China-Australia Free Trade Agreement Creates Reciprocal Benefits for Business Travellers, Workers and Businesses

The China-Australia Free Trade Agreement was signed on June 17, 2015, marking a historic step toward greater business and investment opportunities in various economic sectors in Australia and China. The Agreement will reduce restrictions for temporary skilled workers, investors and business visitors travelling between the two countries.

Common Improvements for Visa Applicants

Both countries have agreed to expedite visa processing and increase durations of visas for business travelers and skilled workers.

Australia will offer access to eligible Chinese nationals in the following categories:

  • Intracompany transferees (including executives, managers and specialists) for stays up to four years under the subclass 457 visa program;
  • Business visitors for stays up to 90 days, or up to six months for business visitors who a sell services;
  • Contractual service suppliers for stays up to four years; and
  • Installers and product maintenance specialists for stays up to three months.

China will offer access to eligible Australian citizens and permanent residents in the following categories:

  • Intracompany transferees (including executives, managers and specialists) for stays up to three years;
  • Business visitors for stays up to 180 days;
  • Contractual service suppliers in certain sectors, for stays up to one year (or longer if stipulated under the employment contract); and
  • Installers and product maintenance specialists for stays up to 180 days.

For the first time in any Free-Trade Agreement, China will provide equivalent entry and stay rights for dependents and spouses of Australian intracompany transferees or contractual service suppliers on stays over twelve months.

Lastly, registered Chinese companies undertaking large infrastructure projects above AUD150 million will be able to hire lower skilled workers and apply reduced English language requirements within the subclass 457 visa program for specific projects on a case-by-case basis.

Other Visa Arrangements

Australia and China are expected to sign a work and holiday agreement under which Australia will grant visas for up to 5,000 Chinese work and holiday travelers annually.

The Australian government has also committed to moving to an online application service for Chinese nationals and has announced a pilot program for a three-month tourist visa for Chinese nationals with a validity period of ten years.

Reciprocal Business and Investment Improvements

Both countries will also increase threshold investment amounts in all industries other than agriculture, media, telecommunications and defense-related sectors. Additionally, commercial opportunities in Free Trade Zones and market access to several key industries in both countries will be opened. For example, Chinese financial institutions will have greater opportunities to participate in the Reserve Bank Information and Transfer System, Australia’s high value payment settlement system for approved banks and institutions.

There are also plans to open more channels for information-sharing in the financial industry, such as the creation of a new committee for Chinese and Australian financial regulators.

Lastly, in the mining industry, China will allow Australian service suppliers to provide technical consulting and field services in coal bed methane and shale gas extraction.

What This Means for Employers and Foreign Nationals

As a result of the Free Trade Agreement, qualified business visitors and temporary skilled workers should enjoy longer stays and expedited processing of temporary visa applications. Businesses in both countries should also see relaxed investment and trade regulations and increased cooperation in key industries.

Detailed immigration procedures are expected to be announced by both governments in the coming months.

Contact details

Charles Johanes

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