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“At the interview, they make you sign the paper. But once in Canada, the Charter of Rights lets you live anywhere,” she said. “Only about 10 percent of Chinese using the Quebec [investor] program come here or even less. You don’t see any of them. It’s too cold for many Chinese people. There’s no direct flights.”

Many Chinese have in the past sought to leverage their way into Canada with job skills, as family members of Chinese already there or with the country’s emigrant-investor program, which gives foreigners with a net worth of $1.6 million a fast-track to permanent residency.

But a backlog of cases has prompted the federal government to halt some kinds of family sponsorship applications for two years, and cap investor applicants at 700 per year.

Chinese are increasingly focusing on Quebec, said Zhao Yangyang, who works at immigration agency Beijing Royal Way Ahead Exit & Entry Service Co.

“That’s why many people, whether they are rich or skilled professionals, are trying hard to learn French,” she said.

Quebec’s immigration minister, Kathleen Weil, said the province welcomes the heightened interest from potential immigrants.

“We’re happy about it, and we want to keep them here,” she said.

French class

Alliance Francaise, which promotes French language and culture, turned away would-be students in the Chinese capital last year because its classes there were full for the first time ever.

“There is a growing demand for immigration to French-speaking countries and especially Quebec,” said Laurent Croset, managing director of Alliance Francaise in China.

The number of lesson hours sold across China from October 2010 to September 2011 increased by 14 percent compared with the same period in the previous year.

Many of those who want to leave are middle-class professionals who own a larger-than-average apartment in Beijing or Shanghai and earn more than an annual $32,000, according to Ms. Zhao of the Beijing immigration consultancy.

“Of all those who want or plan to emigrate, 80 percent want their children to get a better education,” she said.

Chinese were the biggest group of immigrants to Canada from 2001 to 2009, although they fell to third place in 2010 behind people from the Philippines and India, even as the numbers of Chinese rose.

In 2010-2011, China became the No. 1 source for immigrants to Australia as numbers of new Chinese migrants rose to just under 30,000. In the United States, Chinese were behind only Mexicans in being granted lawful permanent residence in the three years to 2010, the latest year for which data is available.

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