Australia is seeing an increase in interest in its millionaires-only visa programme from wealthy Hong Kong residents who are eyeing a safety net amid political turmoil in the Chinese-ruled territory, according to migration lawyers. The New South Wales state migration department 'noticed a significant increase in applications' from Hong Kong in recent months, it said in a letter to agents this week.
The interest has coincided with the 'beginning of the current unrest in Hong Kong', the department said, referring to a 5 million dollars, Significant Investor Visa (SIV) programme that provides direct residency to applicants. 'What I am hearing from my clients is there definitely has been an uptick in the number of SIV applications from Hong Kong,' one agent said.
'Anybody who can make an alternate plan is trying to do so.' Protests in the former British colony erupted in June over a now-suspended bill that would have allowed criminal suspects to be extradited to China for trial.
The unrest has been fuelled by broader worries about what many say has been an erosion of freedoms guaranteed under the 'one country, two systems' formula put in place when Hong Kong returned to China in 1997.
Australia’s New South Wales treasury department confirmed that the immigration team’s letter was sent out to migration agents on Monday but declined to provide any further details. In the letter, the department assured agents it was committed to providing 'appropriate support' to help them discuss migration options.
The SIV programme used to be hugely popular with people from China, though recent strict investment requirements have somewhat dented its appeal.
The SIV now requires at least 40 percent of the 5 million dollars to be invested in small-cap and venture capital (VC) funds while direct real estate investment is barred.
'Money is also moving out but Australia is probably not your first choice to park wealth…it’s a high tax jurisdiction. I suspect we’ll get more people than money here,' he said.