Wealthy Chinese migrants forsake Canada for Australia

Chinese nationals have lodged more than 90% of applications for the new Australian Significant Investor Visa since it opened in November 2012. The Significant Investor Visa allows wealthy foreign nationals to obtain Australian residence visas in return for a $5m investment. Of 545 applicants so far, nearly 500 are Chinese.

The Significant Investor Programme opened for business shortly after the Canadian Immigrant Investor Program (IIP), another visa for wealthy foreign nationals, was suspended in July 2012.

The South China Morning Post reports that the number of wealthy Chinese migrants settling in western Canada under the IIP fell by 42% in 2012. 1,778 Chinese citizens were issued with permanent resident visas under the program in 2012, down from around 3,000 in 2011.

No discrimination

When questioned, the Canadian government denied that it was discriminating against Chinese nationals. It has since announced that the IIP is to be closed completely and replaced by a new investor visa. Details will be announced later in 2014.

When the IIP was closed, there were 25,000 applications pending. It is believed that 60% of these were from Chinese citizens. Because IIP applicants can bring dependent family members with them, it is thought that around 70,000 people were waiting for the program to reopen in the hope of receiving Canadian permanent resident visas of whom about 45,000 are Chinese.

In the five years from 2006-2011, 3,000 Chinese citizens or more each year were granted permanent residence under the IIP. Many of them, about 80%, bought property in Vancouver; though the Canadian government was concerned that many successful principal applicants continued to live in China. It was quite common for family members to emigrate to Canada without the principal applicant immigrant investor.

Discrimination

The Morning Post says that discrimination by Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), the Canadian immigration authority, may have led to the fall in successful Chinese applications in 2012. CIC rejects this suggestion.

To qualify, under the previous IIP, foreign nationals worth at least CAN$1.6m (£883,000 US$1,445,000) had to lend $800,000 (£441,500, US$724,000) to the Canadian government. This loan had to be repaid after five years. Each successful applicant was awarded Canadian permanent resident status and was allowed to bring his or her dependent family who would also be awarded permanent resident visas.

In 2012, the then immigration minister Jason Kenney announced that the IIP would be suspended and totally revamped. He said that the existing system 'undervalues the importance of Canadian citizenship and fails to ensure that new investors are investing actively in the Canadian economy'.

Program to be scrapped

Mr Kenney's successor, Mr Alexander, recently announced that the program will be scrapped.

Chinese nationals have been looking elsewhere. 90% of applicants for Australia's Significant Investor visa during the first year after it was introduced were Chinese nationals, according to Australia's Department of Immigration and Border Protection.

Australian immigration began accepting applications for Significant Investor visas in November 2012, only a few months after the IIP in Canada was suspended. Applicants were required to make an investment of AUS$5m in a scheme approved by the Australian government. There was no shortage of applicants.

91% of Significant Investor applicants from China

545 people applied of whom 91% (496) were from the People's Republic of China. So far 65 Business Innovation and Investment (Provisional) (Subclass 188) visas have been issued. A 188 visa lasts for four years. Providing that a 188 visa holder spends 160 days in Australia during the course of the four years, he or she will then be eligible for a permanent resident visa (Subclass 888).

Most applicants are, it appears, self-made millionaires with interests in manufacturing and property according to the South China Morning Post.

The Post also reports that there are many reasons why many Chinese applicants are attracted to Australia; these include the education system, the climate and the life-style.

Chinese citizens interested in 'buying residence'

Sanwar Ali of workpermit.com said 'the level of interest in the Significant Investor Program in Australia shows that there are many wealthy Chinese citizens who can invest large sums of money to "buy residence" overseas.

Australia has gained at the expense of Canada. There are also a number of European Countries such as the UK, Latvia, Spain, Portugal and Greece that offer investment based residence schemes that are also worth considering.

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