The US and Canada have been by far the most popular choice for Chinese nationals looking to settle abroad. But according to immigration experts, recent changes in the US and Canadian immigration programs may force Chinese investor immigrants to consider moving to other places, with Australia, the Caribbean islands and Europe becoming increasingly popular as alternative destinations for the Chinese wealthy considering investment immigration.
In the US, the current EB-5 program allows an investor to get a visa by investing $500,000 in development projects. In its 24-year history, the EB-5 immigration investment program had never reached its 10,000 visa limit, but according to the US State department the program has already met its quota for this fiscal year, reaching the limit by July. Around 85% of the applications were by Chinese investors.
Due to this heightened demand, Chinese investors who want to apply for an EB-5 visa are being advised that they might have to wait for up to five years for their visas. Ten years ago the same visa would have been issued within a few weeks.
While the US is dealing with a surge in demand for its investor immigrant visas, Canada, another popular destination for Chinese investors, closed its investment immigration program in February this year. The program allowed an investor to get a visa by lending 800,000 Canadian dollars (at 0% interest) to one of Canada’s provincial governments. The program was halted as it was not proving sufficiently beneficial to Canada’s economy, and although the Canadian government promised to start another investment immigration program to replace it, so far no initiative has been announced.
These developments in the American and Canadian investment immigration programs have led Chinese investors to consider alternative destinations. The most attractive alternative has been Australia, which launched its Significant Investor Visa program in November 2012. Australia issues residency visas to applicants who invest AUD 5 million in government-approved schemes. It is estimated that 88% of the 343 visas granted by July end this year went to Chinese investors, amounting to approximately AUD 1.5 billion of confirmed investment.
The Australian Investor Visa program processes visa applications in three months, which is considerably faster compared to similar programs elsewhere. And although the Australian investor visa is priced higher than its counterparts, the cost has not proven to be a deterrent for Chinese investors.
According to Henley & Partners, an immigration consultancy in Hong Kong, there is widespread anticipation of an increase in the number of Chinese businessmen seeking visas outside Canada and the US. Investors are likely to consider other options like Cyprus, Portugal, Malta, Antigua and Barbuda, and St Kitty and Nevis – countries which offer residency visas in exchange for investment in real estate.
While investment immigration in Europe and the Caribbean islands might attract some Chinese investors, immigration experts believe that the majority will still seek to settle in English speaking countries like the US, Canada, or Australia, as they traditionally place great importance on their children learning the English language.