This year, a record number of Hong Kong residents have decided to study in Canada, and many appear to be taking advantage of new avenues to permanent residency in the country.
In the year 2021, education and emigration advisors said that they had received an exceptional number of queries from persons interested in moving to Canada. They were startled to see so many middle-aged folks, including some in their 50s and 60s, inquire about going back to college in the hopes of settling there through education.
According to official Canadian data, 4,915 Hong Kong residents were granted study licenses from January to September, up from 1,975 in the first three quarters of last year. In August alone, 1,670 permits were issued, a new monthly high since 2015 and a more than threefold increase over the 520 issued in August of the previous year.
Canada issued roughly 200 study licenses per month from 2015 to 2020. From March through September this year, the monthly figure averaged roughly 630. The increased trend began after Canada released new immigration options for Hongkongers in February of this year, following Beijing’s imposition of a national security law on Hong Kong in June of last year.
The June measures provide Hong Kong citizens with two options for emigrating. The first allows applicants to apply for permanent residence after completing postsecondary education at recognized Canadian institutions within the last three years. The second category is for persons who have worked in Canada for at least one year in the previous three years and have earned recognized postsecondary credentials during the previous five years. Because these offers are valid until the end of August 2026, people who begin their studies quickly will have enough time to finish their programs and apply to stay.
In comparison to the British and Australian programs, the Canadian road takes the quickest time for Hongkongers to get permanent residence, and Canada has also stated that its policy could be overturned at any time. This explains why Hong Kong people are rushing to begin their education now.
Due to the national security statute, which prohibits secession, subversion, terrorism, and coordination with foreign forces, Canada has announced it will open its borders to Hongkongers who choose to leave. Britain and Australia, like Canada, have criticized the rule for restricting the city’s rights and freedoms and have eased their immigration policies for its people.
Approximately 64,900 Hong Kong residents sought to relocate to the United Kingdom through the British National (Overseas) visa scheme, which provides a pathway to citizenship, in the first half of this year.
Australia stated in October that holders of Hong Kong and BN(O) passports who have studied or worked in Australia for four years will be able to apply for permanent residency starting March 5 next year.
Since the plans were launched, Jeannie Tse, country manager for EF Education First in Hong Kong and Macau, an international company specializing in language instruction and abroad education, said the number of inquiries for education in Canada had tripled.
“Canada was not a popular choice among Hongkongers, as universities in Britain and Australia usually topped international rankings…but now almost all are asking about education in Canada,” she said. “They always follow up with questions on settling down in Canada, as if we are an immigration company.”
The learning centre collaborated with an immigration firm to host a series of lectures on living in Canada and acquiring permanent residency, which drew a full house for the first time this year. Some of them who arrived, according to Tse, were over 50 and inquired about further education in Canada, which she had never seen before.
Middle-aged Hongkongers, including one aged 60, have expressed interest in studying in Canada, according to immigration consultant Chan Yuet-sum. One of her clients, a 50-year-old part-time farmer, was successful in obtaining study permission to pursue an agricultural diploma course and will go next month.
Many were drawn to Canada because of its open spaces, lower English language competence requirements, less discrimination, and a well-established Hong Kong community, she said.
The CEO of the Dadi Education Group, Patrick Mok, said the surge in inquiries also included middle-aged Hongkongers in their 40s and 50s. “Most graduated quite some time ago and say they want to study again,” he said, noting that not all their applications would be granted as they needed to show a genuine intention to return to school.
Another explanation for the increase in interest in studying in Canada, he said, is that the country has opened up while other countries’ borders have stayed closed due to the Covid-19 outbreak. “Australia has closed its borders for almost two years and students searching for overseas education opportunities may have switched to Canada, which reopened its borders earlier,” he said.