Australia’s Minister for Home Affairs Clare O’Neil has revealed that the country is considering ending its immigration program for high-net-worth individuals after a decade. 

According to the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection, since its launch in 2012, 85% of applicants for investor visas were mainland Chinese, with 3.6% coming from Hong Kong.

But in an interview with Sky News Australia, Clare O’Neil says, “I don’t see a lot of great benefits to the country currently. At the moment, I can’t see a lot of reasons to maintain it [the visa] as part of our program.”

The requirements of the Significant Investor visa scheme are simple: an investment of 5 million Australian dollars ($3.44 million). There is no need to be proficient in English, no need for owning a business in Australia, no upper age limit, and an empty criminal record.

The program was intended to draw capital into the nation. The scheme brought about $11 billion in investment into Australian enterprises. It was modified in 2015 to redirect funding away from real estate and toward young businesses.

But O’Neil pointed out that many important journalists have raised concerns about the scheme.

As Bloomberg reports, Australian public policy think tank Grattan Institute sees that holders generate relatively little tax revenue for the government. Plus, funded projects generally have little chance of going ahead.

Based on data from the Australian Treasury, the group found that applicants are largely middle-aged who would cost an equivalent of $82,500 more in public services than paying taxes over the course of their life. 

O’Neil also shared a similar viewpoint, saying, “One of the things that people properly don’t know about this visa is actually the lifetime impact on the Australian budget is negative. It’s actually costing us on every average person. Because these are people who are generally coming quite a late stage of their life, often at the end of their business career and coming into Australia basically to settle down and retire.”

Bill Browder, the founder of hedge fund Hermitage Capital LLP and architect of the Magnitsky Act, also backs the termination of the immigration program. 

On September 8, he said, “If people are legitimate immigrants, they should get regular work permits like everybody else.” 

Likewise, wrenched by Beijing’s uncompromising COVID-zero policy, more money capable Chinese are anxious to find a way out of their homeland. According to a Bloomberg report in July, migration experts and attorneys said that queries from those wishing to relocate increased three to fivefold this spring.

A migration consultant in Shanghai told the news agency, “Many really felt they had no other options given the COVID lockdown. I’ve seen those who used to hesitate about emigration finally make up their mind.”

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