Wanted in Australia: Chinese executives to fill a gap

Australia has launched a program to attract a small number of special immigrants: successful businessmen, some of them millionaires.

The new program reflects a gradual shift in Australia's immigration policy that could slowly alter the country's ethnic makeup. The appeal to Asians is an especially significant move away from earlier immigration policies of this former colony, whose British derived people and culture have been fairly homogeneous.

Entry is increasingly difficult for unskilled or uneducated applicants such as those who came from southern Europe. Australia appears to be seeking skilled overseas Chinese businessmen and other qualified Asians. Immigrants are generally admitted if they have needed job skills, if they have close relatives in Australia or if they are refugees.

Asia is becoming a more important source of newcomers as immigrants from Europe become a smaller percentage.

Australia is highly selective: Even among Indo-Chinese refugees it prefers the educated or those with employment training. ''We're always swamped with more eligible people than we can accept,'' says an immigration spokesman in Canberra.

Nevertheless, Australia has begun an advertising program to attract a special category of immigrant. So far the program has been advertised only in Southeast Asia. But officials say a limited advertising campaign will also be conducted in Europe, North America, and South America.

A spokesman said the program wasn't designed merely to lure to Australia Chinese millionaires from Hong Kong and other Asian centers, where such businessmen may be worried about the direction future political change may take.

''But,'' says a spokesman, ''if we get some nervous Chinese millionaires who meet our requirements, that's fine.''

The business immigrants will have to meet normal requirements of reasonable health and good character. Australia wants top business executives with a proven track record who are interested in setting up operations in Australia.

But the guidelines are restrictive. The immigrants accepted under what is called the Business Migration Program won't be allowed just to bring substantial capital with them and establish a business.

''We aren't saying a property developer can buy himself a place in Australia by offering, say, to launch a computer business,'' says a senior Immigration Department official. The person will have to be prepared to be personally involved in the same business that has already brought him success.

The aim of the program is to find people who will establish or expand industries that do not already thrive in Australia. It aims for the introduction of new technologies and creation of new export markets.

No minimum investment has been specified because, says an immigration official, ''A person may have a brilliant idea but no capital. Naturally we'd take him or her and try to arrange all the assistance possible.''

But, a department spokesman acknowledges, most of the successful applicants will inevitably be wealthy.

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.