2024-03-11T16:54:44-04:00Aug 30, 2023|

How to move to Canada from Hong Kong

Residents of Hong Kong have a variety of immigration options they can leverage to move to Canada. Whether you intend to move to Canada permanently or temporarily to work or study, there are likely some immigration programs you qualify for. In addition to the traditional routes, the Government of Canada has announced several temporary policies to help more Hong Kong residents immigrate to Canada.

In this article:

How to move from Hong Kong to Canada permanently

Canada has many immigration programs that enable foreign nationals to live, work, and settle in the country permanently. Eligible Hong Kong residents, in particular, can explore some of the government’s temporary policies to fast-track their applications and move to Canada sooner. 

Here are some of the popular ways you can move to Canada from Hong Kong: 

1. Temporary public policy for eligible applicants already in Canada

This public policy allows Hong Kong residents who are already in Canada temporarily to qualify for permanent residence. This policy is valid till August 31, 2026, and there are two streams under it:

Stream A: For in-Canada graduates (international students who’ve graduated in Canada)

To be eligible for Stream A, you must meet the following criteria:

  • Hold a valid passport issued by the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China OR the United Kingdom to a British National (Overseas) as a person born, naturalized or registered in Hong Kong.
  • Have valid temporary resident status in Canada.
  • Be physically present in Canada when you apply for and when you get permanent residence.
  • Intend to live in Canada, outside the province of Quebec.
  • In the three years before you apply for PR, you must have graduated from a post-secondary designated learning institution (DLI) in Canada with all of the following:
    • At least a two-year diploma (not graduate or post-graduate), a degree, or at least a one-year graduate or post-graduate diploma or certificate. 
    • At least 50 per cent of your program completed in Canada (either in person or online).
    • At least a CLB/NCLC 5 in all four skills on an approved language test.

Stream B: For candidates with Canadian work experience (work permit holders)

To be eligible for Stream B, you must meet the following criteria:

  • Hold a valid passport issued by the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China OR the United Kingdom to a British National (Overseas) as a person born, naturalized or registered in Hong Kong.
  • Be physically present in Canada when you apply for and when you get permanent residence.
  • Have valid temporary resident status in Canada.
  • Intend to live in Canada, in any province or territory other than the province of Quebec.
  • Have worked in Canada for at least 12 months full-time, or an equal amount of part-time hours in the three years before you apply. 
    • You can’t include any hours of work that you spent as a full-time student, self-employed, working outside Canada, on leave from your job (medical, parental or similar), on an extended absence outside Canada, or unemployed.
  • Score at least a CLB/NCLC 5 in all four skills on an approved language test.
Note Icon  Note: Starting August 15, 2023, applicants under stream B (Canadian work experience) no longer need post-secondary education to qualify.

6. Other PR programs in Canada

If you intend to move to Canada as a PR, but don’t qualify for any of the above-listed programs, don’t worry. You can also explore your eligibility with other immigration programs such as the Atlantic Immigration Program (AIP), Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot (RNIP), Quebec-selected Skilled Workers, Caregivers, Self-employed, and the Agri-food Pilot.

Moving to Canada from Hong Kong to study: Study permit

Canada is a popular study destination for Hong Kong residents. To study in Canada, you must get accepted into a Canadian designated learning institution (DLI) and apply for a study permit

A study permit is usually valid for the length of your study program plus an extra 90 days. However, if you completed an eligible study program in Canada, you may qualify for a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) after your studies. Many international students see studying in Canada as the first step in becoming permanent residents, and eventually, Canadian citizens.

All study permit applications submitted by individuals with a Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) or British National (Overseas) (BN(O)) passport are eligible for priority processing.

Moving from Hong Kong to Canada to work: Work permit

1. Open work permit

An open work permit is a type of work permit that allows foreign residents to look for work in any industry or work for any eligible employer in Canada. 

As a recent Hong Kong graduate, you may be eligible to apply for an open work permit under a temporary public policy for Hong Kong residents. The public policy expires on February 7, 2025. The open work permit you receive will be valid for up to three years and will allow you to gain valuable employment experience in Canada.

To be eligible for an open work permit under this temporary policy, you must:

  • Hold a valid passport issued by the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China OR the United Kingdom to a British National (Overseas).
  • Meet the educational requirements: You must have graduated from a Canadian DLI or a foreign institution no more than 10 years before applying for this open work permit. You must have received either a degree, diploma or one-year graduate or post-graduate credential.

Most applicants, whether inside or outside Canada, must apply for an open work permit online. You cannot apply for an open work permit under this public policy at the port of entry.

Note Icon  Note: The Province of Quebec runs its own business immigration program. If you plan to live in Quebec, visit Quebec’s immigration website.

For both these streams, principal applicants can also include in-Canada spouses, partners, and dependent children in their application. Additionally, PR applications from family members of Canadian citizens, persons registered under the Indian Act, PRs or protected persons residing in Hong Kong that are in processing will be prioritized by the Government where feasible.

2. Permanent Residence under Express Entry

Express Entry is one of the most sought-after and popular ways to immigrate to Canada, mainly due to its simplicity and quick processing timelines. It is ideal for skilled individuals who want to settle in Canada permanently. It has three economic immigration programs: 

The Express Entry program is based on the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS). All candidates who submit an Express Entry profile receive a CRS score based on their age, education, language skills, work experience and other factors. Extra CRS points are allocated to candidates with Canadian work experience, an educational credential from a Canadian university or college, or a provincial nomination. Applicant profiles are then ranked accordingly and, periodically, the top-scoring candidates are invited to apply for PR.

3. Canadian PR under Provincial Nominee Programs (PNP) 

Provincial Nominee Programs are aimed at individuals who:

  • Have the skills, education and work experience to contribute to the economy of a specific province or territory;
  • Intend to settle permanently in that province or territory; and  
  • Want to become permanent residents of Canada.

Each province and territory (except Quebec and Nunavut) has its own PNP streams (immigration programs that target certain groups such as new graduates, business people, skilled workers in specific professions, or semi-skilled workers) and unique requirements.

When you’re selected by a province or territory, you’ll receive a provincial nomination. You can submit this document as part of your PR application to significantly improve your chances of being invited to apply for PR. If you’re applying for PR through the Express Entry stream of your PNP program, a provincial nomination is worth 600 CRS points.

4. Family Sponsorship

Family sponsorship provides a route for spouses, partners, children, parents, and grandparents of Canadian citizens or permanent residents to live, work and study in Canada as PRs.

Essentially, your Canadian relative signs a sponsorship agreement and undertaking agreeing to provide you with financial support for a given period, until you’ve comfortably settled in Canada.

5. Business or investment-related immigration

If you intend to start your own business or purchase an existing business in Canada, the Start-up Visa (SUV) program may be ideal for you. Entrepreneurs with the skills and potential to build innovative businesses in Canada, create jobs for Canadians, and compete on a global scale, may qualify for a Start-up Visa.

To be eligible for the Start-up Visa Program, you must:

  • Have a qualifying business;
  • Get a letter of support from a designated organization; 
  • Meet the language requirements; and 
  • Bring enough money to settle in Canada.

Foreign nationals who receive a Commitment Certificate and Letter of Support issued by a designated entity can apply for a short-term work permit under the International Mobility Program before submitting their PR application under the Start-Up Visa program. The designated entity, however, must support the request for a work permit. 

If you meet the eligibility requirements, you can apply for a work permit. The Commitment Certificate is valid for six months from the day it is issued. So, whether you apply for a work permit or not, you must submit your application for PR before the certificate expires.

Note Icon  Note:

  • If you have a degree (for example, bachelor, master or doctorate) from outside Canada: You don’t need an Educational Credential Assessment (ECA) to apply, but an officer may request one later while processing your application. 
  • If you have a diploma from outside of Canada: You must provide an ECA. The ECA must be from an organization or a professional body designated by IRCC.

2. Employer-specific work permit

Hong Kong residents who don’t meet the education requirements for an open work permit may still be eligible to work in Canada on an employer-specific work permit.

An employer-specific work permit only allows the holder to work for a particular employer in Canada. You must have a valid Canadian job offer to qualify for an employer-specific work permit. Moreover, while in Canada on an employer-specific work permit, you may not change jobs (unless you reapply for a work permit) and must work in the location specified on your work permit.

In most cases, Canadian employers need a positive Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) from the government to confirm that there aren’t any domestic candidates (citizens or permanent residents of Canada) to fill the position before they can issue a job offer to a foreign applicant.

Download the free Career Guide for newcomers to Canada

3. International Experience Class (IEC) – Working Holiday Visa

IEC allows eligible individuals to apply for a Working Holiday Visa. Hong Kong is one of the countries that has a Working Holiday Agreement with Canada. This allows Hong Kong residents (between the ages of 18 and 30) with an HKSAR or BN(O) passport to temporarily work for any employer in Canada and to switch jobs and job locations after arrival.

Those interested in the program must first submit a profile on the government’s site when the registration period is open. Eligible applicants from the pool may then be invited to apply through an invitation round.

Working Holiday Visa participants from Hong Kong may be eligible for an open work permit that’s valid for up to 12 months. Usually, there is a limited quota system in place. The pool for the 2023 IEC season for Hong Kong is open as of January 9, 2023. IEC is a very popular category and the number of applications generally exceeds the set quota. So, be sure to start planning your move early!

In addition to the residence and age criteria, you must also meet the following requirements to qualify for the Working Holiday Visa program from Hong Kong:

  • Have sufficient health insurance for 12 months.
  • Have at least CAD $2,500 to cover your expenses in Canada, plus a round-trip ticket (or enough funds to purchase one).
  • Not be inadmissible to Canada due to health or criminality reasons.
  • Not be accompanied by dependants.

Canada regularly introduces new measures and revises existing guidelines to improve various immigration programs and make it easier for foreign nationals to move to Canada. If you’re unsure about which immigration stream may be right for you and your family, it is advisable to consult with an authorized immigration consultant or lawyer who can help guide you.