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Visa Extensions for Hong Kong Residents – What Does This Mean?

Visa Extensions for Hong Kong Residents – What Does This Mean?

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on 09 July new visa arrangements for citizens of Hong Kong to stay in Australia with pathways to permanent residency. This announcement came alongside Australia’s decision to suspend its extradition agreement with Hong Kong due to the new national security law imposed by China.

A range of measures designed to offer a pathway for Hong Kongers to relocate to Australia has been laid out via changes to existing and future visas. Whilst no exact details have been publicised, below is what we know so far:

Current Numbers

As per the table below, there are currently 9,670 Hong Kong residents living in Australia on a student, temporary skills shortage or a temporary graduate visa. Another 2,530 is currently offshore, possibly returning home when the COVID-19 pandemic worsened and others having their visas approved since border closure.

Type of Visa Number in Australia Number outside Australia
Student visa 8,200 2,300
Temporary Skill Shortage visa 570 100
Temporary Graduate visa 900 130
Total 9,670 2,530

Below is the full Announcement from the Prime Minister:

Australia and Hong Kong have always shared a close relationship. Our people-to-people links include close family connections, business ties and shared values. Australia is a favoured destination for people from Hong Kong, and has been for many years. Australia has a long history of attracting Hong Kong’s best and brightest who have contributed significantly to our economic growth and job creation, and we are committed to ensuring this is further strengthened.

That’s why Australia will introduce new measures for students, temporary graduates and skilled workers from Hong Kong who want to live, work and study in Australia. New visa arrangements will provide further opportunities for Hong Kong passport holders to remain in Australia, with pathways to permanent residency. They will also attract talent and companies to our nation in order to boost productivity and create further job opportunities for Australians.

  • Temporary graduate and skilled workers will be offered an additional five years of work rights in Australia on top of the time they’ve already been in Australia, with a pathway to permanent residency at the end of that period. 
  • Students will be eligible for a five year graduate visa from the conclusion of their studies, with a pathway to permanent residency at the end of that period. 
  • Future Hong Kong applicants for temporary skilled visas will be provided with a five year visa, based on meeting the updated skills lists and Labour Market Testing requirements.
  • Existing arrangements will continue to apply for those applicants who study and work in regional areas to help address skills shortages in those areas, with pathways to permanent residency after 3 years.
  • There are almost 10,000 existing temporary skilled, temporary graduate and student visa holders in Australia who will be eligible for these special arrangements, with a further 2,500 outside Australia and 1,250 applications on hand.
  • The Government will also enhance efforts to attract businesses from Hong Kong. There are more than 1,000 international companies that have their regional headquarters based in Hong Kong which might consider relocating to Australia. Our government will develop further incentives to attract these companies, particularly where they have a strong potential for future growth and employment of Australians.

Further detailed information is attached (below).

Special visa arrangements for Hong Kong

Students

Current and future students from Hong Kong will be eligible for a five year temporary graduate visa on the successful conclusion of their studies, with a pathway to permanent residency after five years.

Former students already on a temporary graduate visa will be eligible for an extension of five years from today in addition to the time they’ve already been in Australia, with a pathway to permanent residency at the end of that period.

Students who study at a regional campus will continue to be able to access a pathway to permanent residency after three years.

Temporary skilled visas

Current temporary skilled visa holders from Hong Kong will be eligible for an extension of five years from today in addition to the time they’ve already been in Australia, with a pathway to permanent residency at the end of that period.

Future Hong Kong applicants for temporary skilled visas will be eligible for a five year visa, provided they:

  • meet occupational skills lists and Labour Market Testing requirements; or
  • qualify through the Global Talent temporary visa scheme, which is for exceptional talent where the sponsoring employer pays above the Fair Work High Income Threshold of $153,600.

These future temporary skilled visa holders will also have a pathway to permanent residency after five years.

There are almost 10,000 existing temporary skilled, temporary graduate and student visa holders in Australia who will be eligible for these special arrangements, with a further 2,500 outside Australia and 1,250 applications on hand.

Attracting the best and brightest

The Government will bolster efforts to attract Hong Kong’s best and brightest through the Global Talent and Business Innovation and Investment Programs, both part of the permanent migration program. These programs will be prioritised and a dedicated Global Talent officer will focus on facilitating the Hong Kong caseload. To support future applications we will re-open our visa application centre in Hong Kong which shut down during COVID-19.

Attracting businesses

New incentives will be developed to attract export-oriented Hong Kong based businesses to relocate to Australia. As well as economic incentives, there will be permanent visa pathways available for all critical Hong Kong based staff of the relocated business. The government will particularly target businesses that presently operate their regional headquarters out of Hong Kong who may be looking to relocate to a democratic country.

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The above announcement is very much humanitarian in motivation given China’s crackdown in Hong Kong, however, there will be no pathways to gain Australian permanent residency via a special humanitarian stream visa designed specifically for Hong Kong residents aside from the existing pathways already available to people all around the world, for example, the Safe Haven visa . Given the quite draconian security laws in place and people in Hong Kong already arrested under the new laws, it remains to be seen whether in practice, humanitarian visas will be assessed more leniently for the influx of humanitarian visa applications that are expected to come from Hong Kongers unable to take advantage of the visa extension pathways.

This is a move highly welcomed by the Hong Kong residents in and out of Australia who are able to take advantage of the visa extension options. Details to be released soon will hopefully also make Australia highly attractive to those high-calibre businesspeople and skilled workers who will be making the hard decision as to whether to migrate or remain in Hong Kong. Whilst we await these details though, there will be many questions that we anticipate answers to and we look forward to further announcements that will enable us to provide our Hong Kong clients with a much more defined pathway to their desired visa outcome.

Final comments

As always, Australian migration law is constantly evolving and highly complex as the program is designed to be highly responsive to economic and socio-economic environments. As we come out of the COVID-19 pandemic, we will likely see a raft of changes announced to address the changing dynamic of our migration needs.

To ensure you keep updated with Australian migration/visa news, please subscribe to Southern Stone Monthly, where we will provide you with all things visa and migration in Australia.

Finally, if you have a visa matter you wish to discuss, please contact us for your initial complimentary confidential consultation.

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