Australia changes 'won't hurt HK'

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 10 February, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 10 February, 2010, 12:00am

Hong Kong will not be affected much by the overhaul of Australian immigration rules aimed at cracking down on low-skilled foreign students seeking permanent residency, migration consultants say.

With 6,000 students heading to Australia for further education every year, the country is the most popular overseas study destination for Hong Kong students, who are the sixth biggest group of foreign students in Australia. But migration consultants said most of the Australia-bound students applied for access to higher education, undergraduate and postgraduate courses instead of short-term skills-oriented training.

The Australian immigration policy changes, announced on Monday, will tighten the requirements for English language and work experience of migrants.

Before the overhaul, Australia allowed people who completed low-skilled vocational courses and fulfilled internship requirements to apply for permanent residency. The changes are expected to affect places such as India and the mainland.

John Hu, managing partner with John Hu Migration Consulting, said very few Hongkongers went to Australia to study to gain residency.

Cheng Ming-hoi, of AAS Education Consultancy which offers migration counselling services, said only 5 per cent of its Hong Kong clients were seeking Australian residency.

Gavin McDougall, director of public affairs at the Australian consulate, said: 'The overhaul is definitely not a crackdown on students who want to study in Australia. We always have a strong study programme with Hong Kong people who are keen to seek quality education in Australia. They would not be affected [by the changes].'