Premium visas up for review
The Federal Government says it wants a “better deal” out of a visa scheme that allows the rich to buy their way into the country.
The significant investor visa (SIV) provides a fast track to permanent residency for migrants with $5 million to invest.
In 2015, the scheme was changed to encourage investment in venture capital and emerging companies rather than real estate.
Now, Immigration Minister David Coleman says the business and investment visa scheme — which includes the SIV — will be reviewed.
He said; “I will be reviewing our business investment visas with a simple question in mind: can we get a better deal for Australia?”
The broader scheme sees about bout 7,000 visas granted each year. Business innovation and investor visas, not SIVs, make up most of that number. These visas come with business and investment requirements combined with points for youthfulness, English language ability, qualifications and experience.
The SIV scheme brings much larger investment and does not apply a points test. Also, SIV holders can become permanent residents after spending just 40 days in Australia per year.
Almost 600 SIVs were granted last year and it on track to deliver a similar figure this year.
Stats show 87 per cent of SIVs go to Chinese nationals, ahead of Hong Kong (3.2 per cent), Malaysia (1.5 per cent), South Africa (1.3 per cent) and Vietnam (0.9 per cent).
The scheme targeted towards Chinese investors, including through the use of the visa number 888 (eight is an auspicious number in Chinese culture).
Mr Coleman wants to get as much as possible out of the migrant group.
“Immigration to Australia is highly attractive to this cohort, and we need to ensure that we maximise the returns to our economy from their investment,” he said.
The financial intelligence agency Austrac has some issues, reporting in 2016 that there were “difficulties in identifying the source of funds and wealth for customers on significant investment visas, as this wealth is often acquired in foreign jurisdictions”.
The report called for the little-used “premium” $15 million SIV to be abolished.
“The broader economic benefits of the significant investor and premium investor visas are negligible, and any benefits accrue mainly to those visa holders and to fund managers,” it stated.
“It is likely that immigrants through these streams have less favourable social impacts than other skilled immigrants.”