New rules for entering Canada on temporary and permanent basis for Hong Kong residents


Certain Hong Kong residents now have access to a new Immigration program provided by the Government of Canada to allow them to move forward during these times of great political uncertainty.

The new policy targeting immigration from Hong Kong was published by IRCC on February 5, 2021. The new measures apply to the following categories:

  1. Canadian citizens, persons registered under the Indian Act, Canadian permanent residents or protected persons in Hong Kong and their immediate and extended family members living in Hong Kong.
  2. Immediate family members of Hong Kong residents who will be working or studying in Canada. By Hong Kong residents IRCC refers to the holder of Hong Kong SAR (HK SAR) passports issued by the Peoples’ Republic of China and British National Overseas (BNO) passports issued by the United Kingdom.
  3. Residents of Hong Kong, again with the HK SAR or BNO passport, living in Canada or the United States.
  4. For those HK SAR or BNO passport holders who have temporary residence in Canada, their fees for the extension of visitor, student, or work authorizations will be waived.

There is are an estimated 300,000 nationals of Canada who live in Hong Kong. Of course Canadian nationals do have an absolute right of entry to Canada under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. For that matter first generation of Canadians born abroad to a Canadian parent also maintain a right to Canadian citizenship and a Canadian passport.

Those Canadian citizens residing in Hong Kong needing a passport renewal, will have the renewals prioritized as will permanent residents of Canada who need a Permanent Resident Travel document.

Those persons who are the immediate or extended family members of Canadian citizens, permanent residents, persons registered under the Indian Act or protected persons in Canada who have applied for permanent residence, will be prioritized if the family member abroad holds a valid passport.

Permanent Residence applications from family members of Canadian citizens, persons registered under the Indian Act, permanent residents or protected persons residing in Hong Kong that are in processing are to be prioritized, where feasible.  However the guidelines do suggest that these applicants might be better served applying for an ETA or TRV as they case may be, which suggests the current processing delay for family class applications will continue.

Priority processing also applies to both applicants for study and for work permits if they hold HK SAR and BNO passports.

Perhaps the most significant aspect of this new policy is the ability of those foreign nationals who hold HKSAR or BNO passports to apply for open work permits, that is, the work permit will be issued notwithstanding there is no specific employer making an offer of employment. This is stated to be a two year policy.  The holder of an open work permit will be entitled to work for whomever they please.

However there are restrictions on eligibility:

  1. The applicant must hold an HK SAR or BNO passport.
  2. The applicant must hold a degree from a Designated Learning Institute (DLI) in Canada or the equivalent educational credential earned abroad (for which an officer may request an Educational Credential Assessment) OR a diploma from a post-secondary DLI in Canada OR the equivalent credential from an overseas institution along with an educational assessment report from an IRCC approved agency .
  3. The program of study must have been of two years of duration.

More importantly the educational credential must have been obtained in the five years immediately preceding the application. This is a clear signal that the Canadian government is seeking to recruit young professionals with limited work experience, who, have obtaining an open work permit under this program and having gained work experience in Canada, will be eligible to apply for permanent residence under the Express Entry program. The additional points awarded for Canadian work experience will often assist a candidate for permanent residence attaining the point threshold necessary for an Invitation to Apply for Permanent residence.

Note, that the work permit applications must be made online.  They cannot be made at a Port of Entry, notwithstanding there is no visa requirement for HKSAR or BNO passport holders.

Under this public policy those Hong Kong residents currently in Canada as visitors are eligible to apply for an open work permit, even in those circumstances where they have engage in unauthorized work or study or failed to comply with a condition of a previous permit or authorization.  The spouses and common law of approved work permit holders under this policy may also be issued an open work permit, as may those dependent children who have reached the age of 18.


The impact of this new policy would appear to be at least two fold: on one hand it demonstrates the Canadian government’s commitment to those residents of Hong Kong with familial ties to Canada, secondly, as the economy rebounds from the restrictions imposed by COVID-19, it provides a source of talented skilled professionals for the Canadian work force.