Hong Kong has an enviable reputation as Asia's financial hub, supported by the one-country, two systems freedoms. This status has been underpinned by the rule of law, the free flow of information and the enterprise of its citizens. The Chinese mainland has recently passed laws that will effectively end the 'one-country, two systems' freedoms.

For Hong Kong investors looking for opportunities overseas, the Australian economy is one of the strongest and most competitive in the world. It can provide a highly educated, skilled and computer literate labour force to investors. Its legal system is based on common law, as in Hong Kong, providing familiarity, certainty and security to businesses and individuals.

For those considering residency, Australia has much to offer Hong Kong expatriates and their families. It is an increasingly diverse, multicultural country with an excellent standard of living.

Do You Need Governmental Approval to Invest in Australia?

For those wishing to invest in Australia, governmental approval may be required.  For example, purchasing residential or investment property can be quite complex, and the rules are subject to change. The procedures include oversight of the following categories of real estate property:

  • residential property (principal home);
  • residential investment property;
  • commercial investment property;
  • rural and agricultural land;
  • accommodation facilities such as hotels; and
  • urban land corporations or trusts.

Szabo & Associates Solicitors can provide advice and assistance to Hong Kong investors in all matters, ranging from property investments to business purchases, in Australia. We have experience of dealing with foreign investors in Australia and have a detailed understanding of the rules and regulations as applied in practice.

Australia's Foreign Investment Regime for Hong Kong Investors Explained

Australia is generally very welcoming to investment from overseas. Nonetheless, certain types of investments are subject to government notification or review.

Foreign investments are regulated by the Foreign Acquisitions and Takeovers Act 1975 and associated regulations, administered by the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB). Under these regulations, the Australian Treasurer has the power to review any proposals that meet certain criteria and block or apply conditions to proposals that are considered contrary to the national interest.

Changes to Australia's Foreign Investment Framework

The law has been refined on several occasions, most recently in response to COVID-19, to protect businesses adversely affected by the pandemic. Temporary changes to the foreign investment regime were announced at the end of March 2020 with further changes subsequently announced to apply from 1 January 2021.

The temporary measures announced on 29 March 2020 required that all foreign investments had to obtain FIRB approval regardless of value or business type. Previously, there was a system of monetary thresholds.

In June 2020, more comprehensive changes to the investment regime were outlined to come into force on 1 January 2021. These measures replace the temporary rules. The new measures will include a new national security test that will apply to foreign bids for "sensitive assets" such as those in telecommunications, energy and technology companies, as well as smaller businesses with a national security profile. This will include defence suppliers and service providers with no minimum monetary threshold to trigger the test.

The Government will also have new "call in" and "last resort review" screening powers to assess national security risks. The "call in" power will enable the Treasurer to review those acquisitions which raise national security risks. "The last resort power" will allow the imposition or variation of conditions and, in extraordinary circumstances, order disposal.

Other options include an expansion of infringement notices and higher civil and criminal penalties.

Australia is "Open for Business"

Australia has an enviable track record when it comes to welcoming foreign investment. The reforms to the regulatory framework do not fundamentally change this situation, however, the need to obtain FIRB approval will be focused on national security. This change is intended to address a perceived increased risk to the national interest while ensuring Australia remains welcoming and open to foreign investment.

Migration Services for Hong Kong

With the recent unrest in Hong Kong and the changes to the 'one-country, two systems' freedoms, there has been 'talk' of the need to provide for additional places within Australia's migration quota for citizens of Hong Kong wishing to leave due to the current 'troubles'.

Australian Visa Applications and Immigration Advice

From established businesses to individuals wanting to move to Australia, it is vital that you have your arrangement reviewed and obtain advice from a specialist migration solicitor.  At Szabo & Associates Solicitors, our team are here to help businesses and individuals from Hong Kong with a smooth transition to Australia.

We provide free 30 minute telephone consultation to discuss your circumstances. Our solicitors understand the stress and anxiety that a big move can bring and aim to be approachable, friendly and to communicate with you throughout the process. Get in touch with our team today.

Visa Fast Tracking for Hong Kong Nationals

On Friday 3rd July, Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, stated that Australia is currently considering the possibility of fast tracking resettlement in Australia for Hong Kong nationals. If this goes ahead, it will be through the skilled visa program. We await to find out the outcome of these considerations.

Latest News from Australia

China reacts to PM’s visa fast track for HK nationals fleeing strife (The Australian; 3 July 2020) - Click here to read.

Contact our Foreign Investment Regime and Migration Lawyers in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

At Szabo & Associates Solicitors, we provide assistance and advice to overseas investors regarding all matters ranging from investing in agricultural land and residential premises to business purchases.

The increased focus from the Australian Government on the regulation of the activities of overseas investors in the country means that it is more important than ever to get the right advice to take advantage of the many opportunities available.

If you wish to enquire about migrating from Hong Kong to Australia, purchasing real estate, making a direct investment in Australia, or making a Foreign Investment Review Board application, please call our experienced practitioners on 02 9281 5088 or use our online contact form.

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