Australia has announced that Hong Kong citizens will be able to access extended visas by five years with a pathway to permanent residency. The move is among other measures announced, after Beijing imposed a national security law in the Asian financial hub that took effect last week.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters on Thursday (9/7) that about 10,000 Hong Kong citizens in Australia on student visas, temporary graduate visas and temporary skilled visas, and would be allowed to remain in the country for an addition of five years, regardless of the expiry date on their current visas.
Morrison noted due to changes had occurred in Hong Kong, "there'll be citizens of Hong Kong who may be looking to move elsewhere, to start a new life somewhere else, to take their skills, their businesses and things that they have been running under the previous set of rules and arrangements in Hong Kong, and seek that opportunity elsewhere."
"If you're a temporary visa holder, your visa will be extended to an additional five years from today, in addition to the time you've already been in Australia, with a pathway to permanent residency at the end of that period," Morrison added.
"And we will also provide a five-year visa with a pathway to permanent residency for future Hong Kong applicants for temporary skilled visas, subject to meeting an updated skills list and appropriate marking,” he said.
Morrison pointed out that the most significant impact of the decisions the Australian government had made on Thursday “are for those around 10,000 people who are already in Australia”.
"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 noted.
Under the latest arrangements announced by Australia’s government, future Hong Kong applicants for temporary skilled visas will also be eligible for a five-year visa, provided they meet occupational skills lists and Labour Market Testing requirements or qualify through the Global Talent temporary visa scheme.
Apart from the visa arrangements, Australia also formally suspended its extradition agreement with Hong Kong, in response to the sweeping new national security law.
“Our government, together with other governments around the world, have been very consistent in expressing our concerns with the imposition of the national security law on Hong Kong and today we have agreed to announce that national security constitutes a fundamental change of circumstances in respect to our extradition agreement with Hong Kong," Morrison said. “And so Australia today has taken steps to suspend our extradition agreement."
His announcement came after Beijing on Wednesday officially opened its new office at Causeway Bay for national security agents, Office for Safeguarding National Security, to operate in Hong Kong.
Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, earlier on Thursday, also updated its travel advice to Hong Kong, advising that if Australians in the city are “concerned about the new law, reconsider [their] need to remain in Hong Kong.”
The department warned in the updated advice that Australians “may be at increased risk of detention on vaguely defined national security grounds” and that Australians “could break the law without intending to.”