Canberra: Australia has paused applications for individuals who invest more than A$5 million ($3.3 million) into the country as part of a broader immigration policy overhaul designed to entice more skilled migrants.
All applications for the Significant Investor or “Golden Visa” programme have been halted. Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil said the visa was one of “many aspects” of Australia’s migration system that the government plans to change in order “to create a system which delivers for our country.”
Investor visas similar to Australia’s have faced criticism worldwide amid allegations that they have been abused by wealthy individuals and failed to benefit the countries themselves.
A key issue is that the funds involved often go into real estate or financial assets rather than productive areas of the economy.
“It has been obvious for years that this visa is not delivering what our country and economy needs from a migration system,” O’Neil said in a statement.
Australia’s centre-left Labor government revealed a new immigration strategy in December designed to lower new arrivals to pre-COVID levels. Among the features of the strategy were a crackdown on abuse of student visas and greater targeting of skilled migrants to fill growing gaps in the economy.
Australia posted exceptionally strong immigration in the year through June 2023, with more than 500,000 people entering the country over a 12-month period.
The Australian newspaper reported on Monday that the Significant Visa category would be scrapped. O’Neil flagged plans to review the visa in 2022, saying she saw little reason to retain the special immigration settings for wealthy migrants.
“It’s actually costing us on average for every person, because these are people who are generally coming in at quite a late stage of their life, often at the end of their business career and coming to Australia, basically to settle down and retire,” she said at the time.
The Significant Investor visa had also been criticized by Australia’s Grattan Institute think tank. A report in September 2022 found it provided little tax income for the Australian government, while costing the economy large amounts in services to the new arrivals.