SOUTHERN MAN IMMIGRATION BLOG

Migrant Targets Confirmed and Hong Kong Is Thrown A Bone

July 17, 2020
Myer Lipschitz

It’s been an interesting week as far as immigration policy to Australia is concerned and whilst it is supposed to be a curse in China to wish someone an interesting life, I’d have to say on the balance of probability that the past week could be described as “good interesting” with announcements from the Federal Government on the size of the migration quota for the immigration year commencing 1 July 2020 and special visa arrangements for Hong Kong citizens.

They have confirmed that until further notice, the migration program will continue in its current form and the program quotas will stay the same (160,000 migrants annually).

In terms of visa quotas this can be further broken down into:

  • 108,682 places for the Skilled stream
  • 47,732 places for the Family stream
  • 236 places for the Special Eligibility stream
  • 3350 places for Child visas

The Department has reiterated the role that migration will play in rebuilding the economy so we don’t see a big impact on the current skills lists and numbers over the next 12 months. However, they have also advised they are focusing on the health and unemployment of Australian workers when issuing invitations to potential skilled migrants whatever that may mean.

As many of our clients are dependent on obtaining state sponsorship it was encouraging to read that the State and Territory nominated visa programs will play an important part in Australia’s economic recovery and continue to be a part of the Migration Program.

In the past week the government also announced special visa arrangements pertaining to Hong Kong citizens particularly those on student visas and intending to apply applying for student visas and also those on temporary skilled visas but as per similar announcements of this type was short on detail.

 

  • 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
  • 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.
  • 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.

Not much detail was provided on the pathways to permanent residence, for instance the Government hasn’t specified whether normal permanent residence requirements will have to be satisfied at the end of the five year period mentioned above or whether applicants will simply obtain permanent residence (subject to character and health requirements) at the end of the five year period.

The Government has in the past made special arrangements for certain visa holders (such as New Zealand citizens) living and working in Australia for a period of five years and earning a minimum threshold and perhaps it has a similar plan in mind for Hong Kong passport holders.

I suspect the pathway referred to is meeting normal visa requirements with the special arrangements consisting of nothing more than a five year window of opportunity to do so.

The Australian Government treads a fine line between wanting to show support for Hong Kong citizens as part of the Five Eyes Alliance but at the same time not seeming to want to be granting permanent residence to approximately 11,000 additional residents at a time when Australia is experiencing increasing unemployment due to the effects of Covid 19 on the economy.

As one can imagine China didn’t take the announcement well, further straining an already strained relationship. As a result of Australia’s call for an independent enquiry into China’s handling of the Covid 19 pandemic China reacted by discouraging Chinese students from studying in Australia because of Australia’s allegedly racist attitude to Chinese. Of course nothing could be further from the truth, Australia has a $40 billion tertiary education sector that largely depends upon Chinese students.

I don’t think that Australia suddenly developed a social conscience which prompted the announcement of the special visa arrangements mentioned above, I think Australia is using the opportunity to encourage Hong Kong students, business people and skilled migrants from Hong Kong at a time when it’s becoming increasingly difficult to attract foreign students and at the same time flexing a little bit of political muscle although in this economic matchup Australia would have to be the 98 pound weakling and China resembling the Charles Atlas type of guy who just kicked sand in our face.

We’ve seen other announcements on the part of Government Ministers in the past that have proven to be all talk and no action such as expressions of support on the part of Peter Dutton, The Minster of Home Affairs for White Farmers in South Africa facing extremely high murder rates so until such time we see the small print associated with announcements of this type it’s difficult to determine what actions on the part of the government amount to political posturing or ulterior motives in encouraging Hong Kong migration to Australia from genuine visa options for Hong Kong citizens.

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