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New visa arrangements to support Hong Kong passport holders

Australia has a long history of attracting the world’s best and brightest individuals with capabilities that contribute significantly to our economic growth and job creation.

Hong Kong has one of the largest Australian communities abroad, with around 100,000 Australians living in Hong Kong.  With approximately 96,000 people from Hong Kong living in Australia, and more than 600 Australian businesses with a presence in Hong Kong, it is apparent that the synergies between our countries will continue to have a lot to offer.

Due to the current political climate in Hong Kong, many of its citizens have applied, or are planning to apply, for a Protection Visa – more commonly known as the Refugee Visa.  The threshold requirements for these applications are extremely high, and may not be an appropriate option for the majority of Hong Kong citizens seeking to relocate to Australia.  To avoid disappointment and long wait times, we strongly encourage any Hong Kong citizens planning to migrate to Australia to engage the help of an experienced immigration lawyer to assess their visa eligibility and options.

To that end and in supporting Hong Kong citizens during this time, the Australian Government has announced new visa arrangements for international students, graduates, and skilled workers from Hong Kong.  

These new measures will allow Hong Kong citizens to live, work and study in Australia for up to 5 years, and also offer a pathway to obtaining permanent residency status.

What exactly are these new measures, and are there any existing options that may also be suitable?

A. Student Visa and Graduate Visa

Current and future students from Hong Kong will be eligible for a Temporary Graduate Visa of up to 5 years once they have successfully completed their eligible tertiary studies (i.e. bachelor degree or higher qualification) in Australia whilst holding a Student Visa.

Former students who already hold a Temporary Graduate Visa in the Post-Study Work stream will also be given an extension of up to 5 years, starting from 9 July 2020.

These new measures offer graduates with a pathway to permanent residency after 5 years on a Temporary Graduate Visa, and those who studied at a regional campus and choose to live and work in a regional area will have a PR pathway after 3 years.

B. Temporary Skill Shortage Visa

Future applicants from Hong Kong for the Temporary Skilled Shortage Visa (TSS Visa) will be eligible for a visa of up to 5 years.

The TSS Visa, which allows Australian employers to sponsor foreign workers on a temporary basis, currently offers citizens from other countries a stay period of up to 2 years or up to 4 years depending on their occupation.

For Hong Kong passport holders, they will be eligible for a TSS Visa of up to 5 years if they meet one of the following requirements:

  • have qualifications listed on the occupational skills lists and meet Labour Market Testing requirements, or
  • qualify through the Global Talent Temporary Visa Scheme, designed for exceptional talent where the sponsoring employer pays above the Fair Work High Income Threshold (FWHIT) – indexed annually and currently set at ​$153,600 plus superannuation.

This means that Hong Kong passport holders may be eligible to apply for the TSS Visa of up to 5 years, and have a pathway to permanent residency status as long as they meet the above (and other standard) requirements.

C. Global Talent Independent Program

As an existing visa option that may be suitable for Hong Kong citizens, the Global Talent Independent Program (GTI Program) offers direct-to-permanent residency status.

The GTI Program was launched in November 2019 and offers priority visa processing for the world’s best and brightest talents to live and work permanently in Australia.

The intention of the GTI Program is to attract highly-skilled migrants in future-focused fields to help Australia promote innovation and excellence.

The target sectors for the GTI Program are as follows:

  • AgTech
  • Space and Advanced Manufacturing
  • FinTech
  • Energy and Mining Technology
  • MedTech
  • Cyber Security
  • Quantum Information, Advanced Digital, Data Science and ICT.

To meet the general GTI Program requirements, an applicant must have the ability to attract a salary at or above the FWHIT and have the support of an Australian citizen, permanent resident or Australian organisation of a national reputation in the same field that they nominate.  

The GTI Program will also consider recent PhD or Masters graduates in the target sectors.

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Australia is a country of great opportunities, and this is the perfect time for Hong Kong citizens to explore their options for living and working in Australia.

With so many different options for migrating to Australia, it is important to engage the help of an experienced immigration lawyer to assess your visa eligibility and options to understand which solution would best suit your circumstances.

At Mullins, our Mullins Migration team are committed to assisting you with navigating your options and we encourage you to contact us to discuss the solutions that are available.

Article written by Corina Chen (Senior Associate) and Leena Lee (Solicitor).

"The content of this publication is for reference purposes only. It is current at the date of publication. This content does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Legal advice about your specific circumstances should always be obtained before taking any action based on this publication."