Migrants wanting to come to Australia could be chosen based on how much they can pay rather than what skills they offer under a proposal the Productivity Commission is considering.

The government has asked the commission to hold a year-long review of Australia’s migrant intake, with special examination of the effects of making entry fees the primary basis for selecting migrants.

Such a scheme would help the government by brining in tens of billions of dollars in extra revenue. In the past year alone, immigration raised more than $1.7 billion from fees and fines, the commission says.

The Australian migration program currently issues permanent residency visas to people with particular skills, people with families already in Australia and to people who meet special eligibility criteria.

The Productivity Commission issues paper on Australia’s migrant intake, released on Friday, put forth two options to introduce an immigration fee.

The first option includes setting a price, with the size of the intake dictated by demand. The second involves setting a cap on the intake and allowing demand to determine the price of entry.

The commission also noted middle ground options, like allowing a capped number of places to be allocated via a tender process, reports Fairfax Media.

The issues paper proposed that a loans program could be used to help hopeful immigrants who were unable to pay a fee upfront. Refugees would be exempt from paying the fee.

The commission acknowledged that a price-based system could change the composition of those who apply to migrate to Australia and also lead to a loss of government control over Australia’s immigrant intake.

The inquiry was established by the government as part of a deal to secure Liberal Democrat Senator David Leyonhjelm’s support for the reintroduction of temporary protection visas for asylum seekers.

Senator Leyonhjelm suggested $50,0000 as the possible entry fee to Australia.

“This would make a substantial financial contribution to the Australian budget and I hope that would lead to lower taxes,” he told Fairfax Media.

He added the government could choose to waive the fee for particular professions and that businesses needing skilled migrants could pay fees as well.

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