AMVL Blog

Two year check-up for Australia’s Significant Investor Visa

Wednesday, October 15, 2014
Blog by Helen Duncan, Director & Registered Migration Agent (MARN) 0003187 at AMVL Migrations.

It is now getting close to two years since the introduction of the Significant Investor Visa – commonly known as the SIV or 188C visa.  As all of us mothers know, it is about the time when your little one turns two that you start to do a bit of an assessment – are they talking as much as they should, are their fine and gross motor skills what they should be, are they socialising with other two year olds appropriately.   It is a time when if there does appear to be any issues, you look for some intervention as early intervention solves many problems later.  I have always been grateful that we took one of our boys to a speech therapist as a two year old and didn’t listen to everyone who said not to worry as Einstein apparently did not speak until he was six years old.

So it is a good time to have a look at our two year old SIV.  Has it succeeded in doing what it was meant to do and is there any need for early intervention?

It was with great fanfare that the SIV was introduced in November 2012 and the interest has continued.  This is a pathway through which investment capital will flow into Australia from high net worth individuals overseas.  Provided they meet the fairly straightforward criteria including the transfer of $5 million into a complying investment in Australia, the individual and their family members will be granted 4 year multiple entry provisional visas.  To be granted a permanent visa, the main applicant will need to spend at least 160 days in Australia over that 4 year period and keep the investment of $5 million in Australia (though it can be moved around).  There is no age barrier or requirement to have a certain English level.

The main applicant does however need to provide evidence that they lawfully own the funds and that the funds have been accumulated through legitimate means.  Legitimate means includes a gift (though the source of the gift will need to demonstrated), the sales of assets, dividends from investments, profit from the operation of a business, a loan from a financial institution (against assets worth more than $5 million) or an inheritance or other windfall gain (such as a lotto win).  It is this requirement that seems to be causing the greatest problem as sometimes, providing evidence on paper that the funds are legitimate is not easy, particularly in countries where the cash economy is often the norm.  This has led to some very long delays in processing applications, particularly through the Australian Immigration office in Hong Kong, though it appears to be getting faster.

After the introduction of the visa, the first SIV application was approved in May 2013 and since then (up until the end of August 2014) there have been a further 385 applications approved.  This may not seem like a lot but when you think that this converts into $1.93 billion in complying investment, it is a significant amount of foreign capital coming into Australia.

Most of the approved applications have been nominated by the Victorian government (50%) followed closely by New South Wales (about 38%), and by far the greatest source country is China with 88% of the approved applications coming from people living in mainland China.

Of course there have been the critics of the scheme.  In February 2014, Canada ceased its equivalent scheme, though a much lower amount of money was required to get an investment visa for Canada.  This is claimed to be in part due to the scheme resulting in surges in property prices and the creation of “zombie” suburbs where most of the apartments lie empty for much of the year as the owners live overseas.  It has also been suggested that the property price increases in parts of Sydney in recent months have been the result of Chinese investors buying up property for above market value.  Recent media stories on the high prices paid at auction have tended to zero in on people who look like they are foreigners without any real evidence that this is the case.  I don’t think you will find anyone selling their homes complaining about getting an above market price and as it is assumed that this money is circulated in the Australian economy, there is still an overall gain financially to Australia.

Some changes have been taken over the last 2 years to make the requirements for the SIV less rigid and these have been from both the Federal Government and some of the state governments.  For example in August 2013, the Minister for Immigration announced an expansion in the list of complying investments and in August 2014, the NSW state government announced that an applicant was no longer a requirement to put $1.5 million in the Waratah (state government) bonds to get sponsorship from NSW.

In March this year (now some 6 months ago), the Assistant Minister for Immigration and  Border Protection announced a review of the SIV program as it was felt that it needed a boost.  The review was meant to look at processing issues, the possibility of greater flexibility in investment choices and perhaps the introduction of a permanent visa stream for investors.  The outcome of the review has just been announced with some interesting upcoming changes including:
  • The creation of a Premium Investor Visa (PIV) which requires an investment of AUD 15 million, nomination by Austrade (Australian Government Trade office), no residence requirement and permanent residency in 12 months (closest thing to buying permanent residency in Australia)
  • Greater involvement of Austrade in determining complying investment policy for the SIV
  • The ability to swap the main applicant between the provisional and permanent visa stage for all business visas (this is a great improvement as either partner will be able to meet the residency requirement in Australia when it is introduced)
  • Range of changes to improve the timing of processing which as indicated above, is already happening
There is no date as yet for the implementation of these changes and it has been suggested that it will be 1 July 2015 but we will let you know what this happens.

So I guess we need to go back to our initial question – is our 2 year old doing OK and do we need intervention?  It seems that although it was a bit low in starting, our SIV is gaining momentum and reaching the milestones that would be expected.  There is the recognition from all levels of government that more flexibility should be introduced and I think this intervention is a good thing.   While there needs to be some recognition of a cash economy in some countries and therefore more flexibility in documenting the source of funds, I don’t think any Australian would want to see this scheme as a front for money laundering.  There is a fine balance but local knowledge and perhaps more ability to look at applicants on a case by case basis (which will mean an easing of the policy surrounding documentation of the source of funds) would allow faster processing and more interest in the program.

To discuss your eligibility for the Significant Investor Visa or simply to learn more, contact a member of the AMVL Migrations team.


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Why use a Registered Migration Agent?

Friday, September 26, 2014

Blog by Helen Duncan, Director & Registered Migration Agent (MARN) 0003187 at AMVL Migrations.

I am often asked by clients why they should use a registered migration agent (RMA) to assist them with their application.   I usually reply that people can certainly lodge their own application as there is no requirement to use a RMA.  However of course I have to say that it better to use a RMA for a whole variety of reasons.

1. I can save you time and money
RMAs provide a professional service much like any other profession.  I like to compare the service to something that an accountant could offer you in lodging your tax return, or a lawyer is drawing up your will.  These are things that you can do yourself but it takes a lot of time to work out how to do it and you could potentially lose money if you don’t do it right.  I guess these days, lots of us even go to Dr Google when we don’t feel well.  I can see the look of dismay on my doctor’s face when I mention that I did some internet research and I know how she feels.

2. I can take on your anxieties
So I can save you lots of time and maybe lots of money but even more, I can take on your stress of lodging a visa application.  I also teach at ANU in the Graduate Certificate of Migration Law and Practice, and I always emphasise to the students who hope to become agents, that our profession has a huge responsibility to our clients.  I see myself taking on your hopes and dreams of a future life in Australia, and doing all I can to make it happen.  It means I lose a lot of sleep at times worrying about your application, but I take my job very seriously.

3. I know what I am doing
I have been an agent for over 14 years so I like to think that I also know what I am doing.  Every case is very different so speaking to a friend about what they did with their case is often of no help to you with your case.  Migration legislation is complex and constantly changing and it is my job to keep up with the changes and understand what they mean for my clients.  I can present you with options and hopefully find a fix for any problems.

4. You have consumer protection
One client did mention that he used a RMA because then he had someone to sue if it didn’t go well.  This was a bit worrying but it is correct (he has never sued us by the way).  All RMAs have to be registered by the Office of the Migration Agents Registration Authority (MARA).  This means we must abide by a strict code of conduct that is designed to protect the consumers, and if we breach any part of the code, you can complain about us.  The complaints may lead to a suspension or barring of our registration, so RMAs are always very careful to follow the code.  MARA also requires that we hold professional indemnity insurance – just in case you have been financially disadvantaged.

Given the above, it is always very important that you check that the agent that you are using is registered with the MARA.  This is easy to do by going to the MARA’s website – www.mara.gov.au . There are unfortunately many people in the community who provide immigration advice and are not registered.  This means that you have no protection and they often are not very scrupulous people.

So who are we?  There are about 5000 RMAs according to the latest statistics from the MARA. Approximately 96% of us operate from a base in Australia and our average age is 44 years.  Most of us (55%) are male and 40% are sole traders.  We are a fairly young profession with only 26% of RMAs being registered for more than 10 years and 41% being registered for 3 years or less.  This makes me a bit out of the norm - female, a “bit” older than 44 and with a registration of over 10 years!

We do a lot of visa work with 70% of permanent employer sponsored visa applications and 69% of 457 visa applications lodged by RMAs.  In addition we assist with 30% of family visa applications, 35% of General Skilled Migration visa applications, 68% of business visa application and 49% of protection visa applications.

If you do decide to use a RMA, you are making the same decision as many other people who would have also asked the question “should I use a RMA?”, and made the decision to use one of us.  The decision is usually based on a number of different things like time, money, security, anxiety – but I think for most of them, it was a good decision.

To meet the team of Registered Migration Agents at AMVL Migrations, visit our team page.


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My new life as an Australian citizen

Monday, September 15, 2014

Blog by Beatrice Rosales (16), daughter of Gisela Rosales, Accountant at AMVL Migrations.

Starting fresh can be a very big decision to make let alone starting fresh in another country. But it is one of the most rewarding decisions that I (or my parents) have made in my life.  Life before Australia was relatively breezy living in Papua New Guinea. However, something was missing – sure living in Papua New Guinea offered us a stable lifestyle but over the years I began to want more in my life. Growing up I knew that I have always wanted to travel and see the world. I wanted to experience a new atmosphere, venture out in a place that I have never been before. So, being cooped up in this small place wasn’t really helping. 

As a child I knew Australia wasn’t far from Papua New Guinea – I remember the Australian news playing on the old box TV situated in the living room. I had from a young age seen Australia from just what I saw on the television and from close relatives living there. Time after time I would ask myself, “how great would it be to visit Australia?” In 2008, I was given the opportunity, with my family, to travel to Australia for vacation. During our stay I began to absorb the luxurious lifestyle Australia had to offer. I felt like this is where I wanted my life to be, where my journey needed to continue. 

Moving to Australia was like trying new food – you had no clue what you are in for but you know that it’ll be great. Over the last 6 years, living in Australia had changed many aspects in my life from the way I talked to the places I went. I began to adjust in school and grew new friendships with a very multicultural group of people. Just recently I had become an Australian citizen and I saw this as a very important opportunity.  

As an Australian citizen I call Australia my home with pride and entitle myself with vast responsibilities. Living in such a multicultural and economically stable society as an Australian citizen I hold the responsibility in shaping the bright future I aspire for Australia to have. Being a student who has been thinking so deeply about my future I take whole heartedly the benefits of being an Australian citizen. A perk would be from having the opportunity in going to university without being financially unstable to voting in who best helps in shaping our country. Aside from those a major perk is the divine landmarks for everyone – from Uluru to Bondi Beach and everything in-between all these things make me feel proud to call myself an Australian Citizen.  



(L-R: Gisela, Pete, Jaime (front), Patricia & Beatrice)


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