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Australia to fast-track residency for wealthy would-be immigrants

Australia will fast-track residency for people who can invest at least $5 million in the country, under new rules to be introduced by the Federal Government.

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Chinese tourists Ren Yajing (L) and Wu Chong (R) support a giant Australian dollar display at the Royal Australian Mint in Canberra on October 21, 2011. (TORSTEN BLACKWOOD/AFP/Getty Images)

Australia will fast-track residency for people who can invest at least $5 million in the country, under new rules to be introduced by the Federal Government.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the visa regulation overhaul, announced by the center-left Labor government on Friday, was designed to attract investors and entrepreneurs.

Normally, would-be immigrants are assessed according to age, qualifications and English language skills, the WSJ wrote. They must also reside in the country for a period of time before they qualify.

However, from July 1, those able to invest in state and territory bonds, managed funds, or directly into Australian companies will receive concessional treatment when applying for permanent residency.

Several countries, including the UK, Canada, Singapore and New Zealand already allow migration on the basis of investment.

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Australia's ABC News cited Immigration Minister Chris Bowen as saying that the changes would merely be improving on arrangements already in place.

"We want to attract people who want to invest in Australia," he said.

"I think we can do it better, I think we can attract people, particularly people who want to innovate, who want to take risks, who want to invest in areas which might have trouble attracting capital in Australia."

However, he stressed: "We want them to make a commitment to Australia financially, we also want them to make some commitment to Australia emotionally."

Billing the step as an "investment" visa, Bowen was quoted by the WSJ as saying: "The significant investor visa will provide a boost to our economy and help Australia to compete effectively for high net worth individuals seeking investment immigration."

Bowen said that Canberra expected to hand out 7,000 new investment visas through this fast track system.

Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young has questioned the government's plan.

"There are many people in Australia who have been waiting for a long long time to be able to bring out family members, and these are people who are going to contribute to Australia in the long term and really boost productivity," she said, the ABC reported.

"But rather than prioritizing those people, the government has picked the rich. I do think that's a little disappointing."

However, the Federal Opposition has backed the move, with immigration spokesman Scott Morrison saying it is important to bring in skilled migrants.

Bowen said he expected about 7,000 business investment visas to be granted as a result of the changes.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/business/120526/australia-immigration-economy-visas-millionaires