Australia’s government is launching two new visa pathways for Chinese nationals. The pathways come as a relief attempt concerning China’s ever-tightening national security measures. Specialized visas will allow permanent residency, set to start next year.
The visas are set as the newest measure taken by Australia’s government regarding Beijing’s controversial approach to its national security. In terms of eligibility, an estimated 8800 may be issued the new visas, including student holders and temporary skilled holders.
The new visa streams will be eligible starting early March 2022.
New permanent visa pathways are eligible to both British National Overseas and Hong Kong passport holders.
Visa subclass 191 (Hong Kong’s regional stream) targets those who resided, studied, or worked in regional locations. Visa subclass 189 applies to different applicants.
Both visas allow the inclusion of dependents.
One of the pathways targets individuals living in Australia’s regional locations. This allows them to apply for permanent residency after three years. Other paths are accessible after four years of residency and is issued through a different visa offering.
Minister Alex Hawke has outlined that the new pathways are delivered on a commitment made by the government towards residents from Hong Kong.
He stresses that the new visas are a pathway to skilled workers and graduates already on extended visas. It will allow the Australian government to build closer economic ties and family networks with Hong Kong which have been around for years prior.
A Relief from China’s Anti-Government Measures
Late June last year saw China imposing a national security measure in response to increasing anti-government protests throughout the city, having started as far back as 2019.
The new law, drafted by the Chinese government, aims to punish terrorism, secession, and conspiring with foreign entities. With the security law’s implementation, Hong Kong authorities have tightened restrictions on protests and free speech, with multiple politicians and pro-democracy activists forced to exile or jailed.
Australian officials have expressed serious concern regarding China’s law enforcement procedures, vaguely hinting to them as a danger to libertarian ideals.
Visa Extension Announcements
Last July, Prime Minister Morrison announced visa extensions that would affect up to 10,000 Hong Kong citizens, either working or studying in Australia, and as a response to China’s sweeping security measures.
The announcement is considered a safe haven measure for Hong Kong nationals, allowing them an extended stay for up to five years, in addition to a permanent residency path after the stay.
Immigration Minister Hawke has remarked that the “dedicated” and “simpler” pathways for Hong Kong residents will help attract talented and skilled labor to Australia, further creating job opportunities and boosting Australian productivity.
Assistant Secretary of the Foreign Affairs Department Justin Hayhurst has further commented on the new visa modifications, seeing that Australia is concerned with the “systematic unravelling of democratic institutions” in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong and China however have constantly denied the curbing of freedoms and human rights in their territories.