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Monday, 5 December 2016

Guns for hire

Visas for wealthy Chinese

There's been little change to the source of applications for Australia's Significant Investor Visas (SIVs), with the latest statistics showing that China and Hong Kong still account for 93 per cent of applications and 91 per cent of the visas actually granted. 

SIVs can be issued to non-residents with at least $5 million to invest in compliant bonds and other investments. 

Between the inception of the scheme on 24 November 2012 and 30 June 2015, the number of visas granted totalled only 879, or an average of just 28 per month. 

A bit of a fizzer, you'd have to say!

Since that time visas have been issued at a somewhat faster rate of more than 40 per month. 

Over the 4 months of the financial year to 31 October 2016, a further 180 visas were issued, at a rate of 45 per month, with a further lift in the rate of invitations and applications.

Despite the increased interest, visas are being granted at around only a quarter of the program's annual capacity of 2100.

Of the 1614 visas granted from the inception of the scheme to date, an overwhelming 60 per cent have been issued in Victoria and 30 per cent in New South Wales, with the amount invested in complying investments increasing sharply to $8.07 billion at 31 October 2016 from $7.17 billion as at 30 June 2016.

At 30 June 2015 only $4.395 billion had been invested in complying investments so the funds are beginning to flow.

Some thoughts

I previously considered the changes to rules in complying investments here back in August this year. 

Overall, while more than $8 billion of complying investments and the introduction to Australia of more than 1500 wealthy families from Asia is nothing to be sniffed at, the visa numbers don't appear to be material enough to impact a residential property market valued at approaching $7 trillion, even at the margin.

What these figures do hint at is where wealthy non-resident investors in Australia are most likely to hail from (China) and where their preferred cities of investment are (the Chinese love Melbourne first by quite some margin, then Sydney, and then Brisbane and Gold Coast). 

The rate of applications lodged suggest that SIVs issued to wealthy Chinese might continue to rise through FY17 and beyond. 

Canada was oversubscribed for its equivalent investor visa and closed off applications with a reported 45,000 pending applications from Chinese still in the queue back in 2014.

Meanwhile, the US election result led to an unprecedented spike of interest in immigration to Australia as I charted here

These twin trends could lead to more applications going forward, but it still wouldn't be a surprise to see tweaks or amendments to the qualifying investments to encourage more applicants. The present rules don't make it all that easy for applicants.