The Australian Government recently announced two new visa streams for Hong Kong and British National (Overseas) (BNO) passport holders that leads to permanent residency in Australia.
From 5 March 2022, two new visa pathways become available to individuals who hold a Hong Kong SAR or BNO passport: subclass 189 – Hong Kong Skilled Independent Stream and subclass 191 – Hong Kong Regional Stream. This is great news for holders of either passport who are, or plan to, study or work in Australia on temporary visas.
The Hong Kong (Skilled Independent) Stream allows for eligible individuals who have lived in Australia for 4 years to apply for visa subclass 189. The Hong Kong (Regional) Stream allows for individuals who live and work in a regional area of Australia in the previous 3 years to apply for visa subclass 191.Both the subclass 191 and the subclass 189 are permanent resident visas.
Other than residence, BNO and Hong Kong SAR students or temporary workers in Australia must first meet the criteria for a skilled graduate or work visa. The visa pathways also allow for dependents to be included as secondary applicants however the primary applicant must also have been the primary applicant for the qualifying visa.
To access these two new streams the primary limitation for students is that they must first hold a subclass 485 visa, and this requires English, meeting the Australian study requirement (two years) and significantly excludes those aged 50 or above. For temporary workers they must first meet the criteria for a subclass 482 visa, which requires nomination, skills and English. There is no age limit to hold a 482 visa. These pathways are of course open to present and even certain former subclasses 457, 482 or 485 visa holders.
These new visa pathways are likely to be eligible for 8,800 individuals with temporary skilled, graduate and student visas.
 Tom Stayner, “Hong Kong nationals in Australia to get new specialized pathways to permanent residency” SBS (online article) 31 October 2021
Benefits of the Hong Kong Visa Stream for Skilled Migrants
The Hong Kong Streams for visa subclasses 189 and 191 are preferable for Hong Kong Nationals and BNO Passport Holders as the eligibility threshold is quite easy to meet. In comparison to visa subclass 189 and visa subclass 191 these are both competitive skilled visas that attract many applicants. Whereas, given that only Hong Kong Nationals or BNO Passport Holders are eligible for the Hong Kong visa streams this is a more direct and certain pathway to permanent residency as opposed to competing with other skilled migrants.
The Hong Kong Visa Streams require that applicants have previously held a visa subclass 457 (temporary work skilled visa), visa subclass 482 (temporary skill shortage) or visa subclass 485 (temporary graduate visa) and they must have satisfied the primary criteria of the visa they held prior to applying for the Hong Kong Visa Stream. Therefore, any age limits that are applicable to visas 457, 482 and 485 indirectly apply to the Hong Kong Stream.
Skills Assessments and Occupation Lists (i.e. MLTSSL, ROL)
Typically, visa subclasses 189 and 191 require skills assessments and eligible skilled occupations listed on the Medium- and Long-Term Strategic Skills List (MLTSSL) or the Regional Occupations List (ROL) through the standard skilled migrant worker pathway to Australia. However, the Hong Kong Visa Streams: Hong Kong Skilled Independent Visa and Hong Kong Regional Visa do not require skills assessments or a nominated skilled occupation when applying. It should be noted however, that the applicant must have held either visa subclass 457, visa subclass 482 or visa subclass 485 and have met the primary criteria. Therefore, if visas 457, 482 or 485 required a skills assessment or an eligible occupation to be nominated the applicant must have satisfied this at the time they applied for the temporary skilled visa.
Dependents/Immediate Family Members
The Hong Kong Skilled Independent Visa (189) and Hong Kong Regional Visa (191) provide for secondary applicants to be listed on the visa application. Therefore, dependents and immediate family members can be included.