Australian Visa System Overhaul Leaves Chinese Millionaires Stranded in Uncertainty


SYDNEY(Reuters) By Dr Majid Khan- Recent changes to the Australian government’s investment visa regime have sent unrest among wealthy Chinese, sparking protests and delays in processing. The ‘golden visa’ scheme, which has lured wealthy immigrants like Paul Wang of Beijing, who invested A$1 million (US$680,000) in a food processing business, has been suspended indefinitely.

“I didn’t expect it to take so long,” said Wang, 44, whose permanent residency plans have been postponed. “And it’s messed up our lives. You can’t plan ahead because of all the uncertainties. ”

Launched in 2012, the Business Innovation and Investment Program (BIIP) aimed to boost the Australian economy by attracting wealthy managers, investors and entrepreneurs. But a government study in March found that BIIP immigrants made less of an economic contribution than the average Australian. The study found an estimated lifetime economic contribution of A$600,000 due to older age and lower income from passive investments, less than half of what Australians typically contribute.

Since coming to power 13 months ago, Australia’s Labor government has shifted its focus to addressing skills shortages, which has caused delays in processing most BIIP permanent visas. The average duration has now increased to nearly 3 years for him, on top of a 4-5 year investment cycle, compared to the previous average of 12 months. Wang and many other Chinese immigrants have been waiting more than 21 months for their visa applications to be processed. Similar investment visa schemes were abolished in countries such as Canada, the United Kingdom and Singapore as governments recognized the limited job creation potential and the potential for speculative investment.

As the COVID-19 pandemic subsides, processing times for most Australian visas have decreased, but there have been delays for more than 3,000 BIIP holders and their families, mostly Chinese. The number of transactions is only increasing.

In a rare public protest, about 50 BIIP holders, mostly Chinese, gathered in front of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Sydney office to urge the government to expedite permanent residency applications.

In response to visa delays, the Home Office said in an email that all visas are being processed on a priority and planning level basis. He declined to comment on BIIP holders’ concerns. The ministry also said a new transition strategy, which includes a major overhaul of the BIIP program, will be announced later this year.

Industry experts, including Tony Le Neves, Citizenship Planner and Chief Executive Officer of Residences and Partners Australia at Henley & Partners Australia, said the government will not prioritize investor programs in the near future. Maybe, but I’m guessing it might leave a little room for possible changes.

The government plans to cut the BIIP quota from 5,000 visas last year to 1,900 visas this year, a decrease of less than 20% from last year’s level.

Uncertainty surrounding the visa program has led BIIP holders to cut back on business investments, postpone important life decisions and, in some cases, sell Australian properties. Some investors are tied to loss-making companies to maintain Visa prospects, missing out on more profitable investments.

“Waiting endlessly means you can’t close your shop and move on to the next step, even if you’re in the red,” said Tan, a Chinese investor who owns a furniture store in Melbourne. rice field. After 33 months of waiting, Tan requested proper anonymity.

Frustrated by the uncertainty of his visa status, Paul Wang is abandoning plans to expand his factory and is considering selling his Australian property to move to the United States next year for his daughter’s education.

“I know a lot of people don’t understand us. We are a small group,” Wang said. “But we are not being treated fairly.”