Extended Visa Pathways for Hong Kong Passport Holders
Recently, the Australian Government released a statement in response to the developing political situation in Hong Kong outlining what appears to be concessional visa pathways for Hong Kong passport holders.
Whilst the new Government policy is responding to a humanitarian crisis, the statement appears to be couched in terms of “attracting Hong Kong’s best and brightest”; in other words, to attract skilled and business migrants looking to leave Hong Kong.
Some aspects of the policy are said to be effectively immediately, whilst others appear to require regulatory changes which have not yet been enacted.
Here are some of the announced changes.
Temporary Skilled Work Visa Holders
Temporary skilled workers will be eligible to apply for a five-year extension (in addition to time already having been in Australia) and given a pathway to permanent residency after holding the temporary visa for five years.
Presumably, this refers to Subclass 482 visa holders under the “short-term stream” who would otherwise only be entitled to a 2-year visa; renewal for a further 2 years maximum; and with no ability to transition to a Subclass 186 permanent visa.
Current and future students will be eligible for a five-year graduate visa at the end of their studies, followed by a pathway to permanent residency. Under the standard Subclass 485 visa, the maximum period of the visa would have been 18 months under the Graduate Work stream and 4 years under the Post-Study stream.
Students who study at a regional campus (including at Perth universities and vocational educational institutions) will be able to access a pathway to permanent residency after three years.
The significance of these changes is to enable overseas students from Hong Kong to entrench themselves in Australian society and find gainful employment in their area of skill. It remains to be seen, however, whether the “pathway to permanent residency after 5 years” will be an automatic one (without more) or whether the visa holder must make use of existing skilled programs, such as employer-sponsored visas or points-tested skill visas.
“Global Talent” and “Business Innovation and Investment” Programs
The Government has also said that it will prioritise its “Global Talent” and “Business Innovation and Investment” programs by allocating a dedicated Global Talent officer to focus on the Hong Kong caseload.
The Government will also re-open its Visa Application Centre in Hong Kong, which was shut down due to COVID-19.
Part of this thrust will be to attract skilled business owners to Australia, particularly, export-oriented Hong Kong based businesses to relocate to Australia. The incentives being offered by the Australian government are said to include economic incentives and permanent visa options for all critical Hong Kong based staff. The relocation of an entire Hong Kong-based workforce would be unparalleled in terms of what we have seen in migration policy to date.
It is clear that regulatory changes are required to implement much of this new policy. As of the time of writing, however, we are not aware of any legislative changes being promulgated. Watch this space!
If you require any assistance or have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Lester Ong or Melissa Phan today.