Choices of emigrating Hongkongers

September 07, 2021 08:36
Photo: RTHK

Even those Hongkongers earning as little as HK$20,000 a month want to emigrate to the United Kingdom. Most of them never considered going before London suddenly opened the door to holders of BNO passports.

This news emerged from a large International Emigration & Property exhibition held at the Convention Centre in Wanchai last month. A total of 28,000 registered for the event, which featured a dazzling variety of alternatives to move your family or your money out of Hong Kong.

Of the 28,000, 36 per cent said they wished to emigrate to Britain, 19 per cent to Canada and 17 per cent to Australia; 46 per cent said they earned more than HK$50,000 a month, 28 per cent between HK$20,000 and HK$50,000 and 18 per cent less than HK$20,000.

Richard Leung, an emigration consultant, said that the low bar set by Britain and Canada had opened the door to families that had not considered moving before. “A large group of recent migrants are couples in their 30s with children who have built up a certain level of savings. Initially, they planned to send the children abroad for education, but then decided to take the whole family. Many have not arranged a job in advance.”

One visitor to the exhibition, with his wife, was David Wong. “Working hours here are very long. I always preferred the simpler lifestyle and better environment of foreign countries. I planned to work here for many years and then move. Now Britain and Canada have lowered the bar. So, for the last three months, we have been collecting material to emigrate.”

For many families on modest incomes, the key factor pushing them to emigrate is education. They do not want their children to receive the ‘patriotic education’ to be offered in future here. Instead, they can attend state schools in the UK, free of charge. These involve less homework and avoid the ‘stuffed duck’ method used in many schools here.

To meet different budgets, developers and emigration consultants at the exhibition were offering properties with a wide range of budgets. Cheapest were small terrace houses in the north of England for less than HK$1 million.

“My advice is never to buy anything in advance,” said Leung. “Move first and rent a place for three-six months in the area you want to live. Use the time to understand in depth the environment, shopping, transport and public order and who lives in the different neighbourhoods. Advertisements you see in Hong Kong only give a partial and possibly misleading picture.”

Also on display were property and investment options that enable Hong Kong people to obtain passports or residence status without having to move. One consultancy firm has produced a small blue book, which sets out conditions for 18 different countries.

The cheapest is Vanuatu, in the South Pacific. It offers a passport in exchange for a donation of US$80,000, the booklet said. Applicants must be over 18 and have no criminal record.
Turkey requires an investment of at least US$250,000 in a passport.

Several European countries offer residence or passports, including Greece, Montenegro, Cyprus, Malta, Portugal and Ireland.

In 2012, Portugal launched its Golden Visa scheme, under which the applicant must spent at least 500,000 euros on properties.
Since 2012, it has issued nearly 10,000 such visas, yielding 5.3 billion euros of investment. In 2015, it was amended to include 350,000 euros for properties needing renovation and as low as 280,000 euros if they are located in low-density areas. The largest number of applications have come from China.

From 2022, residential properties in Lisbon, Porto and high-density coastal areas – the most popular for applications -- will be excluded from the Golden Visa.

In 2012, Ireland started an Immigrant Investor Programme, to allow wealthy individuals and families from outside the European Union to obtain residency in Ireland in exchange for making an approved investment in the economy. Once the appropriate conditions are met, residency permission can be extended every few years for an indefinite period; this can be used to support an application for citizenship.

The candidate must have a legally accumulated minimum net worth of two million euros, with no criminal convictions anywhere in the world. He must invest one or two million euros in designated programmes or donate at least 500,000 euros to a qualifying philanthropic project in arts, sports, health, culture or education.

Also available are companies that specialise in the emigration of domestic animals, which Hong Kong people wish to take with them to their new home.

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A Hong Kong-based writer, teacher and speaker.