Visa Extensions for Hong Kong citizens in Australia Announced

Amidst China’s crackdown on rights and freedoms in Hong Kong, 5-year visa extensions have been proposed for Hongkongers that are temporary residents in Australia.

In today’s press conference, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that the government will be adjusting policy to enable Hong Kong citizens who are currently in Australia on temporary visas to be granted 5-year extensions. They also plan to create a pathway to permanent residency for Hong Kong citizens still in Australia at the end of those 5 years.

Current and future Hongkonger students may be able to stay for a total of five years after graduation, with a pathway to permanent residency at the end of that period. All other Hongkongers on temporary visas are likely to have their visas extended by five years from today, again with a pathway to permanent residency at the end of those five years.

There are currently 8200 students, 570 temporary skilled migrants and 900 graduate visa holders in Australia, and many more Hongkongers holding Australian visas overseas. Those who already have an Australian visa but are outside the country will also be eligible for the proposed extension.

Whilst this is generally great news for Hongkongers, it does not appear that permanent residency will be the end result for all. Scott Morrison has stated that the grant of permanent visas will be “subject to meeting an updated skills list and appropriate market testing.” The humanitarian visa option will still be available, however there will not be a Hong Kong specific stream and it is unclear whether all citizens of Hong Kong will meet the requirements.

During the press conference, the Prime Minister also announced a plan to attract Hong Kong businesses to relocate to Australia, with staff being provided opportunities for resettlement under the humanitarian visa program. In addition, visa applicants from Hong Kong that have expressed interest in Australia’s talent and business innovation programs will be prioritised to come to Australia.

The Prime Minister has not provided a time frame in terms of policy implementation, however we are likely to be provided with updates in the coming weeks. For Hong Kong citizens that hold temporary visas nearing expiry, we recommend booking an appointment to discuss interim visa options.

Summary of 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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