26 November 2012

New Australia visa program rolled out

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The Australian government began taking applications yesterday for the Significant Investor category of Australia visa from business migrants willing to invest AU$5 million (£3.25 million) in the Australian economy.

Australia visa

The new Significant Investor category of Australia visa opened for applications this weekend.

The Significant Investor visa was announced earlier this year but details emerged slowly amidst criticism that wealthy foreigners could essentially buy an Australia visa. However, Immigration Minister Chris Bowen - who dismissed such claims in October - reiterated his support of the program.

"The Significant Investor visa is an important new tool in the armoury of Australia's financial services sector as Australia looks to compete in our region for high wealth and high skilled migrants and the capital that comes with them," said the minister.

"Since I announced the new Significant Investor visa in May, there has been substantial interest from potential migrant investors and the financial services sector so I expect many people to apply."

The new visa category requires applicants to invest their AU$5 million over a period of four years, during which time holders are required to spend a minimum of 160 days. Applicants can make their investment in a range of different options including government bonds, regulated funds and direct investment in Australian companies.

Holders of the Significant Investor visa can then extend their provisional visa by a further two years if conditions are met, after which permanent residency can be applied for.

South Australian minister Tom Koutsantonis said the new category would "simplify the pathway for the most experienced business people and high-profile investors to relocate [to Australia]".

"This is a crucial time for our economy and it is imperative we are equipped to attract international capital and skills in a competitive global market," said Mr Koutsantonis.

Leonie Cotton, casework manager at the Australian Visa Bureau, said the visa category has its detractors but forms part of the Australian government's attempts to attract the 'best and brightest'.

"The Significant Investor visa is an attempt from the Australian government to attract foreign investment, particularly from China - the new category number is 888 for instance, a very significant number in Chinese culture," said Ms Cotton. "Attracting Asian investment will be crucial for much of the world in the coming years and the UK, New Zealand and Canada all have similar investment visa programs.

"While some may accuse the government of allowing the wealthy to jump the queue, in reality it allows a select number of people with the potential of benefitting the Australian economy immediately with their investment and in the long term if they decide to become permanent residents."

The Australian Visa Bureau is an independent migration consultancy specialising in helping people lodge applications with the Australian Embassy.

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