Workers consider ending visa-for-cash program

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A scheme allowing deep-pocketed international investors to buy their way into Australia could be scrapped as part of a review of the country’s migration system.

The substantial Investor Visa allows skilled migrants to expedite their visa applications if they invest $5 million in Australia.

The scheme was introduced by the Gillard government in 2012, but Federal Home Secretary Clare O’Neil said it had become a problem for the immigration system.

“Most Australians would be quite offended by the idea that we have a visa category here where you can actually buy your entry into the country,” she told Sky News in an interview that aired on Sunday.

Invitation to apply

Successful candidates, who must be invited to apply and must meet certain criteria, usually end up putting a strain on Australia’s budget as most manage to settle down and retire, Ms O’Neil said.

Program figures have been roughly halved for this financial year due to immigration changes resulting from this month’s Jobs and Skills Summit in Canberra.

But Ms O’Neil has indicated it could be phased out altogether following the review of the immigration system, which is due by the end of February next year.

“It’s a visa program that I think doesn’t add value to the country and that’s something we’re going to look at,” she said.

“At the moment, I don’t see many reasons to keep him in our programme.”

Coping with the labor shortage

At the summit, the Albanian government agreed to a one-time increase in Australia’s skilled migration cap from 160,000 to 195,000 to ease the labor shortage in the country.

Australia’s immigration department has been told to prioritize offshore visa processing over those for people already in the country.

“It’s not going to help our nurses in this country who are overworked right now to have a nurse on a temporary visa to get a permanent visa,” Ms O’Neil said.

The federal government has not considered scrapping the real temporary entry requirement, but Ms O’Neil has signaled that the visa system will be simplified.

“We’re going to do a very thorough examination of this system and really ask ourselves if this very complex set of visa categories…is the right way to run the immigration system,” she said.

“And I’ll give you a hint, that’s absolutely not the case.”

Ms O’Neil has also pledged to clear a backlog of more than 100,000 temporary visa holders, many of whom are asylum seekers and refugees, but admits it could take years.

-PAA

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