This is still a fraction of the size of permanent immigration from China and India, the two main sources of new Australian permanent migrants. These two countries account for nearly 30% of admissions in 2021, i.e. nearly 44,000 permanent migrants.
In July 2020, the former Morrison government offered refuge visas to over 12,000 Hong Kong citizens, many of them students, if they were in Australia at the time. Australia has also suspended its extradition treaty with Hong Kong.
Fiona Wong, an immigration lawyer and partner at migration law firm Gilton Valeo, said the growth in the number of migrants in Hong Kong was due to an Home Affairs ruling last year from prioritize visa processing, as well as initiatives to support people fleeing the city after the Beijing National. 2020 security crackdown.
New visas for Hong Kong
In mid-2020, former Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the government would use special visa arrangements to try to attract Hong Kong-based businesses and drive out business leaders from Hong Kong people to they move to Australia, citing Beijing’s national security crackdown as undermining the territory’s political autonomy.
“Australia has become a bit more attractive now because of the visa changes it has made,” said Ms Wong, who typically advises corporate clients on sponsoring skilled employees into the country, as well as legal aspects of migrating.
Many expats are also returning home, fearing that Hong Kong is on the verge of losing its status as a vibrant international city loved by Australians.
“We could see it change”
Pippa Keane, 42, and her family moved to Bendigo last month after a nine-year stay in Macao, another Chinese special administrative region a short ferry ride from Hong Kong.
She said a combination of onerous quarantine rules and the change in culture brought on by a Chinese security crackdown prompted her family to return to Australia.
“There were many reasons why we returned home. It was mostly because of the pandemic. We couldn’t travel in and out of the area due to quarantine. We couldn’t see family in Australia, so we felt like we were in a bit of a prison there,” she said.
“Basically, Macau is following China’s quarantine rules. It was three weeks, but it’s less now. This meant we were basically on a [small] island and not doing much and with three children in an apartment, it was quite difficult. There aren’t many activities to do there unless you want to spend a lot of time in hotels and casinos.
Ms Kean, who runs a web design company called Lucky Cat Web Studio, said there had “basically been a mass exodus of expats from Hong Kong and Macau”.
“We could see that changing in Hong Kong and Macau,” she said.
“They are no longer the free and easy places they used to be. The shard had been removed. It’s just a feeling. Part of it was the extra rules, not being allowed to do what we could do before.
“During the pandemic they also didn’t hide how they were reducing the number of foreigners coming into the country and it just gives you a really bad feeling. It is therefore a general feeling of unease and of not being wanted.
Ms Keane said she was not surprised that many Hong Kong citizens are also choosing to leave the region permanently.
“You can see how daily life has changed, especially in Hong Kong,” Ms Keane said.
“You can see people being locked down and you are worried that people may now have problems posting something online or posting an article. I think people just want to live in a place where they can talk freely and express their opinion.
The Hong Kong Subclass 191 Regional Stream, which requires the individual to live for three years in a designated regional area on an existing 482 qualified visa or 485 Temporary Graduate Visa, and the Hong Kong 189 Qualified Independent Stream Kong, who requires four years of living in Australia on an existing 482 or 485 visa, became available in March this year.
“There are two new visas they have introduced which are permanent residency visas targeting Hong Kongers,” Ms Wong said.
“One of them is the regional visa which allows someone to come to Australia on a skilled temporary graduate or student visa for three years in a designated regional area and then they can get permanent residency,
“The other is you can be anywhere in Australia and as long as you’ve been here on one of the qualified visas for four years you can get permanent residency. It’s amazing because previously those options weren’t not available.
Why Australia is popular
In FY21, more than 1,800 Hong Kong migrants obtained visas through the business innovation and investment stream, up from 163 the previous year. The number of visas granted under the Global (Freelance) Talent Scheme rose to 910 from 40 in the previous period, according to the latest available Home Affairs data.
Australia is a popular destination due to its enviable lifestyle and proximity to Asia, said Grace Bacon, partner at RSM Australia.
“Business innovation and global talent visas have been very popular with Hong Kong customers,” she said.
“They choose Australia for the traditional reason of wanting to provide children with a quality English education.
“Second, the proximity to Asia means that business owners can put their families there while still going back and forth if they set up shop locally.”
Ms Bacon provides advice to skilled migrants and wealthy families wishing to migrate to Australia. Advice ranges from identifying eligible investment options to arranging property purchases and school enrollment.
“For example, we help select investments to meet visa requirements for the Large Investor Stream. We help with financial planning and, as we are also an accounting firm, we also help them organize their tax affairs,” said she declared.
While the Albanian government said it would no longer accept global talent visa applications from people ashore, Ms Bacon and Ms Wong said Hong Kong-specific visa options meant there were pathways to clear migration alternatives for those wishing to move to Australia.
Remote work from Australia
A former recent resident of Hong Kong, a financial executive, is typical of the types of clients the women help resettle in Australia.
The man and his family decided to leave Hong Kong due to the security crackdown and managed to apply under the massive investor visa program. The executive did not want to be identified as he still works for his Hong Kong-based Australian employer,
“What we helped him with was navigating visa options that suited his family situation,” Ms Bacon said. “We also introduced him to a migration lawyer [Ms Wong] to help with the visa process. We’ve also helped him connect to schools, realtors, banks, financial planning needs, tax advice, and more.”
After Hong Kong, the second-highest percentage increase came from Thailand, where overall inflow grew by more than 100% from 1979 to 4002. Other top movers from the “top 10” countries included Vietnam (in up 50% to 2722), the United States (up 45% to 1479) and the Philippines (up 23% to 2093).