Update for Hong Kong Passport Holders

In an earlier article, we provided an overview of extended visa pathways for Hong Kong passport holders based on the Federal Government’s announcement on 9 July 2020 but noted that legislation had not yet been promulgated.

The Migration Amendment (Hong Kong Passport Holders) Regulations 2020 (Cth) came into effect on 20 August 2020. We expect that it will be the first of more legislative instruments to enact the changes for Hong Kong passport holders.

The Explanatory Statement to the Instrument makes its purpose clear:

The amendments support and encourage skilled workers from Hong Kong and Hong Kong graduates to remain in Australia or relocate to Australia (subject to the lifting of COVID-19 travel restrictions). The amendments provide a benefit to both the visa holders and their Australian employers.

Despite the stated intention of supporting “skilled workers from Hong Kong”, the Instrument confirms that the changes only apply to “Hong Kong passport holders”. Not everyone from Hong Kong (by the mere fact of living in, or being a permanent resident of, Hong Kong) would be eligible for the concessions.

The Instrument introduces a new definition of “Hong Kong passport” into regulation 1.03 of the Migration Regulations 1994 (Cth) as follows:

Hong Kong passport means a Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China passport.

A “Hong Kong passport” is ordinarily available to citizens of the People’s Republic of China who are permanently resident in Hong Kong SAR.

The Instrument has the following effect (by amending the specification of the visa period in the relevant parts of Schedule 2 to the Regulations):

1.  The following visas currently held by Hong Kong passport holders have been retrospectively extended to 8 July 2020 (i.e. 5 years from the date of the Government announcement):

  • Temporary Skilled Shortage (Subclass 482) visas;
  • Temporary Work (Skilled) (Subclass 457) visa; and
  • Temporary Graduate (Subclass 485) visa.

2.  Family members who are secondary visa holders will also have their visas extended to 8 July 2023, regardless of the passport they hold.

3.  Applications by Hong Kong passport holders for the above visas granted from 9 July 2020 (even if the applicant was made before 9 July 2020) will be granted for a period of five years.

The permanent residency pathways were not addressed in the Instrument. However, the Explanatory Memorandum makes clear that these will be developed at a later stage.

If you would like to discuss your visa options, please contact Melissa Phan or Lester Ong today.