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Australia scraps ‘golden visas’ for wealthy overseas investors

Australia has ended its so-called “golden visa” scheme, which granted those who invested more than AU$5m (£2.6m) into the country the chance for permanent residency.

Thousands of Significant Investor Visas (SIVs) have been granted since 2012, but critics say that while they benefit wealthy individuals, they provide little for the Australian economy,

“It has been obvious for years that this visa is not delivering what our country and economy needs,” minister for home affairs Clare O’Neil said in a statement on Monday.

Instead, Australia will issue more skilled workers visas, the government said.

In recent months, the criticism of the scheme grew louder in the country with the government aiming to overhaul what it called a “broken” migration system.

A review in 2016 showed that the policy had “potential for money laundering and other nefarious activities”.

The Grattan Institute, an Australian public policy think tank, said granting visas to wealthy investors was leading to projects being financed that wouldn’t normally be, and that holders provide relatively little tax income for the government.

They tend to be aged over 45, with limited English language skills, and cost AU$120,000 more in public services than they pay in taxes over their lifetimes, the institute said in a report last year, citing calculations from the Australian Treasury. According to government data, 85 per cent of successful applicants for the SIV came from China.

Last month, the Australian government said that it would tighten visa rules for international students and low-skilled workers, which could halve its migrant intake over the next two years.

Several government reviews showed the scheme was not serving its intended purpose, according to officials. One review showed that skilled migrants contributed A$300,000 more to the Australian economy over their lifetime than those who bought their way into the country through the golden visa. One government review said the visas were bringing people into Australia with “less business acumen” than would have otherwise arrived, while offering tax concessions that were costing the public.

Last month, in a policy document, the Australian government announced it would be scrapping the scheme and focusing instead on creating more visas for “skilled migrants” capable “of making outsized contributions to Australia”.

Several countries are reviewing visa schemes which allow wealthy investors quick residence. The UK axed its fast-track visa services for rich investors in 2022 after concerns grew over Russian money coming into the country.