Becker’s Long Shadow: Close Call for Australian ‘Uniform’ Residence-By-Investment Scheme?

 

High-end investor Residence-by-investment (‘RBI’, in form of Significant- and Premium Investor Visa)[1]  have long been but one segment within the overall choice of Australian immigration options: Its main systemic concern is the integration and regulation of the large influx of global migrants, keeping the overall intake under political control, allowing the Minister for Immigration to set cut-off figures to suspend applications for a given period.[2]

 

It may have gone unnoticed that the Australian Government has until very recently, to be precise, until September 2016, considered -but not adopted- a shift of its entire visa system toward a singular charge-based regime for the right to permanent residence:[3] Its think tank, the Australian Productivity Commission, has issued the Migrant intake into Australia inquiry, which included a fresh consideration of the ‘Becker proposal’:[4] Its stated goals are to overcome fragmented, labyrinthine immigration law- and policy, as well as to raise revenue, by replacing traditional immigration venues such as skilled-based selection with a mercantile approach. In detail, Gary Becker, a Nobel laureate, has put forward the argument that a market-based system would attract skilled, productive, entrepreneurial persons, disproportionately young, most likely to become positive contributors to an economy.[5] Since the late 1980s, his suggestions are based on a ‘fair and equal’ approach to immigration, namely, the outright sale of the right to reside and become a citizen for a set fee equalling U.S. $50,000, payable by all migrants (but likely excepting humanitarian migration). Once implemented, such scheme may generate up to U.S. $50 Billion revenue per 1 Million migrants, and can be coupled with a repayable loan scheme for those without the economic means. Similar possibilities suggested include the auctioning off of citizenship.

 

What seems to make these venues differ to existing RBI-schemes that target high-net worth individuals (HNWI) as a small fraction of migrants are perhaps their generality and uniformity of application. The recent Australian inquiry would then indicate a currently dormant potential toward comparably low-cost, highly numbered direct or general ‘investment’ migration, in form of fees or charges. Whether the terminology of ‘investment migration’ is chosen correctly here, the following seems safe to say: Should a nation implement Becker, thus opening a charge-based approach to the entirety of its immigrants, the impact on the global market for residence and citizenship, as well for its industry, could be profound. If anything, a looming wave of change may function as a reminder that governments are able and willing to consider the broader population as a direct ‘investor’ basis.

 

 

Author: Michael B. Krakat IMCM
Solicitor Supreme Court of Queensland & High Court of Australia,
Investment Migration Practice, Stolar Law, and Australian Postgraduate Award Research Scholar, Bond University

 

 

[1] The Significant Investor Visa of 5 Million AUS$, as well as the Premium Investor Visa of 15 Million AUS$, see http://www.border.gov.au/Trav/Visa-1/188- (accessed 15. January 2017).

[2] Sections 84 and 85 of the Migration Act 1958 (Commonwealth), and see for instance in Vrachnas, Bagaric, Dimopoulos, Pathinayake, Migration and Refugee Law, Principles and Practice in Australia (3rd ed., 2012) Cambridge University Press, at 13-15, 26.

[3] See the Migrant Intake into Australia Issues Paper, at 27-35, see http://www.pc.gov.au/inquiries/completed/migrant-intake/issues (accessed 15. January 2017).

[4] The Productivity Commission’s report was sent to the Government for consideration on 13 April 2016, and was publicly released on 12 September 2016, http://www.pc.gov.au/inquiries/completed/migrant-intake#report; also see the Treasury and Immigration joint Media Release at http://jbh.ministers.treasury.gov.au/media-release/019-2015/ (accessed 15. January 2017).

[5] Gary Stanley Becker, A radical proposal to improve immigration policy (1987) Mimeo; Ibid., ‘Why not let immigrants pay for speedy entry?, at 58, in: Gary S. Becker & G. Nashat-Becker (eds.) The economics of life (1987) McGraw-Hill; Ibid., The Challenge of Immigration – A Radical Solution (2011), The Institute of Economic Affairs; Ibid., ‘An Open Door for Immigrants – the Auction’ (1992) October 14, The Wall Street Journal; Ibid. & Edward P. Lazear, ‘A market solution to immigration reform – Commentary (2013, March 1st), The Wall Street Journal; Ibid., Human capital : A theoretical and empirical analysis, with special reference to education (1964) National Bureau of Economic Research.