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.
The program, which does not have any residency requirement, allows would-be migrants to invest pretty much anywhere except housing. In comparison, SIV 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.
The Australian Trade Commission (Austrade) revealed for the first time that the program would begin in the United States, Australia's top two-way investment market, before expanding to other major investment markets such as the United Kingdom.
Despite the hefty investment requirement, officials say it's not about the money. It's about attracting the best and brightest entrepreneurial talent from around the globe, and from America in particular."The United States … is a natural place to target the kinds of entrepreneurial skills and talents we need to cultivate further in Australia," Austrade told Reuters in an email.
U.S."innovators" would help to build links between Australians and "entrepreneurial hubs" such as Silicon Valley, Los Angeles and Boston, it added.