or from the Federal Court, or if they received a final PRRA decision from IRCC between November 13, 2019 and November 12, 2020.

Before removing them from Canada, the Canada Border Services Agency will advise eligible individuals from Hong Kong that they can apply for a PRRA.

In most cases, foreign nationals have to wait 12 months before they can apply for a PRRA after they get a negative decision on their asylum claim. However, due to the conditions in Hong Kong, Hong Kong residents who were previously ineligible for a PRRA may now be eligible.

What was the basis for the PRRA bar exemption? How many people from Hong Kong do you expect will benefit from this measure?

As a result of ongoing monitoring, IRCC has identified a significant change in country conditions in Hong Kong. The worsening conditions could put individuals at risk. For this reason, individuals from Hong Kong are now exempt from the 12‑month bar on applying for a PRRA.

Each asylum case is decided on a case-by-case basis and on its merits. Therefore, we are unable to predict how many individuals may benefit from this measure.

Is Canada considering any special measures for other groups in China, such as the Uyghurs?

At this time, Canada is not considering any‎ special measures for Uyghurs. The Government of Canada continues to monitor the plight of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang.

What about human rights advocates in Hong Kong—are there specific measures to ensure they can come to Canada if needed?

Canada supports the right to peaceful protest, freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. Taking part in peaceful protests is not considered an offence in Canada. Arrests and convictions outside Canada for actions not considered an offence in Canada are not grounds for inadmissibility.

Human rights advocates may qualify for the pathways being announced today, and the ministers said Canada will continue to remain a safe haven for those fleeing persecution.

Canada’s Refugee Resettlement Program already offers protection to some human rights defenders who have fled their home countries, as they are among the people referred to IRCC by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), but the department does not currently track these cases.

What about the dedicated stream for human right advocates?

Minister Mendicino’s mandate letter includes a commitment to introduce a dedicated refugee stream to provide safe haven for human rights advocates, journalists and humanitarian workers at risk, with a target of resettling up to 250 people per year.

Although the extraordinary circumstances of the COVID‑19 pandemic have delayed consultations, the department has already engaged with several stakeholders, and efforts are underway to engage with more to ensure that the new stream best meets the needs of those at risk.

Why is IEC resuming processing applications for Hong Kong youth during COVID-19, if current travel restrictions are in place?

As part of the Government of Canada’s broader response, International Experience Canada will resume processing applications for Hong Kong youth aged 18 to 30. International Experience Canada clients with current and active job offers are exempt from current travel restrictions.

With these measures, are you afraid of potential retaliation by China? [GAC approved response]

China has no need to be concerned with these measures. Canada has a long and rich history with Hong Kong, with extensive people-to-people ties. Hong Kong also hosts one of the largest Canadian communities abroad. The measures announced today are positive, facilitative steps, which build on pre-existing immigration programs and measures.

Canada’s guarantee of rights and freedoms, our world-class education system and our quality of life continue to be a competitive advantage for talent from Hong Kong and around the world.

Is Canada considering imposing Magnitsky-type sanctions or travel bans against top Chinese officials in light of human rights abuses against Uyghurs and the national security law in Hong Kong? Wouldn’t these types of actions send a strong message to China? [GAC approved response]

Canada is deeply concerned about the deteriorating human rights situation in China. Reports of ongoing human rights abuses in Xinjiang are a particular concern. We have raised the issue both publicly and privately with Chinese officials.

Canada continues to call on Chinese authorities to halt all human rights violations and to respect, protect and promote freedom of expression, of assembly and association, and of religion or belief.

The Government of Canada will continue to review all policy options. Canada tailors its responses to the specifics of each unique situation and is judicious in its approach, considering the implementation of sanctions within a context of complementarity with other foreign policy tools. We do not comment on specific cases.

How will the new pathways to permanent residence impact immigration levels?

As the new permanent residence measures are expected to begin in 2021, these individuals will be considered in the context of the 2021-2023 Levels Plan.

Will the new pathways be added or subsumed under existing programs, including the Provincial Nominee Program?

Details of these measures will be provided in due course.

These individuals will require provincial services like healthcare. Are you working with the provinces?

The Government of Canada will monitor applications and work in close consultation with provinces in implementing these measures.

Who counts as a Hong Kong resident for the purposes of the new measures?

These measures apply to those who hold a Hong Kong special administrative region (SAR) or British National Overseas BN(O) passport. They will be subject to Canada’s normal immigration application and screening processes.

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