In a comprehensive overhaul of its immigration policies, Australia has temporarily suspended applications for the Significant Investor program, commonly known as the ‘Golden Visa.’ The move is part of a broader strategy to attract more skilled migrants and address concerns about the misuse of investor visas, which have been criticized for their limited economic benefits. The decision comes after Australia experienced a surge in immigration, with over 500,000 people entering the country in the year through June 2023.

Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil emphasized that the Golden Visa program is just one aspect of the government’s larger plan to revamp the migration system for the benefit of the country. The move is aimed at creating a more effective system that meets the nation’s needs.

The Significant Investor visa, often criticized globally for potential abuse by wealthy individuals, is known for directing funds toward real estate and financial assets rather than contributing to productive sectors of the economy. Minister O’Neil highlighted the longstanding issue, stating that the visa has not been delivering what the country requires from its migration system.

Australia’s center-left Labor government, unveiling a new immigration strategy in December, intends to bring new arrivals back to pre-Covid levels. The strategy includes measures such as cracking down on the misuse of student visas and focusing on skilled migrants to address emerging gaps in the economy.

The Australian newspaper reported that the Significant Visa category may be discontinued, with plans to review the visa in 2022. Minister O’Neil expressed skepticism about retaining special immigration settings for wealthy migrants, citing the cost to the country. She noted that many individuals entering through this program are at the end of their business careers and essentially coming to Australia to settle down and retire.

The Grattan Institute, an Australian think tank, had previously criticized the Significant Investor visa, citing its minimal tax contributions and substantial costs to the economy in services provided to new arrivals. The suspension of the Golden Visa program aligns with Australia’s commitment to shaping a migration system that better serves the nation’s interests.

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