Australia suspends China working holiday visas to overhaul scheme

Australia has suspended its working holiday visa programme for Chinese citizens, ahead of changes which will see applicants from certain countries compete for a limited number of spaces.

Citizens from China – along with Vietnam and India – will need to take part in lottery-style bids for the working holiday visa programme starting in the financial year ending June 2025, a spokesperson for Australia’s Department of Home Affairs said in a statement.

The intake of Chinese applicants in the current financial year has been “paused” while the changes are being put in place, the spokesperson added. The application process is expected to restart later in 2024.

Under Australia’s working holiday visa, people aged 18 to 30 years old can make longer-than-normal visits to the country and work to fund their stays. The initial visa runs for 12 months, but can be extended for a second or third year under certain conditions.

Australia offers 5,000 such places each year to Chinese citizens, under a previous free-trade agreement struck by the two countries. But demand for the visa class was expected to “substantially” exceeded availability going forward, the home affairs spokesperson said.

The government would also introduce a new innovation visa to attract exceptionally talented workers, replacing a controversial investor migrant programme that it argued had few economic benefits.

The changes announced in the annual budget, delivered by Treasurer Jim Chalmers on Tuesday, are part of a broad overhaul of its migration system as Australia aims to lure skilled workers and top talent while reducing overall immigration.

The new visa also replaces the global talent visa programme that ends late in 2024, with an aim “to target exceptionally talented migrants who will drive growth in sectors of national importance,” the government said.

“The Business Innovation and Investment visa programme (BIIP) will cease,” it said, referring to the so-called golden visa that offers a pathway to permanent residency through investment in the country.

The centre-left Labor government is facing growing calls to curb migration as a post-pandemic surge in students and other arrivals exacerbated an already tight rental market, fuelling headline inflation.

Additional reporting by Reuters



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