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Australia stops ‘golden visa’ scheme, aims to draw ‘exceptionally talented migrants’

A new innovation visa programme to “attract exceptionally talented migrants” will instead be introduced at the end of the year. Australia will also reduce migration intake by 110,000 places over the next four financial years and cap the number of international students.

While they were prepared for the worst after hearing an earlier rumour about the programme’s axing, migration agents handling business visa applications said they were still at a loss as to how to communicate these changes to clients who had spent hundreds or thousands of dollars in legal and other expenses, even if Canberra had promised to refund application fees.

“While I somewhat support the closure of the programme as it has been widely exploited, the way the government handled this has been appalling,” said Jessica Meng, a business migration specialist at advisory firm Precision Migration. “The changes to the programme have been communicated piecemeal, lacking clarity.”

The golden visa programme, officially known as the “significant investor visa”, conferred the right of abode to foreign nationals who could invest A$5 million (US$3.3 million). Critics argued it had led to poor economic outcomes and was exploited by those with little interest in long-term investment. Chinese nationals made up 85 per cent of those who applied.

Following the budget announcement on Tuesday, Canberra told migration agents anyone still in the queue under the business visa programme would be subjected to more stringent screening.

There will be 1,000 applications to be approved in the current financial year, down from an original 1,900.

“This means an 18.5-year wait for those at the end of the 18,500-place queue,” migration agent James Hall said.

“What can be gleaned from all of