February 11, 2021

Targeted Canadian work permit for Hong Kong graduates: applying for an open work permit and qualifying for an exemption to COVID-19 travel restrictions

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As of Monday, February 8, 2021, The Ministry of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) officially launched its 2-year temporary resident public policy granting open-work permits to Hong Kong graduates. Applications are now being accepted.

The open work permit can be granted for up to three years and is open to any professional engagement with any lawful employer in Canada.

Submitting an application

Available exclusively to Hong Kong graduates who hold a Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) passport or a UK British National Overseas (BNO) passport, eligible candidates may apply from anywhere globally through IRCC’s online platform. IRCC will give these applications priority processing.

Besides holding one of these travel documents, a candidate must also have a diploma from a post-secondary educational institution anywhere in the world. The study program must be at least two years in duration, be completed at the post-secondary level, and the credential must have been obtained in the five years immediately preceding the application date.

In Canada, the diploma must have been issued from a Designated Learning Institution approved by a provincial or territorial government to host international students. 

Equivalent education level credentials from overseas institutions are also accepted. Still, it must be accompanied by an Education Credential Assessment from a third party approved by IRCC to confirm Canadian equivalency.

IRCC Officers will likely request police records from each country the candidate has resided as an adult. While a criminal record does ordinarily render an immigrant inadmissible to Canada, charges levied under China’s Hong Kong national security law passed on June 30, 2020, which criminalizes protests and other activities expressive of political opposition, are exempted.

Application fees will be waived for applications submitted from inside Canada.

Candidates residing in Canada are eligible to either extend their stay or apply for an initial open work permit from within Canada even if their status in Canada is as a visitor or student. This includes anyone who has engaged in unauthorized work or study in Canada or has failed to comply with the conditions of a previous work or study permit.

COVID-19 travel restrictions

Eligible candidates applying overseas may see their active entry to Canada deferred due to temporary COVID-19 travel restrictions. While temporary, at this time, IRCC has not identified a cessation period.

Some workers who were issued permits under other IRCC programs are currently exempted from travel restrictions if their work permits are for contracts with specific employers. While IRCC has no particular directive easing entry for open work permit holders, there are several other COVID-19 travel exemptions under which candidates may jointly qualify for immediate entry to Canada.

Entry exemptions are granted to:

  • Immediate family members of Canadian citizens or permanent residents. This constitutes spouses, common-law partners, dependent children, grandchildren, and parents or step-parents;
  • Extended family members of Canadian citizens and permanent residents. This is exclusively limited to non-dependent adult children, grandchildren, siblings, half-siblings and step-sibling, grandparents, and persons in an exclusive dating relationship for at least one year;
  • Students who were issued or approved for a study permit on or before March 18, 2020;
  • Students who were issued a study permit and were accepted to a Designated Learning Institution that provincial authorities have approved for its COVID-19 response plans.

IRCC will also consider humanitarian and compassionate grounds in exceptional circumstances.

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