Australia Abolishes’ Golden Ticket’ Visa Scheme for Wealthy Chinese

‘It has been obvious for years that this visa is not delivering what our country and economy need from a migration system,’ Home Affairs Minister said.The Australian government has axed a visa scheme designed to attract wealthy Chinese nationals as part of a major overhaul of the country’s migration system.In an interview with NCA NewsWire on Jan. 22, Home Affairs Minister Clare O'Neil stated that her department had paused applications for the significant investor visa, which allowed wealthy foreigners to quickly gain Australian permanent residency if they invested $5 million (US$3.3 million) in the country.The minister said the visa program, which was dupped as the “golden ticket” by media outlets, was part of a “broken” migration system that the Labor government needed to fix.“It has been obvious for years that this visa is not delivering what our country and economy need from a migration system,” she said.“The investor visa is one of many aspects of the system which we are reforming to create a system which delivers for our country.”Ms. O'Neil first flagged the scheme’s termination in September 2022 when she stated that the visa had created problems for the immigration system by allowing foreign individuals to buy their way into the country.Related Stories12/11/202312/19/2023At the time, the minister pointed out that most successful applicants arrived in Australia to settle down and retire, eventually burdening the country’s budget instead of contributing to the economy.Ms. O'Neil’s announcement comes two months after the federal government introduced an ambitious 10-year migration reform.The reform outlined eight key areas of focus, including reshaping temporary and permanent skilled migration to address skills needs, drive long-term economic growth, and strengthen the integrity and quality of international education.The reform also aimed to tackle worker exploitation and the misuse of the visa system.The ‘Troubled’ Visa SchemeThe significant investor visa was created under the Gillard government in 2012, and given the subclass number 888–considered a lucky number in Chinese numerology.It allowed foreign investors to considerably shorten their visa processing time compared with other types of investment visas by investing a minimum of $5 million in a mix of property, government bonds, and local businesses.Unlike other visas, applicants were not required to learn or speak English and were not subject to age restrictions.Data from the Department of Home Affairs showed that as of June 30, 2020, 2,349 significant investor visas had been granted since the program’s inception, with Chinese investors accounting for 84.9 percent of the cases.The scheme also attracted around $11.8 billion of investments that met the requirements.However, an analysis by ABC News revealed that 26,000 foreign nationals had obtained permanent residency with the visa, with around 20,000 being Chinese investors.The visa also had a low rejection rate, with less than two percent of the applications failing to get approved.A report (pdf) by the Productivity Commission in 2016 recommended the federal government abolish the scheme as it found that investor visas were “prone to fraud.”The commission also pointed out that visa 888 applicants would generate less favourable impacts than other immigrants as the scheme did not have English-language requirements and age restrictions.There have also been concerns that the visa scheme has opened the way for “dirty money” from corrupt foreign officials and members of organised crime groups to flow into Australia.Other Western countries have scrapped similar schemes due to inefficiency and concerns about attracting illicit funds.In 2022, the UK terminated its golden visa arrangements, as they were deemed to have offered avenues for corrupt elites to access the country.Portugal closed its program after it was found that half of the recipients came from the 30 nations with the worst reputations for money laundering.Meanwhile, Greece faced distortion in its property market from 3 billion euros in offshore funds via its golden visa scheme, much of it from China.Even China’s investor visa to Ireland was investigated for potential misuse. Australia is one of the latest Western nations to crack down on such programs following growing global scrutiny.

Australia Abolishes’ Golden Ticket’ Visa Scheme for Wealthy Chinese

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‘It has been obvious for years that this visa is not delivering what our country and economy need from a migration system,’ Home Affairs Minister said.

The Australian government has axed a visa scheme designed to attract wealthy Chinese nationals as part of a major overhaul of the country’s migration system.

In an interview with NCA NewsWire on Jan. 22, Home Affairs Minister Clare O'Neil stated that her department had paused applications for the significant investor visa, which allowed wealthy foreigners to quickly gain Australian permanent residency if they invested $5 million (US$3.3 million) in the country.

The minister said the visa program, which was dupped as the “golden ticket” by media outlets, was part of a “broken” migration system that the Labor government needed to fix.

“It has been obvious for years that this visa is not delivering what our country and economy need from a migration system,” she said.

“The investor visa is one of many aspects of the system which we are reforming to create a system which delivers for our country.”

Ms. O'Neil first flagged the scheme’s termination in September 2022 when she stated that the visa had created problems for the immigration system by allowing foreign individuals to buy their way into the country.

At the time, the minister pointed out that most successful applicants arrived in Australia to settle down and retire, eventually burdening the country’s budget instead of contributing to the economy.

Ms. O'Neil’s announcement comes two months after the federal government introduced an ambitious 10-year migration reform.

The reform outlined eight key areas of focus, including reshaping temporary and permanent skilled migration to address skills needs, drive long-term economic growth, and strengthen the integrity and quality of international education.

The reform also aimed to tackle worker exploitation and the misuse of the visa system.
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The ‘Troubled’ Visa Scheme

The significant investor visa was created under the Gillard government in 2012, and given the subclass number 888–considered a lucky number in Chinese numerology.

It allowed foreign investors to considerably shorten their visa processing time compared with other types of investment visas by investing a minimum of $5 million in a mix of property, government bonds, and local businesses.

Unlike other visas, applicants were not required to learn or speak English and were not subject to age restrictions.

Data from the Department of Home Affairs showed that as of June 30, 2020, 2,349 significant investor visas had been granted since the program’s inception, with Chinese investors accounting for 84.9 percent of the cases.

The scheme also attracted around $11.8 billion of investments that met the requirements.

However, an analysis by ABC News revealed that 26,000 foreign nationals had obtained permanent residency with the visa, with around 20,000 being Chinese investors.

The visa also had a low rejection rate, with less than two percent of the applications failing to get approved.

A report (pdf) by the Productivity Commission in 2016 recommended the federal government abolish the scheme as it found that investor visas were “prone to fraud.”

The commission also pointed out that visa 888 applicants would generate less favourable impacts than other immigrants as the scheme did not have English-language requirements and age restrictions.

There have also been concerns that the visa scheme has opened the way for “dirty money” from corrupt foreign officials and members of organised crime groups to flow into Australia.

Other Western countries have scrapped similar schemes due to inefficiency and concerns about attracting illicit funds.

In 2022, the UK terminated its golden visa arrangements, as they were deemed to have offered avenues for corrupt elites to access the country.

Portugal closed its program after it was found that half of the recipients came from the 30 nations with the worst reputations for money laundering.

Meanwhile, Greece faced distortion in its property market from 3 billion euros in offshore funds via its golden visa scheme, much of it from China.

Even China’s investor visa to Ireland was investigated for potential misuse. Australia is one of the latest Western nations to crack down on such programs following growing global scrutiny.

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