Hong Kong residents have a variety of immigration pathways available to them.
The Refugee Resettlement Program is designed to offer protection to the world’s most vulnerable. Canada is one of the world’s top resettlement countries, having resettled more than 30,000 refugees in 2019.
Individuals who have fled their home country and have no other durable solution may be referred to Canada for resettlement by UNHCR or Canadian private sponsors.
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.
IRCC has also implemented an exemption for people from Hong Kong to the 12‑month bar on receiving a pre‑removal risk assessment following a negative decision on their asylum claim.
Measures to protect human rights defenders in Hong Kong
Hong Kong residents have a variety of immigration pathways available to them, and the special measures I announced in November 2020 add to these. These measures include open work permits for recent post-secondary graduates in Canada or abroad, and a pathway to permanent residence for recent post-secondary graduates, or people with work experience in Canada.
Any Hong Kong resident in Canada may make an asylum claim and have the right to due process.
Canada’s Refugee Resettlement Program is available to people at risk who have fled their home country. The Program continues to operate on a limited scale despite ongoing travel restrictions.
Mandate commitment for a new stream for human rights defenders
I am concerned by the dangers that human rights defenders face all around the world. I have committed to introducing a dedicated refugee stream for human rights defenders at risk, in addition to our existing Refugee Resettlement Program.
250 government-assisted refugee spaces have been added to the Immigration Levels Plan from 2021 to 2023 for these human rights defenders. The new stream is on track to be launched this year.
Refugee Resettlement Program
Canada’s Refugee Resettlement Program, founded on the 1951 Refugee Convention, allows persons in need of permanent protection to resettle to Canada.
The Program provides protection to those most at risk around the world, who are located outside of their home country. People who have fled persecution in Hong Kong may be resettled to Canada under this program.
Refugees must be referred to IRCC by a referral organization such as UNHCR, or identified by a private sponsor under the terms of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. Individuals cannot apply directly for resettlement to Canada, nor can refugee claims be made at an embassy or consulate of Canada.
Refugees who face immediate risks may be resettled under Canada’s Urgent Protection Program. This program provides expedited resettlement to refugees whose life, liberty, or safety is immediately threatened.
Refugee resettlement and COVID-19
Refugee resettlement during the COVID-19 pandemic has been limited by border restriction measures.
Only those resettled refugees who are exempt from Canada’s border restriction measures can travel to Canada at this time. Exemptions apply to refugees whose visas were issued before travel restrictions were in place, those who have family members in Canada and those referred to Canada under the Urgent Protection Program.
Asylum Program - Pre-removal risk assessments
If a foreign national is subject to a removal order that is in force, they may be eligible to apply for a pre-removal risk assessment (PRRA), which allows them to describe the risks they may face if they were to be removed. Foreign nationals whose PRRA applications are approved may stay in Canada.
In most cases, foreign nationals have to wait 12 months before they are eligible for a PRRA after they receive a negative decision on their asylum claim or a negative decision on an application for leave and judicial review from the Federal Court, if applicable.
Due to the conditions in Hong Kong, IRCC implemented an exemption to the 12-month bar on November 12, 2020 for individuals from Hong Kong, affecting individuals who received final negative decisions from the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada or the Federal Court or a final PRRA decision from IRCC between November 13, 2019 and November 12, 2020.
The ability to exempt individuals from the 12-month bar on accessing a PRRA helps provide a safety net for failed refugee claimants who, as a result of recent significant changes in their home country, may face new risks following the final decision on their claim.
If pressed on measures for asylum seekers:
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.
If pressed on recent asylum decisions by IRB:
We are aware of recent media coverage detailing positive decisions by the Immigration and Refugee Board on asylum claims in Canada by individuals from Hong Kong. The IRB is an independent decision making body that decides on asylum claims, and they issue decisions on cases that are before them. IRCC has no role in this process.
If pressed on eligibility for PRRA after November 12, 2020
Individuals from Hong Kong who receive a final negative decision after November 12, 2020, are not eligible to apply for a PRRA for 12 months. Any recent changes in country conditions would have been considered when the refugee claim was decided by the IRB or during the PRRA process.
The Department will continue to monitor developments in Hong Kong for any further changes that may pose new risks.
Supporting facts and figures
Resettlement Program & In-Canada Asylum Program
In 2020, there were no admissions of resettled refugees and no refugee resettlement applications by persons holding Hong Kong Special Administrative Region or British National (Overseas) passports.
From January to September 30, 2020, there were a total of 25 claims made by Hong Kong passport holders. As of September 30, 2020, there were 33 claims pending a decision at the Immigration and Refugee Board.
Canada does not have a humanitarian immigration class dedicated to resettling people at risk from within their country. However, special temporary and targeted measures can be considered, where conditions are favourable, through the use of public policies. For instance, in 2017, with the awareness and support of the Iraqi government, the Government of Canada undertook an exceptional resettlement effort for survivors of Daesh from within their home country of Iraq.
The IRB is constantly evaluating conditions in asylum-seeker-producing countries and is updating research material to include the latest developments in Hong Kong and ensure that decision makers have access to the most recent information.
Potentially less complex claims are triaged by the IRB. Claims may: be granted a positive decision on the basis of the information in the file without a hearing, supported by evidence; proceed as a short hearing if only one or two issues need to be resolved; or, proceed as a regular hearing if complex or credibility issues are raised.