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SINGAPORE-AUSTRALIA TIES

New six-year Australia visa for Singaporeans by Jan 1

Travellers can visit Australia for up to three months at a time, over a six-year period, with a single application

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Singaporeans flying to Australia, be it for business or leisure, will soon enjoy "exclusive access" to a new multiple-entry visa that will be valid for six years.

Singapore

SINGAPOREANS flying to Australia, be it for business or leisure, will soon enjoy "exclusive access" to a new multiple-entry visa that will be valid for six years.

The Visitor (Subclass 600) visa, to be rolled out by January 1 next year, will allow travellers to visit Australia for up to three months at a time, over a six-year period, with a single application.

The new visa option was announced by Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull at the Istana on Friday, on the first day of his three-day official visit to Singapore.

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Speaking at an official lunch hosted by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Mr Turnbull said that Australia was "doing everything we can" to facilitate more engagement and more connections between the two countries.

Also in the pipeline is a new Work and Holiday Visa Programme that will begin this August and benefit citizens from Singapore and Australia aged between 18 and 30 years. This initiative, which will start on August 1, will promote cultural exchange by allowing youths to experience each other's country and undertake short-term work to supplement their holiday and cultural experience.

In a joint statement, Singapore's Education Ministry and Manpower Ministry said that the visa will be valid for a year, with 500 places set aside for citizens from each country every year. "Given the nature of the programme, the intention is for the participant to be on a holiday, rather than undertake long-term employment. Those who wish to work may do so, but for no more than six months with any one employer," the two ministries said.

Those holding this work-holiday visa may also engage in study or training, but for no more than four months in total. Singaporeans should hold a polytechnic diploma or university degree, or have completed the equivalent of two years of full-time tertiary study at a polytechnic or university.

Australian applicants, meanwhile, should hold a university degree, or have completed the equivalent of two years of full-time undergraduate university study.

Applicants must satisfy all the usual visa criteria, including health and character requirements and have adequate funds to support themselves for the duration of their trip. According to latest figures, more than 230,000 visitor visas were granted to travellers from Singapore in the last financial year, a 16 per cent increase compared with the previous year.

"These new visa arrangements will further boost tourism and business links between Australia and Singapore," said a statement posted on Mr Turnbull's official website. They will make it easier for people to come to Australia to visit friends and family while also enabling business operators to conduct regular meetings or attend conferences in Australia," it added. Mr Turnbull said that over 130,000 Singaporeans have studied at various Australian universities over the years, including President Tony Tan Keng Yam and many ministers and government officials. The new Colombo Plan scholarship programme has 1,000 Australian students studying in Singapore, he added.

In his remarks at a press conference alongside Mr Turnbull after their annual leaders' summit on Friday, Mr Lee said that Singapore and Australia are able to work together in many areas because they share similar outlooks and their strong people-to-people ties.

"Our people-to-people links go beyond tourism. There is warmth and a close kinship between our two peoples," Mr Lee said. "I hope this friendship and warmth will endure, and that generations of Singaporeans and Australians will continue to hold one another in special regard," he added.

Some 50,000 Singaporeans live all over Australia, while about 25,000 Australians make Singapore their second home. The latter group includes Mr Turnbull's son Alex, daughter-in-law Yvonne and granddaughter Isla, who was born in Singapore in 2015.

Last year, 400,000 Singaporeans visited Australia, and one million Australians flew to Singapore.

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