The COVID-19 pandemic has brought all kinds of challenges since the first case of coronavirus in Australia, especially for immigration. As we start the New Year, even more changes are anticipated for Australian immigration law and below is a summary of the upcoming changes that have been flagged in the news. In Part 2 of this series, we cover the new visa options for Hong Kong and British National (Overseas) passport holders and the new Australian Agriculture visa.

  1. New pathways to permanent residency for eligible Hong Kong and British National (Overseas) (BNO) passport holders from 5 March 2022

The Australian Government announced that it would make two new permanent visa streams available for eligible Hong Kong and BNO passport holders from 5 March 2022, namely:

  • Subclass 191 – Hong Kong (regional stream)
  • Subclass 189 – the Hong Kong stream

The introduction of these new visa streams supplements the changes already announced by the Government in July 2020.

For eligible visa holders whose visas were extended by 5 years from 9 July 2020, time spent on the visa prior to 9 July 2020 may count towards the period required for permanent residency.

Please refer to this media release for the full announcement. The details of the new Regulations can be found here.

  1. Australian Agriculture visa

In August 2021, the Australian Government announced the introduction of the Australian Agriculture visa to address labour shortages in the agriculture sector.

The Australian Agriculture Visa is expected to supplement the existing Seasonal Worker Programme (SWP) and Pacific Labour Scheme (PLS).

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is responsible for conducting bilateral negotiations with selected countries to participate in this visa program and more countries may be added over time. The Government has said that it will take a "phased approach" to establishing the Agriculture Visa, in consultation with industry.

The first group of workers is expected to arrive once negotiations with sending countries and quarantine arrangements have been finalised.

Limited information is available at this stage, but the Government has indicated that it expects more employers and countries to participate in 2022.

To obtain up to date information on this visa, please visit this website.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.