Australia Evaluates Proposed $50,000 Entry Fee For Immigrants To Gain Citizenship

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Immigration Officer Scott Morrison
Australia's Minister of Immigration and Border Protection Scott Morrison speaks at a news conference during his working visit to Malaysia, at the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency office in Putrajaya February 5, 2014. Reuters/Samsul Said

Australia is considering plans to grant citizenship to migrants who are willing to pay as much as $50,000. The Australian government would sell the right to move to the country without the need for family connections or skills.

Under the radical proposals being evaluated by the Productivity Commision, the use of “entry fees” would become the main determinant for non-citizens to be granted entry to Australia. The government’s independent think tank believes the scheme would help Australia reduce the budget deficit by generating billions of dollars in extra revenue. It would also lower the number of public servants taking care of the country’s immigration system.

However, the proposals have alarmed unions and business groups who believe the government should deal with skills shortages as the main focus of Australia’s immigration policy, reports SMH. Ethnic community groups have expressed their opposition to any effort that would prevent immigrants with limited financial resources to be reunited with their families.

According to the issues paper of the Productivity Commission, released on May 1, some radical proposed changes have the potential to change the country's immigration policy. Some of the strategies mentioned were the introduction of an immigration lottery and the development of a payments system to allow immigrants to pay for their entry fees.

Australia currently issues permanent residency visas to migrants with particular skills, those with families living in the country and others who meet special eligibility criteria. In its issues paper, the Productivity Commission said explores two options to introduce as the basis for the immigration fee. It suggested that the government can set the price on the size of the intake based on demand or set a cap on the intake and allow demand to influence the entry price.

The commission noted that the government can choose to allow a capped number of places to be allocated via a tender process. The paper suggested that Australia could follow the U.S. since its immigration program is less skills-focused. The U.S. allocates up to 50,000 places every year in a “diverse lottery.” Applications from countries with low rates of immigration will be considered.

To aid immigrants who cannot pay the entry fee upfront, the commission said they would be allowed to borrow against future expected earnings or a loans program. Asylum seekers who are granted refugee status will not be required to pay the fee.

Senator David Leyonhjelm said an immigration system with corresponding fees has gained the support of Nobel Prize-winning economist Gary Becker. The senator recommended that $50,000 should be the entry fee to Australia. He believes the fees would make a “substantial contribution” to the budget and possibly lead to lower taxes. 

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