Permanent residents to B.C. from China drops by half

February 4, 2016

By Tara Carman, Vancouver Sun |

VANCOUVER — Overseas immigration to B.C. is down 22 per cent in the past decade, driven largely by a plunge in migration from China, which has long been this province’s largest source of immigrants.

The number of permanent residents moving to B.C. from China has fallen by half, to just over 6,000 in 2014 from 13,600 in 2005, according to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. China’s proportion of B.C.’s new permanent residents dropped to 17 per cent from 30 per cent in the decade.

As of Dec. 31, 2014, China was on the verge of being dethroned as B.C.’s largest contributor of permanent residents. It had dropped to being on par with India and only slightly ahead of the Philippines. Those three countries contributed roughly equal shares of permanent residents in 2014. Taken together, those three countries represented half of all new permanent residents to B.C. in that year.

There is no consensus on what’s driving the decline, which is also happening nationally.

Henry Yu, a history professor at the University of B.C. who studies migration between China and Canada’s west coast, said the decline in permanent residents does not mean there are fewer Chinese in B.C.

“What you’re seeing is the benefits of permanent residency have declined over time. It doesn’t mean there are less Chinese here. It just means that permanent residency as a desirable decision has declined, at times precipitously.”

Yu points to the former Conservative government’s introduction of a 10-year super visa as “ground changing.” Super visas are valid for 10 years and allow parents and grandparents to visit children in Canada for up to two years at a time. The government introduced the program in 2011 as it capped the number of new permanent residence applications for parents and grandparents it would accept because of a lengthy backlog.

For Chinese parents who have children studying in Canada, for example, it often makes more sense to apply for a super visa than for permanent residence, Yu explained.

“If you have a 10-year super visa, then what’s the upside of being a (permanent resident)? In fact, there’s quite a few downsides to being a (permanent resident),” Yu said, noting that having to pay taxes in Canada is at the top of that list. There is also no requirement to be a permanent resident in order to own property in Canada.

Vancouver immigration lawyer Steven Meurrens identified other factors, such as increased language proficiency requirements for most programs that have discouraged permanent residents applications from China.

“Obviously India and the Philippines have more people who speak English. But also the termination of the investor program I think decimated immigration from China,” he said.

The number of permanent residents from other countries that used the immigrant investor program, such as Taiwan and South Korea, has also dropped.

Another factor could be the differing priorities of immigration consultants serving various countries, Meurrens said.

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