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Hong Kongers Forced to Leave Savings Behind

Immigrants to Canada from Hong Kong are caught in bureaucratic red tape that prevents them from using their life-long savings to support themselves in their new life in Canada.

Hong Kong immigrants to Canada are caught in bureaucratic red tape that is forcing them to leave their savings behind when coming to Canada, which in turn makes it harder for them to support themselves in their new life here.

In short, Hong Kongers are required by law to contribute 5% of their paycheques to a trust fund administered by companies like Manulife and Sunlife. Upon emigration, they can apply to get their savings back to support their new lives so long as they can document that they are now resident elsewhere.

Many Hong Kongers use their BNO passport (British Nationals Overseas passport issued when Hong Kong was a protectorate of Great Britain) as their ID and to prove that they are entitled to live somewhere other than Hong Kong. The trustees are now refusing to recognize that form of ID, upon a statement by the current Hong Kong government (but which has not been enacted as a law) which is leaving many Hong Kong immigrants in Canada without access to their life long savings.

This is unfair to the immigrants and could place a burden on Canada if these newcomers cannot access their funds to support themselves.

At the Immigration Committee, Greg has been pressing for answers on how this can be rectified.

June 4, 2024 – Citizenship and Immigration Parliamentary Committee – Round 1

Trustees use bureaucratic interpretation to deny funds

Following up on questioning at the Citizenship and Immigration Committee about Hong Kongers denied access to their lifetime savings when emigrating to Canada on a BNO (British Nationals Overseas) passport, Greg asked representatives of the trustees (Manulife and Sunlife) why they would not authorize those savings to be released to the rightful owners of those funds.

Those representatives maintain that in order to release the funds, the owner must demonstrate that he/she has the right to reside permanently somewhere other than Hong Kong. This is true, but evidence suggests the trustees are not accepting the BNO as evidence of the ability to permanently reside outside of HK.

They say they are approving people who obtain their Canadian Permanent Residency or citizenship, but other evidence suggests that if the PR card shows they arrived on a BNO passport, they may still be denied access to their money.

The trustees are holding about $3.7 billion in assets that belong to Hong Kongers who have legitimately taken up permanent residency in Canada.

June 4, 2024 – Citizenship and Immigration Committee – Round 2

Canadian Officials unable – or unwilling – to help solve the problem

In my third round of questioning about Hong Kong emigrants to Canada being forced to leave their life long savings behind because of bureaucratic interpretations of policy by the fund trustees (most commonly Manulife and Sunlife), I asked public servants from the Department of Citizenship and Immigration to clarify some of the conflicting evidence the Committee had received. In short, the answer was almost always “we don’t know”.

Officials did indicate they had no intention of changing the designation on Canadian permanent residency documents that indicate the bearer came to Canada on a British Nationals Overseas passport (which is at the root of the problem as the fund trustees do not accept the BNO document).

Noting that Canada does not intend to help Hong Kongers gain access to their retirement funds, Greg asked if there was reciprocity in pension agreements. In other words, a Canadian who moves to China can continue to receive their CPP, but a Hong Konger coming to Canada may not be able to receive their pension funds from Hong Kong. The official answer was essentially, “we don’t know”.

June 5, 2024 – Citizenship and Immigration Committee – Round 3

Related Material

Consult the Standing Committee on Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration page for this study.