In 2018, Paul Wang left his home in Beijing to start a new life in Australia, investing A$1 million ($680,000) in a food processing business in hopes of qualifying for permanent residence under the investment visa scheme. from the country.
Five years later, her hopes for her family of three remain on hold as the government has put the controversial “Gold Visa” program on the back burner, causing processing times to run out, leaving wealthy immigrants as Wang in limbo.
“We didn’t expect it to take so long,” said Wang, 44. “And our life is a mess because of it. We just can’t plan with all the uncertainty.”
When Australia introduced the Business Innovation and Investment Program (BIIP) in 2012, the hope was that wealthy entrepreneurs, investors and entrepreneurs would boost the economy by providing capital and driving innovation.
The results, however, have been disappointing. A government review published in March found that BIIP immigrants contributed less to the economy than the average Australian, as the cohort, despite their wealth, tended to be older and earned lower income through returns on capital investments. passive.
The review estimated the lifetime financial contribution of BIIP holders at A$600,000, less than half of A$1.6 million.
After coming to power 13 months ago, Australia’s Labor government shifted priority to alleviating a shortage of critical skilled workers. Partly as a result, most BIIP permanent visas take nearly three years to process, up from a previous average of around 12 months, plus an investment cycle of four to five years.
Wang has been waiting 21 months.
Similar investment visa schemes have been scrapped in Canada, Britain and Singapore as governments conclude they do not create jobs and could be a means of parking hot money.
Every Australian visa category experienced a delay during COVID-19. As the pandemic subsided, the government reduced processing times across the board, but the wait for more than 3,000 BIIP holders and their families, many Chinese, only dragged on.
‘PEOPLE WILL NOT LIKE’
Some BIIP applicants plan to protest in Sydney on Friday against the government’s policy change, a rarity as Chinese immigrants largely avoid public dissent.
When asked about the visa backlogs, the Department of the Interior said in an emailed statement that the government would process all visas according to priority and schedule levels, and declined to comment on complaints from the BIIP holders.
He said a new migration strategy would be released later this year, which would include “radically reshaping” the BIIP program.
The delays have raised concerns that the government could scrap the BIIP programme, said Tony Le Nevez, managing director of residence and citizenship planners Henley & Partners Australia, whose clients have invested at least A$5 million each in the country. .
“I just don’t think the investor program is on their radar at the time that they might revisit it in the future. In the meantime, I think they could keep a little window open.”
The government plans to reduce its BIIP allocation from 5,000 visas last fiscal year to 1,900 this year, less than 20 percent of the level of previous years.
BIIP holders say they are reducing business investment given the uncertainty, postponing life decisions and, in some cases, selling property in Australia. Some say they should hang on to loss-making businesses to keep their visa prospects alive, losing out on higher-yielding investments.
“The eternal wait means that even if I run my business at a loss, I can’t just close shop and move on,” said Tan, a Chinese investor who owns a furniture store in Melbourne and asked to be identified only by his last name. due to privacy concerns. He has been waiting for 33 months.
Wang, who last year gave up plans to buy more land for his factory due to uncertainty over his visa status, said he was prepared to dump his assets in Australia and move to the United States for his daughter’s education. next year.
“I know a lot of people will not like us, we are a small group of people,” Wang said. “But we are not being treated fairly.”
($1 = 1.4691 Australian dollars)