Capital Investment Scheme migrants unaffected by new Australian visa processing priorities

After 13 months of closure, the South Australian Government has temporarily reopened the Capital Investment Scheme pathway for applications lodged before 1 September 2007.  However, after all the changes to the priority processing of visas instated by the introduction and amendment of the Critical Skills List (CSL), many are wondering if the scheme's return provides a genuine pathway to Australia or just another route to more delays.

To give you a little history regarding the changes, the Capital Investment Scheme was initially designed by the government for migrants in need of extra points to count towards their points-based migration assessment. By investing a minimum of AUD$100,000 into a nominated investment bond for at least one year, applicants could earn themselves an extra five points towards their Australian visa application.

Initially, most of the State and Territory governments provided applicants with the facilty for making this investment. However, after one of the major Australian banks suspected they were the victims of a widespread fraud as a result of investments made (and took subsequent legal action to try and claim ownership of many of these investments), all States and Territories withdrew from the Capital Investment Scheme, leaving many applicants stranded.

DIAC had already withdrawn the investment option for new applications made on or after 1 September 2007, and in December 2007, they suspended the processing of all affected applications that were lodged prior to 1 September 2007 (an issue previously addressed on the Visa Bureau blog).

However, good news finally came in January 2009 as applicants who were affected by the Capital Investment Scheme's closure may now lodge a deposit with the South Australian Government Financing Authority (SAGFA).  This is the only scheme currently available which the department is satisfied meets the requirements in the regulations.

Of course, there's a bit of a catch; SAGFA are only offering an interest rate of around 2.2% on all deposits lodged. A reasonable rate would have been at least half as much again, but it seems that SAGFA understand all too well that frustrated applicants, who have been caught in migration limbo for the last 18 months, will be happy to take any means necessary at this stage.

Many of the affected applicants have been sent new requests to make the investment, but more still are waiting to receive such notification.  Additionally, there was initial concern that visa grants for these applicants may be delayed due to the new processing priorities (covered in yesterday's blog), as the majority of these applicants are not CSL-listed. Fortunately, the Minister’s Office has confirmed that Capital Investment Scheme applicants will be an exception to the current priority processing rules and their applications will be processed to visa grant. Further information on the Capital Investment Scheme can be found on the DIAC Capital Investment Scheme FAQ.

There are still other issues that applicants should consider though.  For example, applicants are being requested to go for health and character checks as well as make the investment. The best thing for anyone in this situation is to begin the process of completing these health and character checks BEFORE you lodge the investment, and advise DIAC that you intend to make the investment immediately after they have confirmed your health and character checks are clear.  Another benefit to taking this approach is that it should also help financially, as it could buy you some time before having to liquidate any assets necessary to make the investment.

- Lauren Mennie is the Casework Department Manager for the Australian Visa Bureau