Rich and American? Australia wants you

Sun Jul 12, 2015 5:34pm EDT
 
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By Swati Pandey

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Flush with the success of a millionaire visa program to attract wealthy Chinese, Australia is now promising citizenship to rich Americans who are willing to bring their cash and entrepreneurial talent Down Under.

But there's a rather large catch: participants in the invitation-only Premium Investment Visa scheme will need to invest A$15 million ($11.57 million) for the privilege of becoming an Aussie.

Launched earlier this month but not widely publicized, the scheme's investment requirements easily top the existing two-year-old Significant Investor Visa (SIV) program, which asks for a A$5 million commitment and has been especially popular with Chinese migrants.

Investment advisors who have been briefed on the plan by government officials expressed doubts about the wisdom of targeting Americans, with several telling Reuters the more obvious place to start was Australia's Asian neighbors.

After all, why would a successful U.S. entrepreneur want to invest a large chunk of cash in Australia - a country very similar to the United States, just further away from everything - in exchange for a passport that carries few additional benefits to their own?

"The U.S. has some problems that Australia doesn't have. It's got a lot more racial crimes, it's got a lot more gun-related crimes, but I don't think that is going to drive a whole bunch of ultra-rich Americans out of their country," said Bill Fuggle, a partner at law firm Baker & McKenzie who advises wealthy Chinese migrating to Australia.

The program, which does not have any residency requirement, allows would-be migrants to invest pretty much anywhere except housing. In comparison, Significant Investor Visa holders must put at least 40 percent of their A$5 million investments in risky small-cap and venture capital funds, and be an Australian resident for 40 days a year for four years.

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A passenger ferry navigates past the Sydney Opera House and the Central Business District on a sunny winter afternoon in Sydney July 31, 2013. REUTERS/Daniel Munoz