Australia Just Granted Its First ‘Significant Investor’ Visa - Where Else Can Entrepreneurs Buy Legal Residency And How Much Does It Cost?

An unidentified Chinese toy maker and his family have become the first recipients of Australia’s five-month-old Significant Investor Visa, one of more than 170 applicants the country’s Department for Immigration and Citizenship has received since the visa became active in late November.

The visa targets wealthy investors with a “history of success in business and investment,” luring them with offers of legal residency and an expedited path to citizenship in exchange for direct capital injections.

In announcing the first visa under this program, Minister for Immigration and Citizenship Brendan O'Connor said Friday that, if all of the current applicants’ petitions were accepted, it would bring a combined $850 million to Australia in job-creating development projects.

Australia’s investor visa program has a number of requirements, including nomination by one of the country’s eight states or territories, a minimum of AU$5 million ($5.1 million) and a commitment to maintain that capital for at least four years.

The first recipient, who was not identified to protect his privacy, was nominated by the Victoria state government, whose capital is Melbourne.

When it comes to investor visas, Australia’s capital requirement is one of the highest, if not the highest, in the world. Here is a breakdown of other ideal emigration destinations and how much they require from foreign entrepreneurs seeking permanent residency and a path to citizenship for them and their immediate families. Some countries extend special status to citizens from certain partner countries. For example, Ireland grants special status to Swiss citizens.

United Kingdom: $1.55 million under the country’s Tier 1 Investor Visa program.  

Germany: The country has no separate visa for investors, but obtaining legal residency is easier for immigrants investing $655,000 in a business that employs at least five people.

Ireland: $655,000 to $1.3 million, depending on the type of project, under the Immigrant Investor Programme. However, the European sovereign debt crisis has made it easier to become a resident of European Union members Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Hungary. These countries now allow permanent residency to anyone who buys a home between $209,344 in Spain to $655,000 in Ireland. Once a legal resident becomes a citizen, he or she can then live and work anywhere in the EU.

Canada: $796,000 and a net worth of at least $1.6 million under the Immigrant Investor Program, which has been temporarily suspended as of July 1, 2012, in order to “focus on processing the applications we already have.” Quebec has a separate program that is not suspended and has the same fiscal requirements.

United States: Under the EB-5 Immigrant Investor visa, entrepreneurs can obtain legal residency for $1 million in a new or existing business or $500,000 in the same if it’s located in a rural or economically depressed area.

China: Not traditionally an emigration destination, China’s mainland implemented an investor visa program in 2004. Like the U.S., the cost of the five-year residency permit (which is routinely renewed indefinitely but gives the government authority to deny the status) varies from $500,000 in investment in the poorer western region of the country to $2 million in the coastal regions.

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