According to education consultants, interest in studying in Australia has boomed among Hongkongers after the country became the latest to relax immigration rules for residents of the financial hub.
On December 18, an Australian and United Kingdom education expo held in a hotel ballroom in Hong Kong was packed with students, parents, and possible future middle-aged learners seeking more information about the study and immigration plans.
In October, the Australian government changed its visa policies to enable Hongkongers to receive permanent residency in the country in the time span of three to four years if they comply with the requirements. The program will accept applications beginning in March of next year.
Following the implementation of the national security law in June last year, which prohibits acts of secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with foreign forces, several Western countries, including Canada and the United Kingdom, have created specialized visa schemes for Hongkongers.
Everyday requests for information about Australia’s permanent residency visa streams for city residents had increased by approximately a third as soon as the scheme’s details were revealed, said Willy Kwong, general manager of expo organizer AAS Education Consultancy.
“We held two webinars to illustrate the pathway in November each with a quota of 150, and they were full after a few hours,” Kwong said. Residents of Hong Kong in their 30s and 40s were expressing a desire to pursue an advanced degree in Australia, which was earlier not a common choice for master’s degrees, with the intention of settling down there, he said.
“We have helped a 47-year-old applicant secure a study permit to take a public health course and a 42-year-old mother who was originally applying for a guardian visa to accompany her nine-year-old daughter switch to a student visa leading up to permanent residency after the policy was announced in October,” Kwong said.
Graduates of Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane must stay for at least four years before becoming eligible for permanent residency, whereas Perth and Adelaide require three years. Perth was becoming increasingly popular among middle-aged Hongkongers interested in postgraduate studies because their children could attend school for free, whereas the cost in Sydney and Melbourne ranged from HKD $6,000 (US $770) to HKD $10,000 (US $1,282) per year, stated Kwong.
Hongkongers are preferring Australia over the United Kingdom because of the better weather, closer proximity, and less drastic time zone differences. The majority of the students going abroad had attended schools that were part of the direct subsidy scheme, which tied funding to the number of students enrolled.
More students would leave the city once the semester ended, especially since Australia resumed its borders to vaccinated skilled workers and foreign students this week after a nearly two-year ban, predicted Dion Chen, chairman of the Direct Subsidy Scheme Schools Council. According to a University of Sydney representative, the impact of the new visa streams on the number of Hongkonger enrolment applications will take time to determine the path ahead.