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Wonky values in golden ticket visa program

Date

Melissa Fyfe, Royce Millar

Chinese-born businessman Henry Yang says the government is in effect selling Australia to wealthy buyers.

Chinese-born businessman Henry Yang says the government is in effect selling Australia to wealthy buyers. Photo: Michael Clayton-Jones

WEALTHY Asian business people are lining up for the federal government's new ''golden ticket'' visa, which waives the usual criteria for skilled migrants - such as an ability to speak English - in exchange for a $5 million investment in Australia.

As Australia's refugee debate rages on, the federal government is rolling out the welcome mat for a select class of migrant and it expects 700 new wealthy residents annually under its Significant Investor Visa program, which opens for expressions of interest on Saturday.

For permanent residency, migrants must have $5 million and live in Australia 40 days a year for four years.

Illustration: Ron Tandberg.

Illustration: Ron Tandberg.

With their eyes on a bucket of funds worth potentially $3.5 billion a year, Australia's biggest investment banks and consultancy firms have been busy spruiking the new visa.

Migration agents say that while most potential applicants are China's new rich, millionaires across south-east Asia, India, South America, Russia and Taiwan are also keen.

Chinese-born Henry Yang, 42, came to Australia three years ago on a subclass 163 visa - a business skills migration program. He has built up a successful $3 million business exporting Australian wine to China, but he is sceptical about the value of the significant investor program.

He believes entry requirements should focus on entrepreneurship and economic value, not just capital. ''I don't think it's a sustainable system for a visa,'' he said. ''It sounds like [the government] is selling Australia.''

Others also find the idea a bit unseemly. "This is buying a visa," Monash University migration expert Bob Birrell said. "[This visa] treats Australian residence as a commodity."

Under the federal government's broad program criteria, each state can stipulate where the $5 million is to be spent. New South Wales is aggressively competing for the wealthy migrants and wants $1.5 million from every $5 million invested in a state infrastructure fund. In Victoria, migration agents are waiting on the Baillieu government to issue guidelines.

Businessman and Sydney Swans chairman Richard Colless pushed for the visa with Immigration Minister Chris Bowen.

Mr Colless is chairman of an Australian property fund at global investment bank Moelis & Co and is said to be wooing applicants. "We would be one of many to say this is a great opportunity to attract long-term capital," Mr Colless said.

Migration lawyer Michael Sing, said it was no coincidence the visa application number was 888, when the Chinese consider eight a lucky number. "We think this visa is aimed squarely at the emerging wealth in China."

Jock Collins, a professor of social economics at the University of Technology Sydney, said that while there was a air of queue-jumping about the visa, many other developed nations - including the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States, had set up similar programs to tap into Asia's new wealth.

"We're competing pretty vigorously with every other country in the world who wants these people and their money. I think this is a valid category of immigration,'' he said.

''We're bringing people, not only their money, but also their entrepreneurial experience and their innovation."

Interest in the new visa - referred to as the ''golden visa'' among migration agents - is strong, according to most of the agents interviewed by Fairfax Media.

Agents, lawyers and investment bankers, who have been conducting seminars on the visa for business people in China, say it is more attractive than former business skills visas because it has no English language test and no age limit.

It has also shortened the required length of stay in Australia, allowing migrants to live in two countries and look after their global businesses.

The new visa is part of a revamped skilled migration program. The Department of Immigration and Citizenship estimates that 700 visas will be issued to significant investors each year. There is room for about 7000 places under the business skills program.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said the visa was ''an important new tool in the armoury of Australia's financial services sector as Australia looks to compete in our region for wealth and highly skilled migrants and the capital that comes with them".

Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said the visa had the Coalition's support. He said the government should make sure the program was not just about accessing capital but about new residents who could make a significant contribution.

A recent report on Chinese wealth by research group Hurun - known for its annually published China Rich List - found the economic powerhouse now has more than a million millionaires and 85 per cent of them plan to send their children abroad to be educated.

"For high net worth individuals, particularly from south-east Asia and China, Australia's education system is a huge attraction," Deloitte immigration spokesmanMark Wright said. The firm is dealing with between 75 and 100 wealthy individuals interested in the new visa.

415 comments

  • I'm not surprised they have a visa like this. And in fact it is WAY more expensive than comparable visas in other countries. At the end of the day the government wants to attract rich people here so that they invest in the country. The pay off is the cost. A comparable visa in the UK is about 10 times cheaper.

    Commenter
    Dane Walker
    Date and time
    November 22, 2012, 10:25PM
    • the greed in australia is amazingly out stripping the good ole usa

      Commenter
      grim
      Location
      port douglas
      Date and time
      November 23, 2012, 12:44AM
    • Please guys see this for what it is. These people are wealthy and will simply shift capital at no expense and gain a citizens rights and privileges. Once again the government has been lobbied and sold out the people of Australia to the Reserve bank. Guys remember both sides of politics will not help Australia. Go figure?

      Commenter
      sigh
      Location
      Melbourne inner suburbs
      Date and time
      November 23, 2012, 4:14AM
    • who wants to go to live in the UK?? Its a Bankrupt and clearly failing state racked with social disorder that has been permanently ruined by socialists. Its like the rest of peniless europe that has been crushed by socialism....who wants to live there anymore???No wonder their visas are cheaper.

      Commenter
      Malcolm
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      November 23, 2012, 6:48AM
    • Since Gillard's election, the nation looks more and more like a parody of Yes Minister - if this is even possible. Henry Yang is a decent addition to our community and he calls it as it is - VISA buying. Where is the requirement for entrepreneurship or growing a business? How does this system generate any work for Australians? Does anyone wonder why real estate is so expensive? Well, Paul Keating's vision of Australia as a part of Asia is finally coming true - except we're no longer simply a part of Asia - we are Asia. So we can forgot about the region being described as Australasia. This is just a remnant of our colonial roots - now we need to deal with a new colonial reality. The difference is the Aboriginal people didn't ask to be colonised and displaced from their lands and have their culture fundamentally changed. Unlike us, they probably had more sense. The irony is too much. Now we can open the floodgates to all and sundry - don't speak English? Got 5 mill? No problem come on in. Don't speak English? Paid a smuggler $10,000 to reach our shores? No problem, come right in. Oh and here's $440 a fortnight to enjoy your stay for the next 5 years while we work out what to do with you. In the meantime, feel free to disappear into the community using your people smuggling mates to generate false identities using the same equipment as the motor registry. Oh and don't worry about healthcare, it's free - our emergency departments are certainly capable of handling dramatic increases in workload. At the very least, learning English used to be of the greatest importance for new Australians. I've said enough, I'm crying into my cereal.

      Commenter
      Malik the magic sheep
      Date and time
      November 23, 2012, 7:08AM
    • They are not buying a visa for $5m so it is wrong to say it is "10 times" more expensive than similar visas in the UK are elsewhere. Having said that most of them will just invest in property or an existing business. You would think this Government would have learnt to stay away from "get rich quick" schemes. The "world's luckiest treasurer" needs to focus on maintaining real investment not this sort.

      Commenter
      StBob
      Date and time
      November 23, 2012, 7:12AM
    • Yep. Can see the queue stretching for miles.

      Commenter
      4400
      Location
      The New Black
      Date and time
      November 23, 2012, 7:13AM
    • yes, but in the UK you are buying a visa to a debt ridden, overpopulated country - whereas $5M will buy you entry to Australia! Very cheap at that price and Gillard can spend that at one conference!

      What a great way for all those criminals to launder their stolen money - buy a visa to Australia! If the government spent the money that they have (or have not) more wisely, we wouldn't need to be doing this!

      Commenter
      africa9
      Date and time
      November 23, 2012, 7:18AM
    • @Malcolm of Sydney:ROFLMAO! Europe crushed by Socialism? Try the other way round. It has been unfettered Capitalism that has bankrupted the world. Does anyone think it was Socialists that created the CDOs and other toxic financial instruments that wrought havock through the world's economies? Was it Socialists that removed as many regulations on Wall St as fast as they could and emasculated the regulatory bodies? Was it the Socialists that pumped trillions of taxpayer dollars into the banksters? Well, that last one was a spectacular piece of reverse Robin Hood socialism, but it wasn't implemented by Socialists.

      Commenter
      Scott H
      Location
      Brisbane
      Date and time
      November 23, 2012, 7:37AM
    • So paying people smugglers is wrong & you will end up on some god forsaken island in the middle of nowhere But if you pay $5 million you are automatically a stand-up citizen. Go figure.

      Commenter
      Bazza
      Date and time
      November 23, 2012, 7:41AM

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