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How to: Immigration Application Breakdown

Emigrating doesn’t always require purchasing another home, but the “right” way has its pitfalls.

It’s the same thing everywhere. Plans for emigration rely on a knack for languages and a great deal of patience. Though buying property may seem like a fast track to citizenship elsewhere, the option exists to go through normal channels and do the paperwork. The first step in most cases is residency, so potential emigrants need to decide what’s more unbearable: brutal Canadian winters or snail-paced Australian bureaucracy. 

Of course, that paperwork can be tricky. “We can judge whether an immigration application is complicated based on documentation and procedures,” begins Margaret Chau, an immigration specialist at Goldmax Immigration Consulting.“In most cases, the family and skilled worker streams are less complicated applications. Investors and entrepreneurs are more complicated.” Despite the bureaucratic variations, age (the younger the better), education, health, character (a criminal background check) and language proficiency are standard when migrating anywhere. Below is a breakdown of what to expect from some preferred destinations. 


Malaysia’s most popular immigration programme remains its property-linked Malaysia My Second Home, which almost ensures residency with an MYR1 million (approximately HK$1.8 million) real estate investment. However, investors (with at least US$2 million [approximately HK$15.5 million] deposited in a Malaysian bank) and professionals and experts with a “world-class” skill or talent — who also meet age, Malaysian work experience and proficiency in Bahasa Malaysia criteria — can apply for residency. Applicants must also get a recommendation from a relevant government agency (the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation for example). Applications must be completed in Malaysia. Citizenship demands 10 years of residence with no guarantee of getting it and does not allow for dual citizenships.


Chau uses Canada, a popular emigration option, as an example of a relatively complicated process. Several channels through which to apply exist: express entry as a skilled worker (the simplest); a start-up visa, which entails establishing a job-generating business; or opting for rural, northern, Atlantic or Québec communities that need human resources among others. However, the “Provincial Nomination Program (PNP) and Entrepreneur Stream and Quebec Investor Program (temporarily suspended) are well-known for harsh documentation requirements,” notes Chau. All financial assets and liabilities must be disclosed; sources of funds must be detailed to the letter. Applicants may be required to submit documentation that could be 30 years old. Additionally, entrepreneur programmes do not guarantee residency if certain business-based conditions are not met. Invitations to permanent residency can be processed in approximately six months once all documentation, fees and biometrics are received. For citizenship, permanent residents require three of the previous five years (among other criteria) to apply.

United States

The US is the world’s most popular target for emigration, and though many perceive it as nigh impossible it’s relatively straightforward. Immigrating into the US, like many locations, demands applicants begin with residency and holding a valid Permanent Resident Card — colloquially referred to as a Green Card. There are several ways to apply for a green card, including sponsorship through marriage or family, skilled employment, as well as standard application, which can take several years. Applicants may also be active investors (a minimum of US$1 million, approximately HK$7.7 million) in new business that generates local full-time employment for at least 10 people. But as Chau’s colleague Anna Tsim, adds, “People often think that net worth is the only requirement for investor/entrepreneur programmes, and are not aware … management/investment experience and a clear sources of funds are required for popular destinations like the US.” Citizenship demands include continuous residency for five years and fewer than 30 months away, proficiency in English, knowledge of American history, and a willingness to “perform either military or civilian service for the United States.”

United Kingdom

The UK’s departure from the EU may not have resulted in an immigration overhaul yet, but things will change. Currently, the UK offers standard sponsored work visas, as well as “Investor, business development and talent” visas for start-ups, innovators and entrepreneurs. Each relies on establishing an enterprise with potential for growth and endorsement from an approved body (such as the Royal Society of Edinburgh) — as well as the same management requirements Tsim cited for US entrepreneur visas. Processing can take approximately three months once all criteria are met. British citizenship demands 12 months of residence after being granted permanent residence status with no more than 90 days outside the UK during that time, and proof of five years of UK residence with less than 450 days’ absence.


Though it seems an unlikely choice, according to data from the United Nations, Germany is the second most popular immigration destination in the world, and nearly 15% of the German population is an immigrant. Skilled professionals and those in the sciences can apply in one of the globe’s simplest application procedures for non-EU nationals. Self-employment visas may be granted with an initial investment of €250,000 (approximately HK$2.1 million) and the creation of at least five local jobs. Financing must be ensured and “your enterprise is expected to have a positive impact on the regional economy.”Nonetheless, eight years of permanent residence, proficiency in German and renouncement of citizenship in other countries is required for citizenship in Germany.


Australia has some of the stiffest entry requirements for independent applicants, and residency visas, step one to full immigration, can take six to 13 months to process. Residency in Australia for those under 45 years old also goes hand in hand with skilled worker employment — doctors, horticultural industries, nominated or independent applications; Australia may also demand management requirements for investor visas. Permanent residents are eligible for citizenship after four years of continuous residency with fewer than 12 months away and under 90 away in the year preceding application. Interestingly, the Australian government has removed information regarding foreign investment in residential real estate from its website.

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