I came across this paper on the concept of “astronaut families” :
…interesting patterns are evolving among wealthy Chinese migrants to North America and Australasia, known as the “astronaut” syndrome and the “parachute kid” syndrome. In the former, a migrant, usually male, will leave his spouse and family at a destination while he returns to Hong Kong or Taiwan to continue his business. In the latter, both parents return to their place of origin after establishing their children with relatives or, if the children are old enough, on their own in their house in North America or Australia. Thus, families are established over long distances, incorporating at least two residences, sometimes more, with one or both parents commuting at regular intervals from one home to the other. The number of people participating in such trans-Pacific networks is not insignificant. Furthermore, the strongly female-biased cohorts in the 35 to 49 year-old age group observed among the Hong Kong-born in cities in Canada, Australia and New Zealand signify large numbers of female-headed “astronaut” households.
Sound familiar? There is this piece from the Globe and Mail from November last year:
A common scenario for an investor immigrant from mainland China unfolds like this, explains immigration lawyer Steven Meurrens: One member of the household qualifies under a category of the Business Immigration Program and posts a $120,000 bond in lieu of making the $400,000 investment stipulated under the program. (Some qualify instead as “provincial nominees,” and follow a somewhat different scenario involving an actual investment.) Portions of the money are divvied out to various immigration advisers and service providers, while the interest accrues to the federal government, which in turn spreads it around to provincial governments—about a half billion dollars annually of late. Essentially, the money is treated as the cost of Canadian entry—although in a further wrinkle, many breadwinners never move to Canada, instead retaining their offshore jobs or businesses as well as Chinese citizenship, to maintain their income stream and taxpayer status in China, which helps shelter income from higher Canadian taxes.
Researching places to live in Vancouver is simple enough: There’s a vast network of expats to survey, and Chinese-based websites discuss favoured neighbourhoods in considerable detail, with special attention paid to schools. Typically, one of the parents, usually the wife, moves to Canada with the children while the husband stays in Asia, coming for visits when he can.
Joanna Waters of SFU wrote a paper on the social and geographic implications of these families . Referencing an article from the Vancouver Sun’s Barbara Yaffe:
The [article] concluded … that: “Most ‘astronaut’ families cheat on their taxes…” In these latter accounts, it was asserted that the (often substantial) world-wide earnings of these households are not being declared to Revenue Canada, at the same time as the benefits of English language training, the children’s education, health care and so on, are enjoyed in the new country. Families who choose the Astronaut arrangement, it is implied, do so strategically, exercising a ‘flexible’ notion of citizenship …, through the active manipulation of Canadian immigration policy.
Barbara Yaffe wrote the article in 1994. Waters wrote her paper in 2001. The term “astronaut” family was coined in the literature in 1994, however I know the term was common parlance within Vancouver’s immigrant Chinese community in the mid-1980s.
This blog has recently had much debate in the comments on the so-called “Hot Asian Money” phenomenon, that is purportedly injecting significant amounts of capital into BC’s housing market, most notably the west side of Vancouver, Richmond, and more recently South Surrey/White Rock. While the magnitude of recent capital injections may be more significant than past waves from Hong Kong and Taiwan in decades’ past, it helps to remember recent complaints surrounding migration policies and their often vitriolic undertones are not anything new to Vancouver.
 Skeldon, Ronald, Migration from China Journal of International Affairs, Winter96, Vol. 49 Issue 2, p434 (22p)
 Waters, Joanna, Recent Immigration and ‘Astronaut’ Households in Vancouver, British Columbia, Vancouver Centre of Excellence, Research on Immigration and Integration in the Metropolis Working Paper Series, No. 01-02