CIMM - Hong Kong Measures - Mar 8, 2021
[Redacted] appears where sensitive information has been removed in accordance with the principles of the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act.
- As part of the whole-of-government response to the situation in Hong Kong, the measures I announced on November 12, 2020, are 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 measures complement the actions being taken by Canada’s international partners.
- Attracting talented and skilled Hong Kong youth will help Canada’s workforce stay competitive, dynamic and innovative.
Measures for Hong Kong youth and students
- In addition to the existing work and study options for Hong Kong youth, a new temporary residence initiative specific to this cohort provides open work permits of up to three (3) years to those who have completed a degree from a designated Canadian post-secondary institution in the last five (5) years, or the equivalent credential from a learning institution abroad. Those who have completed a diploma from a designated learning institution for a program of study of at least two (2) years in length, or the equivalent credential from abroad, along with an equivalency assessment, are also eligible. Applications for the new open work permit opened on February 8, 2021.
- The Department is also creating two new pathways to permanent residence, available later this year:
- The first will target former Hong Kong residents who have gained a minimum of 1 year of authorized work experience in Canada and meet other criteria such as minimum language and education levels.
- The second pathway will allow those who have graduated from a post-secondary institution in Canada to apply directly for permanent residence.
- Current travel restrictions mean some Hong Kong residents abroad applying for the open work permit may not be able to travel to Canada at this time, unless they can establish that they are travelling for a non-optional and non-discretionary purpose, or meet another travel exemption and comply with all public health requirements. Prioritizing 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.
[If pressed on the delay in implementing the Open Work Permit]
- The implementation of the open work permit measure required careful consideration to ensure the Department balanced facilitation with program integrity, while being mindful of the evolving public health situation and its impact on departmental capacity. Based on these factors, February 8, 2021, was the earliest that my department could implement the open work permit measure for Hong Kong residents.
[If questioned about the participation of Quebec]
- Quebec has decided not to develop a specific path for permanent residency for Hong Kong residents interested in settling in Quebec. Eligible Hong Kong residents can apply through the existing Programme de l’expérience québécoise run by the Quebec government through the ministère de l’immigration, de la Francisation et de l’intégration.
Protection measures for Hong Kong residents
- Individuals who have fled their home country and have no other durable solution may be referred to Canada for resettlement by the UN Refugee Agency or Canadian private sponsors.
- The 1951 Refugee Convention and Canadian regulations require that foreign nationals be outside their home country in order to be eligible for resettlement. Canada cannot, therefore, accept resettlement applications at the mission in the country of alleged persecution.
- Like all foreign nationals who are in Canada, Hong Kong residents have access to the asylum system. Individuals who are eligible to make a claim are referred to the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada. This is an independent, quasi-judicial tribunal that decides whether or not an individual is in need of protection, based on the merits of their case.
- In most cases, an individual can appeal a negative decision on their asylum claim to the Refugee Appeal Division within the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada. 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 Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada or from the Federal Court, or if they received a final PRRA decision from the Department between November 13, 2019 and November 12, 2020.
- 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.
[If pressed on removals to Hong Kong]
- While the Canada Border Services Agency continues to monitor the situation in many countries around the world, including Hong Kong, at this time the agency has not recommended the imposition of a stay of removals. Further questions related to deferrals of removals would need to be directed to the Canada Border Services Agency.
[If pressed about recent developments regarding the non-recognition of the British National (Overseas) passport]
- From Canada’s perspective, British National (Overseas) and Hong Kong Special Administrative Region passports continue to be recognized travel documents for the purpose of entering Canada.
[If pressed about recent developments regarding dual nationals]
- 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.
- Canadians who wish to receive consular services should present themselves as Canadian to authorities at all times.
- My Department is also currently expediting applications for proof of citizenship received from Hong Kong in order to facilitate potential travel to Canada.
[If pressed on potential measures for Uighurs]
- At this time, Canada is not considering any special measures for Uighurs. The Government of Canada continues to monitor the plight of Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang.
Immediate measures for Hong Kong human rights defenders at risk
- Human rights defenders at risk can already be eligible under Canada’s resettlement program if they are outside their home country and referred to us by the UN Refugee Agency.
- Last fall, the Government of Canada committed to implement a new dedicated resettlement stream for human rights defenders. 250 spaces for this stream were included in the 2021 Levels Plan.
- The new refugee stream will establish a dedicated stream for 250 human rights defenders who are in need of protection. The new stream is on track to be implemented in spring 2021.
[If pressed about comparisons to Canadian measures in response to Tiananmen Square]
- The measures adopted by Canada after Tiananmen Square focused on opportunities for those already located in Canada, while the Hong Kong measures the Department has adopted are broader in scope, including opportunities for Hong Kongers in Hong Kong, outside Hong Kong and in Canada.
[If pressed about additional measures in light of recent developments]
- We are continuing to monitor developments in Hong Kong, and continue to collaborate with Global Affairs Canada with regard to Canada’s engagement on the situation.
CACN Report recommendations
That the Government of Canada expand the family class program to facilitate reunification of Canadians with extended family members in Hong Kong.
[If pressed on expanding the family class program]
- Canada already has a generous family reunification program which is targeting to bring 103,500 individuals from all over the globe in 2021. The program allows for the sponsorship of spouses, common-law partners, conjugal partners, dependent children, adopted children, parents, grandparents, or orphaned relatives under the age of 18.
- Pursuant to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA), Canada must balance multiple objectives outlined therein, which include family reunification, but which also include the objectives to offer safe haven to refugees, to pursue the maximum economic benefits of immigration and to support the development of a strong and prosperous Canadian economy.
That the Government of Canada consider how to best expedite asylum claims made by Hong Kong people involved in the pro-democracy movement.
[If pressed about speeding up asylum and resettlement processing]
- Funding was announced in the Economic and Fiscal Snapshot 2020 to enable the asylum system to process 50,000 asylum claims annually until March 2023 (2021-22 and 2022-23).
- Certain country and claim types may be eligible for processing as a “less complex claim.” Asylum claims from Hong Kong are currently being triaged as potentially less complex claims by the IRB, but this does not necessarily mean they will be granted a positive decision without a hearing.
That the Government of Canada ensure that no one will be disqualified from making an asylum claim or availing themselves of immigration routes to Canada because they have been charged with offences associated with the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong. This exemption should also apply to charges resulting from the exercise of freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, as embodied in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
[If pressed on criminal admissibility to Canada]
- Under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, foreign nationals charged or convicted of a crime may be inadmissible to Canada and may be refused a visa, electronic travel authorization or entry to Canada.
- However, foreign nationals who are charged or convicted of an offence outside Canada are not automatically barred from entering or remaining in Canada. Inadmissibility decisions are made on a case-by-case basis. Foreign convictions are examined to see whether the act committed would have been an offence under Canadian laws if they had occurred in Canada. For example, peaceful protesting does not constitute a crime in Canada.
- A foreign national who was charged or convicted for subversion outside Canada would be examined for possible inadmissibility on both criminality grounds as well as security grounds. However, a decision by a foreign authority to charge or convict a person for subversion may not, in itself, constitute sufficient evidence to meet the threshold of reasonable grounds to believe that an individual is inadmissible on security grounds due to subversion, although it would be taken into consideration.
That the Government of Canada consider issuing travel documents to facilitate the safe and immediate exit from Hong Kong of pro-democracy activists.
[If pressed on travel documents or temporary residence permits for human rights defenders]
- Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and British National (Overseas) passport holders are visa-exempt for travel to Canada, requiring only an electronic travel authorization (eTA) to fly to or transit through Canada.
If warranted, temporary residence permits (formerly referred to as Ministerial Permits) are an existing measure that can be used in exceptional circumstances, which are determined on a case-by-case basis.
Facilitative measures based on existing programs and application trends
- Compared to many of our like-minded partners, Canada already has an extensive array of pathways that Hong Kong residents can use to come to Canada either temporarily or permanently, including for work, to study, for permanent immigration, or for family reunification.
- As the Government announced in November, my Department has implemented a number of measures to promote and facilitate our existing programs for Hong Kong residents. For example:
- All foreign nationals already in Canada on a temporary basis may apply to extend their stay in Canada. In addition, the cost of processing fees related to renewing temporary resident status in Canada may be waived for Hong Kong residents.
- The Department is processing Hong Kong work and study permit applications on a priority basis.
- The Department has shifted work to ensure there are sufficient resources dedicated to further speed up processing of Hong Kong permanent residence applications, including for family sponsorship.
Supporting facts and figures
- Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) and British National (Overseas) passport holders are visa exempt for travel to Canada, however, they do require an electronic travel authorization.
- There are an estimated 300,000 Canadian citizens in Hong Kong and an unknown number of permanent residents.
Application volumes for Hong Kong SAR or British National (Overseas) passport holders
- In 2019, the Department processed over 70,000 electronic travel authorizations for Hong Kong SAR or British National (Overseas) passport holders. In 2020, this figure was 12,693.
- In 2019, 1,798 Hong Kong SAR or British National (Overseas) passport holders’ applications were processed for Canadian permanent residence. In 2020, this figure was 1,408.
- In 2020, study permit applications fell sharply (-43% overall) for other regions in greater China (Taiwan, Macau, Inner Mongolia), but nearly doubled (+93%) for Hong Kong. 2,867 study permit applications were received in 2020, over 3 times what could be expected based on the regional trend. January 2021 saw 262 study permit applications received for Hong Kong SAR and British National (Overseas) passport holders.
- Canada received 1,306 work permit applications in 2020, compared to 905 applications in 2019, and 574 applications in 2018. January 2021 saw 149 work permit applications received for Hong Kong SAR and British National (Overseas) passport holders.
- In Canada, there was a 129% increase in visitor extension applications in 2020 compared with 2019, largely due to the current pandemic. January 2021 saw 215 visitor extension applications received for Hong Kong SAR and British National (Overseas) passport holders.
- 2020 saw 37 people with Hong Kong or British National (Overseas) passports claim asylum in Canada, compared to 30 in 2019 and 10 in 2018; this represents a 23% increase in asylum applications year-over-year.
- In 2020, the Consulate General of Canada in Hong Kong issued 6,117 Canadian passports, including 46 temporary passports and 5 emergency travel documents. Throughout the year, prescribed service standards were met 99.72% of the time. Passport issuance volumes were roughly 47% lower in 2020 when compared with 2019.
National Security Law and Canada’s response
- On June 30, 2020, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress passed the controversial “Law of the People’s Republic of China on Safeguarding National Security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative region”, generally referred to as the National Security Law. The law criminalizes secession, subversion, terrorism and colluding with foreign forces. The law also granted jurisdiction over some cases to mainland authorities, meaning some cases may be tried and served in the mainland.
- Since it was passed, several waves of arrests have taken place. Notably, on January 5, 2021, 53 former lawmakers, district councilors and democracy activists were arrested under the national security law on charges of subversion in relation to organizing and/or participating in the pan-democrat primaries ahead of the postponed September 2020 Legislative Council election.
- Canada has repeatedly expressed concerns about these developments, including a statement by the Foreign Affairs Minister, François Champagne, on July 3, 2020, on behalf of Canada, highlighting the implementation of export controls on sensitive military items and the suspension of Canada’s extradition treaty as well as announcing the revision of travel advice for Canadians. On November 12, 2020, Minister Mendicino announced new immigration measures to support Hong Kong residents and Canadians in Hong Kong, including the open work permit and two new pathways to permanent residence. The open work permit was announced on February 4, 2021 with applications being accepted as of February 8, 2021.
- On January 29, 2021, China and Hong Kong both announced they would no longer recognize the British National (Overseas) passport as a valid travel document or proof of identity, and the British National (Overseas) passport can no longer be used for immigration clearance in Hong Kong. It is unclear what these declarations mean in practical terms, as Hong Kong residents may continue to use their Hong Kong Special Administrative Region passport or Hong Kong permanent identity card to enter and leave the territory.
Quebec Government and Hong Kong measures
- Quebec has signaled that they will not be creating a specific pathway to permanent residency for Hong Kong residents in Quebec, given that they feel their existing programs can help achieve similar objectives. Eligible applicants can apply through the Programme de l’expérience québécoise. The numbers of Hong Kong residents who settle in Quebec is quite low.
- House of Commons Special Committee on Canada-China Relations (CACN) Report. On February 25, CACN tabled its second report entitled The Breach of Hong Kong's High Degree of Autonomy: A Situation of International Concern. The report contains twelve recommendations, including the four following which have direct implications for IRCC:
- expand the family class program to facilitate reunification of Canadians with extended family members in Hong Kong (recommendation 7);
- consider how to best expedite asylum claims made by Hong Kong people involved in the pro-democracy movement (recommendation 8)
- ensure that no one will be disqualified from making an asylum claim or availing themselves of immigration routes to Canada because they have been charged with offences associated with the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong (recommendation 9); and
- consider issuing travel documents to facilitate the safe and immediate exit from Hong Kong of pro-democracy activists (recommendation 10).
Measures for human rights defenders at risk
- The Minister’s mandate letter included a commitment to create a new designated refugee stream for human rights defenders at risk. Two hundred and fifty resettled refugee spaces have been added to the 2021 Levels Plan in order to accommodate the resettlement of human rights defenders under the new stream.
- IRCC has consulted with various organizations with expertise in the protection of human rights defenders to better understand their roles and the protection needs of this group. [Redacted]
- Canada reserves space for the resettlement of refugees facing immediate threats to their life, liberty or physical safety. The Urgent Protection Program ensures that Canada is able to respond to urgent requests from the UN Refugee Agency for the resettlement of refugees who are under threat of being killed, returned home, or of being subjected to violence, torture, sexual assault or arbitrary imprisonment.
- After the Tiananmen Square incident on June 4 1989, Canada implemented a number of measures including a moratorium on removals, the use of Ministerial Permits (now temporary resident permits), and instructions to migration officers to consider in their review of Humanitarian and compassionate applications, the sanctions that persons might face, if they returned to China.
- Measures were generally aimed at Chinese nationals located within Canada, rather than Chinese nationals located in China, although there were some exceptions. The Canadian mission in Beijing was instructed to expedite processing of student and Family Class applications, including in some cases through the issuance of Minister’s Permits to facilitate rapid travel to Canada.
Criminal Inadmissibility outside Canada
- Foreign nationals are inadmissible to Canada if:
- They were convicted outside of Canada of an offence that, if committed in Canada, would constitute an indictable offence under an Act of Parliament, or convicted of two offences from separate occurrences, that, if committed in Canada would constitute offences under an Act of Parliament; or
- they commit an act outside Canada that is an offence in the place where it was committed and that, if committed in Canada, would constitute an indictable offence under an Act of Parliament. [pursuant to section 36 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act].
- A person may also be ineligible to claim asylum in Canada due to serious criminality outside Canada. This means that a person is ineligible to make a refugee claim if convicted of an offence that, if the act were committed in Canada, would be an offence under an Act of Parliament punishable by a term of imprisonment of at least 10 years. [pursuant to paragraph 101(1)(f) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act]
- Immigration officers determine if there is an equivalent offence in Canada for the act committed. If there is no equivalent offence the individual would not be inadmissible for having committed or being convicted for that offence. For example, as there is no equivalent offence in Canada for participating in a peaceful protest, a charge or conviction for having partaken in such activities would not make an individual inadmissible to Canada.
Response from international partners
- The Government works closely with our likeminded partners. Shortly following the announcement of the imposition the National Security Law, both the United Kingdom and Australia announced immigration measures for Hong Kong residents.
- In recognition of the history between Hong Kong and the UK, the British government created a new Hong Kong British National (Overseas), or BN(O), visa with a pathway to permanent residency, which came into force on January 31, 2021.
- Australia has lengthened stays for Hong Kong students, graduates and workers within their immigration program so that eligible Hong Kong residents can stay longer and qualify more easily for permanent residency.
- The United States has announced migration-related responses, including ending Hong Kong’s treatment under the Immigration and Nationality Act as separate from China. The US has also included a “carve-out” of refugee resettlement spaces specifically allocated for Hong Kong in 2021 target levels.
- The measures being implemented by IRCC do not exempt Hong Kong residents from the existing travel restrictions due to COVID-19. However, Canadians and permanent residents living in Hong Kong can return to Canada at any time.
- Certain exemptions to the current travel restrictions have been established to allow for non-discretionary travel of foreign nationals to Canada. For example, immediate family members of Canadian citizens, permanent residents, and persons registered under the Indian Act, 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.
- In addition, international students with a valid study permit or who received written approval for a study permit from IRCC may be authorized to enter Canada, provided that they are enrolled to study at a designated learning institution with a COVID-19 readiness plan that has been approved by their province or territory.
- As of January 6, 2021, all individuals over the age of 5 that are traveling to Canada via air are required to provide the airline with a negative molecular PCR test for COVID-19, conducted within 72 hours prior to the flight’s scheduled departure, in order to be granted boarding. Testing is readily available in Hong Kong.
- Additional requirements for travelers to complete a COVID-19 test upon arrival, and to spend three nights in a government approved accommodation came into place on February 21, 2021. These measures will apply to Hong Kong residents.
Canadians and Canadian permanent residents residing in Hong Kong
- Global Affairs Canada estimates that there are nearly 300,000 Canadian citizens residing in Hong Kong. The number of Canadian permanent residents is unknown, but could be quite high.
- 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. Global Affairs Canada received a first indication of a Canada dual-national prisoner in Hong Kong being required to make such a declaration on January 18, 2021. We are aware of other similar incidents involving dual nationals of other countries. Canada continues to work with our likeminded partners to ensure the rights and safety of dual nationals in Hong Kong are protected.
- The Canadian community in Hong Kong is well established and has remained in place during extended periods of protests. [Redacted] If needed, Global Affairs Canada and IRCC are well placed to manage any increase in applications.
- IRCC has not experienced a surge in requests from citizens applying for new passports or requests for Travel Documents from permanent residents in Hong Kong.
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