- Associated Press - Thursday, March 29, 2012

BEIJING Thousands of people in China are trying to write their own ticket out of the country — in French.

Chinese desperate to emigrate have discovered a backdoor into Canada that involves applying for entry into the country’s francophone province of Quebec — which requires foreigners to have a good working knowledge of the local lingo.

While learning French as a second language is losing popularity in many parts of the world and even as Mandarin classes proliferate because of China’s rise on the international stage, many Chinese are busy learning how to say, “Bonjour, je m’appelle Zhang.” (“Hello, my name is Zhang.”)

Yin Shanshan said the French class she takes in the port city of Tianjin near Beijing even gives primers on Quebec’s history and its geography, including the names of suburbs around its biggest city, Montreal.

“My French class is a lot of fun,” the 25-year-old said. “So far, I can say ‘My name is … I come from … I live at.’ “

Getting straight to the business of settling down in the province, she said she has learned to say, “I would like to rent a medium-sized, one-bedroom flat.”

Despite China’s growing prosperity and clout, more and more of its citizens are rushing to emigrate. They are eager to provide better education prospects for their children and escape from their country’s long-standing problems, including pollution and contaminated food.

Canada joins the United States and Australia among the most-favored destinations.

Many governments are imposing tougher immigration rules by adopting new quotas, cutting the professions sought under skilled-worker programs and raising the amount of financial commitment needed for the exemptions granted to big-time investors.

Next stop, Quebec

That is where Quebec comes in.

The province selects its own immigrants and does not have any cap or backlog of applicants, like Canada’s national program does. But it requires most immigrants to demonstrate their knowledge of French.

Immigration agencies in Beijing started pushing this program over the past year.

“This is the only way out, there’s no other way,” said Quebec-based immigration consultant Joyce Li.

These transplants must commit to living in Quebec in their application, but, later on, they can take advantage of Canadian rights to move to Toronto or Vancouver, as most emigrant business investors do, she said.

Story Continues →