Where The Significant Investor Stream Started
Ten years ago the Gillard Government created the significant investor visa (188C). Aimed at cashed-up international business owners to bring businesses into Australia and channel cash into key designated areas like start-up companies and approved managed funds. In return, investors get a five-year visa with no English requirement, no upper age limit, allowance to bring in family members, and the ability to leave and re-enter the country as many times as they like over the 5 years. This visa costs a little over $9K and additional family members can enter for a smaller fee.
Where Did It All Go Wrong For The SIV 188C Visa?
Having gone through several changes over the years its value has been routinely questioned. In 2016 the Productivity Commission called for it to be removed, stating that investor visas are “prone to fraud”. Because there is no English requirement many investors never bothered to learn the language. And it became clear that the majority were of old age and looking for a nice place to retire.
While hoping for a range of investors from many different countries, stats are indicating that nearly 85% of all SIV visas granted are from China. Just recently it came to light that 10 families from the Cambodian Hun Sen regime have acquired SIV visas in the last few years.
The Growing Noise To Abolish The “Golden Ticket”
As the federal government is currently reviewing the Australian migration system there is pressure to improve the way we lure investors into the country.
Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil recently stated, “I think most Australians would be pretty offended by the idea that we have a visa category here where effectively you can buy your way into the country.”
“At the moment, I can’t see a lot of reasons to maintain it as part of our program.” – Minister Clare O’Neil
Abul Rizvi, former Immigration Department deputy secretary and long-time critic of the SIV, agrees. “I think buy-a-visa is not how our visa system should operate,” and that “there should be a clear and unequivocal benefit to Australian society and to the Australian economy and budget. If that cannot be demonstrated, then the visa should be abolished.
When Will the Decision be Made?
Allocations for the steam were nearly halved as a result of the Jobs and Skills Summit earlier this month. The final report on the government’s review of the migration system is due at the end of February 2023. Mr Rizvi would like to see ’passive investment’ visas scrapped where the only requirement is to invest, not manage the investments. He commented “There are other streams of this visa where the person is required to set up and/or run a business in Australia and employ Australians. I think those sorts of visa categories – while they can certainly be approved – are probably worth retaining, because of the benefit to the Australian economy, the budget and to Australian society.” He would like to see each visa assessed on how it benefits Australia. This feels like a step in the right direction.
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