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Chinese continue to seek residency overseas

Updated: 2012-08-22 00:17
By Cheng Guangjin in Beijing and Li Xiang in Paris ( China Daily)

Despite tightening immigration rules in many destinations popular with Chinese immigrants, the number of applicants — who have growing wealth and a desire to live elsewhere — continues to rise.

This year it has become even more difficult for many Chinese citizens to realize their immigration dreams, as most of their favorite destinations are adjusting immigration rules with higher qualification requirements and fewer openings.

Canada announced in late June that it would temporarily suspend new applications to the Federal Skilled Worker Program and Federal Immigrant Investor Program, effective on July 1. The government is expected to accept applications again in January.

Meanwhile, Quebec, a province of eastern Canada, has limited the maximum number of investor applications between March 21, 2012, and March 31, 2013, to 2,700.

"This has been a heavy blow to new applicants, applicants being processed and the immigration intermediaries in China like ours," said Ding Wei, director of the Canadian immigration department at JJL Overseas Education, a Beijing-based education and immigration intermediary.

According to Ding, many ongoing application cases in his company have stalled.

"Applicants being processed have to wait longer, with a higher chance of being turned down," Ding told China Daily.

Canada is not alone in having new immigration rules.

Australia, for which China is the biggest source of immigrants, on July 1 introduced a new Skilled Migrant Selection Model, one of the biggest changes to the Australian immigration system in years.

The new system will be less convenient for prospective immigrants to Australia. They will have to wait probably about six months to find out if they are allowed to make an application.

According to Ma Jing, who is in charge of the Australian immigration department at JJL, the new model has higher requirements, including education, language ability and business experience.

Because more detailed rules have yet to come out, "now is a transition period with fewer new applicants to Australia", Ma said.

However, Ma is optimistic about a continued increase in the number of new applicants in the future.

"Generally speaking, it has become more and more difficult to move to other countries with higher requirements, including investments, but Chinese people's wealth is also on the rise," Ma said.

Ding said that people may turn to other countries such as the United States and some European countries instead of Canada, since not all news is bad news.

The US on Aug 14 directed young illegal immigrants to fill out new forms and pay $465 if they wanted to apply under a new program that will let them avoid deportation and obtain a US work permit.

Earlier this month, the US Congress agreed in principle to a three-year reauthorization of the EB-5 Regional Center Program, which grants residency permits to foreign investors, a program that is due to expire in September.

Ding is not surprised: "The US knows well the benefits to the development of its regional economy and employment as a result of Chinese investors."

In Europe, at the French Senate's Judicial Committee hearing on July 24, French Interior Minister Manuel Valls signaled that the new Socialist government of President Francois Hollande intended to make changes to French immigration law.

Valls' plans would make it easier for foreign students to work in France after their graduation, said Daniel Kahn, founding partner of French law firm Kahn & Associes in Paris.

Furthermore, if other measures are made regarding the residence and work permit authorization, the lives of foreign employees in France will be more stable, and they will be encouraged to settle in France for good, Kahn said.

Kahn noted that the French government recognizes that non-EU students who have graduated from French universities are an asset to the French economy.

"All companies established in France will benefit from this change in French immigration law," he said.

Many Chinese students are studying in France. Some of them graduated from the most famous French business, commercial and engineering schools and institutes of political science.

"They speak two or three languages and have a Sino-French cultural background," said Kahn.

"The new immigration policy should enable many of them to find suitable and interesting positions in French companies and obtain the appropriate work permit."

No matter how the rules are changed, people's wish to live elsewhere simply won't fade.

Ma said that many of her clients have children who study abroad.

"They feel it's a pity if their children spend years studying in a foreign country without obtaining citizenship there. So they apply for immigration, which can also help their children," Ma said.

"People also want to have a life with less pressure and to enjoy a better pension when they grow old after emigrating to countries like Australia," Ma said.

As for businessmen who travel around the world from time to time, a foreign passport can mean less time waiting for a visa, compared with a Chinese passport, Ma said.

Yao Lei, 29, a senior system administrator on global infrastructure in the IT industry at a US company in Beijing, will soon join the middle-class force with a good salary.

But he has found new momentum for life after making a decision to emigrate to the US.

He plans to acquire permanent residence under the EB-1A category, which is for immigrants who can demonstrate extraordinary ability, with the help of his US-based company. He has found that his specialty is increasingly in demand, even in the US.

"I think I can get a higher salary, a life with less pressure and easier access to educational opportunities for my children in the future," Yao said.

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