The USA and Canada have, for quite some time now, been the most preferred immigration destination for wealthy Chinese citizens. With the sheer volume of Chinese applicants attracting attention, it remains to be seen whether rich Chinese will continue to focus on these two countries or look for alternate options.
With the wait for the US visa stretching to as long as five years, more and more wealthy Chinese citizens are considering other options like Australia, Europe, and even the Caribbean. These destinations are becoming the preferred options for immigration investors from China.
According to a US State Department official, the annual quota of 10,0000 visas for the EB-5 program—the program that enables investors to obtain US visas by investing $500,000 in development projects in the USA— has been hit and that no new applications will be received until October 2014. Chinese demand, which makes up about 85% of the 10,000 applications, is the primary reason why the program has hit its quota limit for the first time since it was first introduced 24 years ago.
The surge in demand has result in longer processing periods. A decade ago, according to immigration experts, a Chinese applicant could obtain an EB-5 visa in just a few weeks. Current, the processing time stretches as long as two years. This duration is set to increase further and new applicants are expected to wait anywhere between three to five years to obtain their EB-5 visa. The delay may create complications for those seeking to educate their children in the US. For them, a delay in applying may result in numerous long-term educational and career problems for the children.
Apart from the USA, Canada was a preferred choice for Chinese applicants until it ended its investor immigration program in February 2014. Canadian visas were granted in exchange of an interest free Canadian Dollar 800,000 loan to a Canadian provincial government. The program was scrapped due to inadequate economic benefits for Canada along with the growing perception that Canadian residency was being undervalued. Although a replacement program was promised, there has been no further news on that front.
The popularity of the Canadian program can be assessed from the fact that about 48,000 residents of mainland China had filed applications with the Canadian consulate in Hong Kong with up to five years of wait time before grant of visa. Further, some applicants even tried to sue the government when their applications were cancelled due to the ending of the investment immigration program although the courts ruled in favor of the Canadian government.
Despite the obvious attractions of residing in the two countries, the delay in grant of the US visa and termination of the Canadian program has compelled Chinese to seek alternative options. The Significant Investor Program of Australia, which was launched in November, 2012, is the preferred choice for extremely wealthy Chinese citizens. The program requires investment of Australian Dollar 5 million in a government-approved investment option. Till July 2014, the Australian government had granted 343 visas with 301 visas, involving investment of A$1.5 billion, being granted to residents of mainland China.
While this program is significant expensive than other options, the quick processing time, ranging to about three months, make this a very attractive option. This is why cost has not been a significant issue for Chinese applicants.
Of course, there are numerous other destinations other than the USA and Australia that offer residency visas for investors. Countries like Portugal, Malta, Cyprus, Antigua & Barbuda, Maruitius, and St. Kitts & Nevis too offer residency visas in exchange of real estate investment. The termination of the Canandian program has resulted in an uptick in demand for programs offered by nations like Portugal and Cyprus.
The Portuguese residence visa program, involving real estate investment of at least EUR 500,000, has granted permits to 1360 applicants from its inception in 2012 till July 31, 2014. Out of these, 1,101—more than 80%—were issued to Chinese citizens.
However, relatively lower cost is not as attractive for the Chinese as the prospect of residing in an English-speaking country. This is why immigration experts point out that nations like Canaa, the USA, and Australia will continue to remain the preferred investment immigration destinations for the wealthy citizens of China.