Australia offers five-year extension for three visa categories including studentsLocal | 9 Jul 2020 3:32 pm
Australia's announcement of visas extensions today means any Hong Kong resident who has one of three particular visas can extend the stay for another five years, on top of the time they have already spent in Australia.
There are nearly 10,000 Hong Kong residents currently living in Australia on a student, temporary skill shortage or a temporary graduate visa, ABC News reports.
Another 2,500 have a student visa, temporary skill shortage visa, or temporary graduate visa but they are not living in Australia at the moment for various reasons.
For example, some students moved home when the new coronavirus pandemic hit, while others had their visa approved after Australia's international border closed.
Students can then apply for permanent residency and the same is on offer for those on temporary skilled visas if they meet occupational skills lists and labour market testing requirements.
The existing criteria still applies for Hong Kong residents applying for a student, temporary skill shortage or a temporary graduate visa.
But the length of time they can stay in Australia will increase to five years and after that they can seek permanent residency.
Priority will be given to those applying through the Global Talent Independent program, which offers visas for "highly skilled individuals.''
As of September 2019, 74 visas have been issued under the program, which was launched as a pilot scheme in July 2018.
There are also concerns that some people could face political persecution due to the recently introduced national security law.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said anyone worried about their safety could apply to come to Australia through the current humanitarian program, but Hong Kong residents wouldn't necessarily be placed ahead of those in other countries.
"I should also stress that the refugee and humanitarian stream remains available for those seeking to apply through that channel and that is available to people all around the world," he said.
Today's announcements aren't going to see a sudden influx of people moving to Australia.
Australia's visa centre in Hong Kong was closed at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, but it will soon re-open to facilitate applications.
It'll still take a while even when it does open, as applications take months to approve and the nation's borders remain closed to foreigners.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said it was too early to put a figure on how many people would apply through the different visa programs.
"Whether it's in the hundreds, we're not talking about tens of thousands, or anything of that nature, we're talking at a modest level," he said.