Australia gives permanent residency to 680 Hongkongers in second year of scheme

Since March 5, 2022, the country has received 1,184 applications and some are still being processed, according to the department. Fewer than five were rejected in the second year, but the reasons were not revealed.

Under the scheme, foreigners graduating from Australian universities have to secure temporary graduate visas to remain in the country for three or four years before becoming eligible to apply for permanent residency.

The Australian government caused some to worry when it announced last December that it was tightening the English-language requirements for temporary graduate visa applicants.

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It said that from March 23, they would need a minimum score of 6.5 out of a maximum of nine marks in a language test, instead of six marks previously.

But Hong Kong and British National Overseas (BNO) passport holders would be exempted from the tightened requirement, authorities said.

The government also announced in December that the maximum eligible age for a temporary graduate visa would be reduced from 50 to 35 as part of its efforts to fix what it described as a “broken” migration system.

That sparked concerns among mature students from Hong Kong who were hoping to settle in Australia.

The Post has approached the home affairs department to confirm whether the lowered age limit will be applied to Hongkongers studying in the country.

Australia-based Jane Poon, a leader of the community group Australia-Hong Kong Link, said the new age limit had left many students from Hong Kong worried, especially those over 30.

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“Most of the 30-somethings who went to Australia to study with their spouses and children originally planned to use this bespoke pathway to settle there,” she said.

Poon said her group and some activists from Hong Kong had expressed their concerns to the home affairs department.

She said they were assured by department staff that “the Australian government would not undermine the bespoke pathway for Hongkongers”.

Australia, Britain and Canada created special immigration pathways for Hongkongers after Beijing imposed the national security law, which banned acts of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces.

The UK government had approved 191,158 British National (Overseas) Visas for Hongkongers as of December 2023. They will be allowed to work, study and live in Britain, and are eligible to apply for citizenship after six years.

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