O'Neil eyes scrapping investor visa scheme

·2-min read

A program for deep-pocketed international investors to buy their way into Australia could be axed under a review of the nation's migration system.

The significant investor visa allows skilled migrants to have their visa applications fast-tracked if they invest $5 million in Australia.

The program was introduced by the Gillard government in 2012 but federal Home Affairs Minister Clare O'Neil said it has become a problem for the immigration system.

"Most Australians would be pretty offended by the idea we've got a visa category here where effectively you can buy your way into the country," she told Sky News in an interview broadcast on Sunday.

Successful applicants, who must be invited to apply and have to meet certain criteria, generally end up being a drain on Australia's budget as most arrive to settle down and retire, Ms O'Neil said.

The scheme's numbers were roughly halved for this financial year under immigration changes stemming from this month's jobs and skills summit in Canberra.

But Ms O'Neil indicated it could be scrapped altogether following the immigration system review, which is due to report by the end of February next year.

"It's a visa program that I think isn't adding value to the country and it's something that we will be looking at," she said.

"At the moment, I can't see a lot of reasons to maintain it as part of our program."

At the summit, the Albanese government agreed to a one-off lift of Australia's skilled migration cap from 160,000 to 195,000 to ease the nation's worker shortage.

Australia's immigration department has been asked to prioritise processing offshore visas over those from people already in the country.

"It's not going to help our nurses in this country who are overworked at the moment to have a nurse on a temporary visa come onto a permanent one," Ms O'Neil said.

The federal government has not considered scrapping the genuine temporary entry requirement but Ms O'Neil flagged the visa system would be simplified.

"We're going to do a very extensive review of that system and really question whether this very complex visa set of categories ... is the right way to run the immigration system," she said.

"And I'll give you a clue, it's absolutely not."

Ms O'Neil also vowed to clear a backlog of more than 100,000 temporary visa holders, many of whom are asylum seekers and refugees, but admits it could take years.