Hong Kong national security law (NSL)
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A woman who emigrated from Hong Kong walks along Jericho Beach with her daughters in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 2021. Photo: Reuters

Letters | Leaving for Canada? Hong Kong students and parents must study their options

  • Big cities like Toronto and Vancouver may be reminiscent of Hong Kong, but will have similarly high living costs
  • Students could consider schools in mid-sized or smaller cities in Canada, as well as trade-focused colleges

Every year, thousands of students from Hong Kong board a flight to study in Canada, attracted by Canada’s excellent schools, hospitable environment and welcoming immigration system. Recently, this trickle of students has become a flood: visa figures reveal that Hongkongers are enrolling at Canadian institutions at more than double the rate that they were in 2019.

Hongkongers have been rapidly leaving since China imposed a national security law on the city. And while many are going to England, Canada has long been a preferred destination for migrants from Hong Kong.

Last summer, Canada’s government launched new immigration streams specifically for Hongkongers, opening the door to those who graduate from a college or university worldwide. Those who complete their education in Canada can apply for permanent residence immediately upon graduation.

But aspiring students (and their parents) have important decisions to make when considering whether and how to study in Canada. Although agents and consultants can provide advice to potential students, they may be compensated by schools and could have misaligned incentives. It’s thus important for Hongkongers to do their own research for a more objective perspective.

While big cities like Toronto and Vancouver may be reminiscent of Hong Kong, they will have similarly high living costs. Budget-conscious students should consider schools in the province of Alberta, which has excellent, affordable schools in mid-sized cities. Particularly cost-conscious students can seek out schools in even smaller cities, such as those in the picturesque Maritime provinces.

Students pursuing a postsecondary education (college or university) may consider one of Canada’s more affordable, trade-focused colleges instead of its more academically-inclined universities. They should also consult free financial resources at and

To help settle in smoothly, students should seek a community within their adopted city as soon as possible. Fortunately, this isn’t difficult: there is a decades-long, well-trodden path of Hongkongers moving to Canada. Every large Canadian city – and even several smaller ones – has a thriving population of Hong Kong Canadians, which has helped Canada develop what is arguably the world’s best Cantonese cuisine. Support groups have sprung up nationwide to assist newcomers from Hong Kong with employment, accommodation and cultural assimilation.

Newcomers from Hong Kong would be welcomed with open arms in Canadian society. And a big, warm hug is particularly appreciated during a harsh Canadian winter.

Sasha Ramani, Mississauga, Canada