Australia’s Business Innovation and Investment Programme (BIIP) was introduced in 2012 with the aim of attracting wealthy business owners, investors, and entrepreneurs to boost the economy by bringing in capital and driving innovation. However, a government review conducted in March revealed that BIIP migrants contributed less to the economy compared to the average Australian. This was due to the cohort’s older age and lower incomes from passive investments.
The government has put its “Golden Visa” programme on the back burner. With this, processing times have come to blow out, leaving wealthy Chinese migrants in limbo.
How long have these wealthy Chinese been waiting
Paul Wang has been waiting for 21 months. He left Beijing in 2018, to start a new life in Australia. As per Reuters, he even invested A$1 million ($680,000) in a food processing business in hopes of qualifying for a permanent Australian residency under the investment visa scheme.
Five years on, Wang and his family are stuck in limbo.
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While it was hoped that the BIIP programme will boost the economy, the March government review revealed that BIIP holders were estimated to contribute A$600,000 over their lifetime, which is less than half of the $1.6 million contributed by Australians.
Since taking office 13 months ago, Australia’s Labor government has shifted its focus to addressing shortages of critical skilled workers, leading to longer processing times for most BIIP permanent visas. Previously, the average processing time was around 12 months, but it has now increased to nearly three years, in addition to the four to five-year investment cycle.
“We were not expecting it would take this long,” said Wang as reported by Reuters.
“And our life is a mess because of that. We simply cannot plan ahead with all of the uncertainty.”
While the government has reduced overall processing times as the pandemic situation improved, the wait for over 3,000 BIIP holders and their families, many of whom are Chinese, has only grown longer.
In an email statement to Reuters, the Department of Home Affairs addressed visa delays and stated that visas would be processed according to priority and planning levels but did not comment on the complaints from BIIP holders.
The department reportedly also mentioned that a new migration strategy would be released later this year, which would include “radically reshaping” the BIIP programme.
Future of Australia’s BIIP Programme
The delays have raised concerns that the government may eliminate the BIIP programme.
Similar investment visa programmes have already been discontinued in Canada, Britain, and Singapore, as governments concluded that they did not create jobs and could potentially be used for speculative purposes.
The government plans to reduce the number of BIIP visas from 5,000 in the previous financial year to 1,900 this year, which is less than 20 per cent of previous years’ levels.
Tony Le Nevez, managing director at residence and citizenship planners Henley & Partners Australia, believes that the investor programme is not currently a priority for the government and may be overhauled in the future.
“I just don’t think the investor programme is on their radar at the moment – they might overhaul it down the track. In the meantime, I think they might just keep a small window open.”
Wang acknowledged that many people may not sympathise with their situation, but stressed that he believes that the small group of BIIP holders is not being treated fairly.
“I know a lot of people won’t sympathise with us – we’re a small group of people…But we’re not being treated fairly.”
(With inputs from agencies)
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