Wealthy Chinese investors now have a range of residency options to choose from as several countries compete with each other to attract investors from China. Australia and Japan have joined the race by launching new schemes to lure rich Chinese investors in an attempt to boost investment and strengthen their ties with the world’s second largest economy.
Australia recently announced its plans to introduce new investor immigration rules that allow investors to get Australian permanent residency in one year if they invest at least A$15 million in Australian assets. The new initiative will be called the “Premium Investment Visa” and will be launched on July 1, 2015.
“This move is a clear sign that the Australian government is actively seeking to encourage foreign investment. And the government clearly recognizes the opportunities that greater ties to Asia present to Australia,” says Paul Bloxham of HSBC.
Australia already has a similar program named ‘Significant Investor Visa’, in operation since 2012, under which anyone who invests A$5 million over a period of four years qualifies for permanent residency. Chinese nationals have accounted for 90% of successful applicants under this scheme so far, and the program has brought in A$2.18 billion since it was launched.
However there has been apprehension about the new program since Chinese investor immigrants have been blamed for driving up the property prices in Australia.
A report by HSBC found that property in Australia is popular among Asian investors, with almost 10% of wealthy Chinese having invested in the sector. “It’s (the rule change) certainly aimed at wealthy Asian and particularly Chinese investors. It could mean more money coming into the property market, which in Sydney in particular, and to a lesser degree Melbourne, is already quite frothy, and will make it harder for the Reserve Bank to do its job of cooling it down a little,” says Shane Oliver of AMP Capital.
In the three months to August, Sydney and Melbourne’s property markets rose to 16% and 11% respectively, with the Australian Central Bank saying the property sector looks ‘unbalanced’. However other analysts do not think that the ‘Premium Investor Visa’ would adversely affect the Australian property market. “The move will support more foreign investment in the property market but really most likely at the very top end where it’s already a global market,” according to an HSBC analyst.
“This is less of a worry for the overall property sector because those investors don’t tend to borrow from Australian banks for a start, so it’s not a risk for financial stability. And it’s a very specific market, it’s not even the top 1%, it’s more likely the top 0.5 or 0.2%,” he added.
Another country taking an active interest in attracting well-off Chinese investors is Japan. Currently, Chinese tourists looking to visit Japan on multiple-entry visas have to spend at least one night in areas that were severely damaged by the 2011 tsunami and earthquake. Japan is now considering removing this rule in an effort to encourage tourism from China. Additionally, as Chinese tourists are required to submit proof of sufficient economic resources before they are granted a visa, the Chinese tourists that manage to visit Japan are typically wealthy, presenting an opportunity for Japan to promote significant investment in the country. As a sign of things to come, a study by Barclays and Ledbury Research says that 47% of Chinese millionaires plan to emigrate in the next five years.