Australia has discontinued its controversial “golden visas” program, which permitted wealthy investors to acquire residency. The shift reflects a strategic move towards attracting skilled, talented, and entrepreneurial migrants.

Details of Golden Visas:

Offered to those investing a minimum of A$5 million in Australia.

Commonly known as “golden tickets” or “buy-a-visa.”

Applicants were not required to speak English and could be of any age.

Allowed residence for up to five years, with an option to apply for permanent residency.

Reasons for Scrapping Golden Visas:

Concerns over Long-Term Economic Benefits: There were concerns that wealthy investors might not contribute as significantly to the long-term economy as skilled migrants.

Risks of Misusing Funds: Worries about the potential misuse of funds, including corruption and money laundering.

Political Decision and Minister’s Statement:

Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil, overseeing the scheme, emphasized the visas’ inadequacy in meeting the country’s economic needs.

The decision was confirmed on Jan 22, highlighting that the visa program did not align with Australia’s migration goals.

Expert Perspectives:

Anna Boucher’s View:

Associate Professor Anna Boucher from the University of Sydney emphasized that the decision is not an “attack on rich migrants” but a strategic move to focus on long-term benefits.

Skilled migrants are seen as contributing more to the economy in the long run, addressing workforce shortages and reducing dependence on welfare.

Data on Golden Visas:

Between 2012 and 2020, 2,349 golden visas were granted, with approximately 85% going to applicants from China.

The scheme brought in about A$12 billion, but analysis indicates that the cost to taxpayers is higher than the contributions made by visa holders.

Grattan Institute’s Findings:

Analysis by the Grattan Institute suggests that each golden visa holder costs taxpayers about A$120,000 over their lifetime.

In contrast, skilled workers contribute a net benefit of A$198,000 during their lifetime.

Support for the Decision:

Brendan Coates, the economic policy program director at the Grattan Institute, supports the decision to scrap golden visas. He sees it as an opportunity to bring in more skilled migrants who contribute more significantly to Australia.

Concerns and Critics:

Concerns about Potential Misuse: Golden visas raised worries about being exploited by corrupt officials or criminals to gain residency and transfer funds.

International critic Bill Browder welcomed the decision to abandon the scheme.

Broader Closure of Visa Programs:

The discontinuation of golden visas is part of a broader closure of various visas for investors and business owners.

Future Plans and Replacement:

The government plans to replace the scrapped visas with a new type focused on innovation, talent, entrepreneurs, major investors, and researchers.

The move aligns with a government review emphasizing the importance of offering residency to attract migrants in the global race for talent.

Expert Recommendation:

Prof Boucher supports the shift towards focusing on innovation and talent. She stresses the need to attract not only skilled migrants but also talented entrepreneurs with the potential for success through risk-taking, leadership, and investment.

Australia’s decision to discontinue golden visas signifies a strategic shift in its migration policy, prioritizing long-term economic benefits, innovation, and talent attraction over short-term financial investments.

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