Vancouver Sun: Hong Kong Immigrants Returning to Asian Homeland

Many Canadians of Hong Kong origin find they can earn and save more in the South East Asian metropolis, which has one of the lowest tax rates in the world, than in Canada (Samuel Louie)

A story in Saturday’s Vancouver Sun reports that an increasing number of Canadian citizenship of Hong Kong origin are moving back to the South East Asian city, according to demographic data:

Statistics Canada’s numbers tell the tale. Despite Canada’s rapid population growth in the past 15 years, there are now 32,000 fewer Hong Kong-born residents in Canada than there were in 1996.

The 2011 National Household Survey, released last week, shows 209,000 Hong Kong-born residents in Canada (about one third of them living in Metro Vancouver). That compares to 241,000 who lived here in 1996.

Their total numbers in Canada have been dropping despite 1,000 to 2,000 new Hong Kong immigrants a year continuing to trickle in. Even accounting for deaths, it is clear that thousands of Hong Kong citizens each year have been leaving Canada.

The draw, according to Vancouver Sun columnist Douglas Todd, is money, which they can earn more of in Hong Kong, and family, who they seek to reunite with.

Hong Kong’s steady economic growth over the last three decades and vibrant free market have given it a better income-earning potential for some professions than Canada, making it a preferred place to live for some Canadian citizens, like Edward Shen:

“(In Hong Kong) I am perhaps working about 60 to 70 per cent of what I was in Vancouver, but saving up more than I used to, given the much lower tax rate (17 per cent flat tax),” Shen wrote in an email.

“Most Hong Kong people know that there is no big money to be made in Canada, even less so in Vancouver. Vancouver in many people’s eyes is a place for retirement of rich people, as they find the living standard in Vancouver very high. Which is true. People who want to make money choose Toronto over Vancouver.”

Hong Kong has a top marginal income tax rate of 17 percent and no capital gains tax.

Todd also suggests that many of the Hong Kong nationals only immigrated to Canada to acquire Canadian citizenship, with no intention of staying long-term, and points to a recent study conducted by the Citizenship and Immigration Canada funded Metropolis research body which found that some Chinese immigrants describe the three year residency requirement for becoming a Canadian citizen as “immigration prison”, which they must endure before they can repatriate back to their home country.

These repatriates are a new type of “international class of citizens”, according to Richard Kurkland, an immigration lawyer interviewed for the story. They are well-off, and like to have the mobility and insurance of having citizenship in more than one country.

The risk, according to Kurkland, is that if the country where these Canadian citizens live faces some type of catastrophe, it will be the responsibility of Canadian taxpayers to pay to get them out, as happened when some of the fifty thousand Canadian citizens living in Lebanon were airlifted out of the country during the 2006 Hezbollah-Israel war.

Similar to the Lebanon experience, Hong Kong residents holding Canadian passports could return in large numbers and burden the country’s social programs if China imposes more restrictions on the semi-autonomous jurisdiction, Kurkland warns.

National Post Reports Increase in Citizenship Crackdown

The pace of citizenships being rescinded due to fraudulent applications has increased significantly with no signs of slowing down

A new story in the National Post, one of Canada’s largest national newspapers, reports an expansion in the crackdown on citizenship fraud:

Normally, Ottawa revokes citizenship from only a handful of Canadians a year. Since 1947, it has happened fewer than 50 times. Recent cases include Nazi war criminals and Branko Rogan, who concealed his involvement in Bosnian war crimes from immigration authorities.

But in September, Jason Kenney, the minister of citizenship and immigration, announced his department had sent letters to 530 Canadians advising them their citizenship was being rescinded. Investigations into another 3,100 suspected of citizenship fraud were still underway, he said.

The article recounts the case of Mark Bilalov, who became a Canadian citizen in 2003 despite a criminal record. Shortly after receiving citizenship, Bilalov was charged for taking part in a home invasion in which the home’s occupant was struck in the head with 20-pound dumbbell until he handed over keys to his store and the combination to his safe.

The charges were later dropped but the case encouraged Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) to ask the RCMP to look into how Bilalov became a citizen. The RCMP found that they had no knowledge of the convictions before his citizenship.

He has since been convicted on one charge of making a false statement to obtain his citizenship, and in 2011, was informed that his citizenship would be revoked based on the ommission of having a criminal record when applying for citizenship.

Bilalov is currently fighting the decision in court, where his lawyer has argued it is unfair to revoke his citizenship due to the time that has passed since he committed the fraud on his application.

Cases like Bilalov’s have increased public support for the citizenship revocations, which appears will continue for the forseeable future.

New Language Requirements For Canadian Citizenship Coming into Effect November 1st

The UBC English Language Institute is one of thousands of locations where individuals can take an IELTS exam. Citizenship applicants will be required to submit the results from CIC-approved third-party tests like the IELTS or provide evidence of completion of secondary or post-secondary education in English or French to be have their application processed.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) announced today that the majority of citizenship applicants will be required to demonstrate language proficiency in English or French when they apply, effective November 1st, 2012.

Currently, CIC assesses applicants’ language proficiency through the interaction their staff have with the applicant, and from the applicant’s citizenship knowledge test results.

Under coming changes, citizenship applicants will be required to submit the results of an International English Language Testing System (IELTS) test, and score at least 4.0 and 4.5 on the speaking and listening portions, respectively.

In order for applicants to demonstrate French language proficiency, they will be required to submit the results of the Test d’évaluation de français (TEF), and score at least 181 and 145 on the speaking and listening portions.

Applicants can have the language test requirement waived if they can show evidence of having completed secondary or post-secondary education in English or French.

The new language requirements will only apply to applicants aged 18-54.

Immigration Minister Announces 3,100 Having Citizenship Revoked, 11,000 Under Investigation

Nearly 11,000 individuals are under investigation by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) for submitting fraudulent proof of residence to meet requirements for maintaining permanent residency status and qualifying for Canadian citizenship (Citizenship and Immigration Canada)

The investigation into citizenship and permanent residence fraud has expanded to nearly 11,000 people, and federal immigration authorities are in the process of revoking the citizenship of 3,100 individuals, Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney and Public Safety Minister Vic Toews announced today.

“Today’s announcement is the end-result of the hard work done by the RCMP and CBSA, and they should be congratulated for their dedicated effort in bringing these charges forward. These efforts reinforce our government’s commitment to protecting the integrity of our immigration system,” commented Public Safety Minister Vic Toews.

The citizenship and permanent residence fraud constituted a permanent resident paying crooked consultants up to $25,000 for a family of five over four or more years to fabricate falsified proof of Canadian residence, in order to qualify for Canadian citizenship or maintain their permanent resident status.

Individuals falsify proof of residence to meet the requirement under Canadian law for permanent residents to live in Canada for three years out of the preceding four years to be granted Canadian citizenship, and also to meet the requirement to reside in Canada for two out of five years to retain their status as permanent residents.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) said that it is currently investigating 5,000 cases of permanent residents who are believed to be engaged in residence fraud. CIC believes most of these individuals are currently outside the country.

According to CIC, almost 1,800 applicants under investigation have abandoned their citizenship applications as information about the investigation has been publicized.

Immigration Minister to Make Announcement About 2,900 People Under Investigation for Citizenship Fraud

Statue of Justicia in Ottawa, Canada. Immigration Minister Jason Kenney is expected to announce on Monday that upwards of 2,900 people are having their Canadian citizenship revoked for fraudulent citizenship applications.

Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney is scheduled to speak to the press tomorrow and is expected to announce that 2,900 people will be stripped of their Canadian citizenship for providing fake proof of residency.

Most of the individuals under investigation were clients of a small number of consultants who offered to help people qualify for citizenship through fraudulent means. The fraud involved proof of residency being fabricated in order to misrepresent the duration of their residency in Canada in their citizenship application.

The revocation comes after a two year RCMP investigation that found up to 8,300 potential cases of fraud.

The press conference will be held at 10:00 AM tomorrow at the National Press Theatre in Canada.

Fewer Test-Takers Passing Canadian Citizenship Exam

Citizens take the oath (Government of Canada)

Since the federal government increased the passing grade on the Canadian citizenship exam from 12/20 to 15/20 in 2010 and increased the number of topics that the test covers, failure rates have nearly quadrupled, from approximately 4 percent in 2009, to 15 percent in 2011, according to a report by Cary Mills of the Globe and Mail.

Mills notes that the increase in exam difficulty is affecting certain communities more than others, for example pushing failure rates for Afghan-born immigrants from 21 percent in the year before the exam changes, to nearly 50 percent in the year after, and pushing those for Vietnamese-born immigrants from 14.8 percent before the exam, to 41.2 percent after.

Immigrants from Australia, England and the United States meanwhile have continued to fare very well on the exam, with only 2 percent failing every year. This indicates that higher language proficiency requirements are the most important result of the increase in the difficulty of the exam.

The Harper government has made proficiency in an official Canadian language a more important part of getting both permanent residency status and citizenship in recent years, including changing the eligibility requirements for the important Federal Skilled Worker Program in 2010 to require a passing grade on an English or French language test to qualify for permanent residence.