Canada rolled out a bespoke migration pathway for Hongkongers in 2021 in the wake of the Beijing-imposed national security law. Canada’s policies, which target young people, recent graduates and those who have studied there, have been the easiest, compared with those of Britain and Australia.

“Due to a high volume of applications, processing times for this pathway have grown, and many applicants are at risk of seeing their temporary status in Canada expire before their permanent residence applications are finalised,” the Ottawa government said on Tuesday.

“A new public policy will be launched in the coming weeks to let Hong Kong permanent residence pathway applicants extend their status and get a new open work permit in Canada while they wait for a decision on their permanent residence applications.”

The new move would be implemented on May 27 onwards and would remain in place for five years to allow Hong Kong applicants to extend their temporary status in the country, Ottawa said.

But it also reminded applicants that they would not be granted work permits if their temporary status expired more than 90 days before they applied.

New measure is set to start on May 27. Photo: Edmond So

MP Jenny Kwan, the New Democratic Party critic for housing, immigration, refugees and citizenship who had been advocating for the renewal of Hong Kong applicants’ work and study permits, welcomed the new policy on Tuesday.

“While a more effective and efficient measure would have been to simply automatically renew Hongkongers’ expiring work and study permits so that scarce resources can be put to expedite the processing of permanent resident applications; however, this interim measure will help ensure those faced with prolonged processing delays for their permanent resident application are not forced to return to Hong Kong,” she said.

Kwan argued this was particularly the case following the enactment of the Safeguarding National Security Ordinance in Hong Kong, spanning 39 offences divided into five categories: treason; insurrection, incitement to mutiny and disaffection, and acts with seditious intention; sabotage; external interference; and theft of state secrets and espionage.

Kwan earlier said more than 8,000 applications submitted by Hongkongers were stuck in the system, with the processing time going up from six months when the special migration pathway was first introduced to as long as 21 months.

More than 14,680 people earlier signed a petition demanding Canada to accelerate the approval process, saying the lack of measures in extending the open work permits earlier had left some individuals with expired visas without access to health insurance, jobs and education.

As of last August, 9,947 Hongkongers have applied for permanent residency via the Canadian pathway that consists of “work-to-emigrate” and “study-to-emigrate” routes, with 5,245 of them having their applications approved.

Additional reporting by Connor Mycroft