SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia will this year review visa rules for wealthy would-be migrants, mostly Chinese, a government official said on Wednesday, as the country tightens requirements for granting residency rights.
He did not elaborate on the changes under review but hinted at the need to be proficient in English.
The announcement comes only days after Australia axed a temporary work visa popular with foreigners, replacing it with a tougher program, and raised the bar for attaining citizenship. [nL3N1HS23K]
Nearly 90 percent of applicants for the Significant Investor Visas are Chinese who need to bring in a minimum A$5 million ($3.75 million) to become eligible for Australian residency.
"The program has to be designed to meet the Australian economy's needs. You will have the opportunity to directly have a say in the review and your feedback will be considered by the department," Assistant Immigration Minister Alex Hawke said at a Chinese in Australia seminar in Sydney.
"...The expectation from the Australian community is that migrants have competent English," he said. "I don't think that is unfair."
Australia has seen the rise of nationalist, anti-immigration politics with far-right wing parties such as One Nation garnering strong public support, while the popularity of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's ruling center-right government has been languishing.
Many Chinese millionaires seek to move to Australia for a better lifestyle, although some may also seek to avoid a sweeping corruption crackdown in China that is prompting many wealthy Chinese to move their money.
Australia tightened SIV rules in 2015 requiring applicants to invest in small-cap and venture capital funds while barring them from direct property investment - a move that many immigration lawyers say has led to fading appeal for the visa.
Hawke emphasized the government was committed to the program, responding to a question about rumors in China that Australia was looking to scrap the visa.
Immigration is a sensitive issue in Australia which maintains a strict policy of not allowing asylum seekers who try to reach the country by boat to settle there, instead detaining them in controversial camps on Nauru and in Papua New Guinea.
Reporting by Swati Pandey; Editing by Nick Macfie