Back in March, Atlas Advisors Australia wasted no time in using the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to lobby the Morrison Government to open the floodgates to Significant Investor Visas (SIV) – affectionately known as “Golden Ticket Visas”:
About $100 million could provide a lifeline for start-ups and emerging companies crippled by the coronavirus if applications under the Significant Investor (SIV) program were reopened.
Leading SIV funds manager Atlas Advisors Australia has called on the federal government to reopen approvals and give priority to fast -track urgent applications.
Atlas Advisors executive chairman Guy Hedley said applicants should be able to execute investments while delaying physical stay in Australia until travel restrictions are lifted.
“Reopening approvals under the SIV program would fulfill the program’s original intent to support thin capital markets,” Hedley said.
“Atlas Advisors Australia has allocated more than $40 million to early stage venture capital investors from SIV investors.”
Six months on and the Morrison Government is more than happy to oblige:
20 September, 2020 Media release
Australia re-opens its doors to investment from high net worth migrants
Leading wealth manager Atlas Advisors Australia has commended the Australian Government for listening to the needs of business and the economy by recommencing the issuance of 188 visas and allocating interim places prior to the Budget under the Business Innovation and Investment Program (BIIP).Executive Chairman of Atlas Advisors Australia, Guy Hedley said the states and territories, including important business centres of NSW and Victoria, had taken the important step of opening their doors to applicants to the 188C Business Innovation and Investment visa following the Australian Government’s interim allocation of places.“We commend the Australian Government and the states and territories for recognising the important role business migration plays in driving our economy,” Mr Hedley said.“This will have a tremendous impact on the post-pandemic recovery of business. It will assist Australian businesses and entrepreneurs to counter the lack of availability of domestic capital investment.“We encourage the Australian Government to go further by prioritising its review of the BIIP to maximise the benefits to the economy in a post-pandemic era.”Mr Hedley said the doors to the country were just reopening, yet Atlas Advisors Australia already seen a dramatic increase in interest from high net worth migrant investors including from destinations such as Hong Kong.“Hong Kong is a vibrant business destination with many rich and highly experienced entrepreneurs and businesspeople,” he said.“These migrant investors are keen to help stimulate business and employment through ventures in their new homeland.”
The Productivity Commission (PC) has previously called for the SIV program to be axed altogether, arguing that SIVs provide minimal if any net economic benefits and likely help fuel fraud and money laundering:
Because there are no English-language requirements for the Significant Investor Visa and Premium Investor Visa, and no upper age limits, it is likely that these immigrants will generate less favourable social impacts than other immigrants. Further, compared to other visa streams, investor visas are prone to misuse and fraud. Concerns about visa fraud played a part in the Canadian Government’s decision in 2014 to scrap its investor visa scheme…
There is a risk that SIV and PIV might be used as a pathway for investing ‘dirty money’ in Australia, an issue that has been raised for other similar schemes (Sumption and Hooper 2014)…
Overall, the case for retaining the Significant Investor Visa and Premium Investor Visa streams is weak and the Government should abolish these visas.
It’s easy to see why. These ‘Golden Ticket Visas’ are touted widely to wealthy investors seeking multiple residencies and tax regimes:
For these reasons, the United Kingdom in 2018 abolished their version of SIVs because they were being used for money laundering purposes and were not providing public benefits:
Ministers are halting a “gold-plated” visa scheme offering foreign investors a fast-track to settling in the UK, as part of a crackdown on financial crime…
“We will not tolerate people who do not play by the rules and seek to abuse the system,” said Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes, announcing the suspension would come into effect at midnight on Friday.
…the Migration Advisory Committee said the scheme brought little economic benefit for British citizens…
Through the SIV, the Australian Government has created a program where citizenship is for sale to anyone with enough money to pay. There are few questions asked. There is no rigorous background checks on the applicants or the sources of their money. There is no requirement to speak English. And there is no requirement for the applicants to work or contribute to Australian society.
Instead of listening to the impartial recommendations of the PC and abolishing SIVs, the Morrison Government instead sided with the rent-seekers.
That’s pretty much par for the course in Australian policy making these days.