Important changes to Australia’s business and investment visas

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On December 17, 2020, the Australian government announced that it will implement reforms to the Business & Investment Visa Programme (BIIP) to maximize benefits for the country’s economy. The BIIP will be simplified from nine to four streams.

According to the Australian Financial Review, the Australian government is also expected to announce changes soon to the Investor visa (188B).  The investment amount required for this visa will increase from $ 1.5 million to $ 2.5 million, and instead of investing in government bonds, it is expected that investors will invest in small and medium medium businesses that are in need of capital.

 Australia’s Business Innovation and Investment program (BIIP)

The BIIP currently has 9 visa categories.

Provisional Visa (188)

  • Business Innovation Visa (188A)
  • Business Innovation Extension
  • Investor Visa (188B)
  • Significant Investor Visa (188C)
  • Significant Investor Extension
  • Premium Investor Visa (188D)
  • Entrepreneur Visa (188E)

Permanent Visa (132)

  • Significant Business History (132A)
  • Venture Capital Entrepreneur (132B)

The majority of BIIP migrants enter Australia on a provisional visa for a minimum of four years.

After this period they can apply for a permanent visa if they can demonstrate they have fulfilled the requirements. An extension of the provisional period is available for two streams.

The top ten nationalities for BIIP grants are: China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Iran, Hong Kong, South Africa, India, Bangladesh, United Kingdom and Taiwan.

Review of the BIIP

On 19 December 2019, Minister Tudge announced a review of the Business Innovation and Investment program (BIIP), through a public consultation process, with a view to getting a better deal for Australia. Submissions from stakeholders were sought by the Department of Home Affairs.

Changes to the BIIP announced

Even though the consultation concluded on February 14, 2020, it was not until December 2020 that the Australian government announced that it would implement the reforms of the BIIP program.

The new changes are in line with feedback received from stakeholders during the evaluation process of the Home Office’s BIIP program.

Key changes: (in effect from 1 July 2021) 

  1. The program will be simplified from nine to four visa streams: Business Innovation (188A), Entrepreneur (188E), Investor (188B), and Significant Investor (188C). There will be a clear pathway to permanent residency for each category.
  2. The Premium Investor, Significant Business History (132A) and Venture Capital Entrepreneur (132B) visas will be closed to new applications from 1 July 2021. Applications already lodged for these visas will still be processed.
  3. Provisional visa holders in all four streams will be able to apply for permanent residence if they meet the requirements after three years, but the provisional visa will now be valid for five years, meaning they have additional time to meet the requirements.
  4. Business Innovation and Significant Investor visa holders will also continue to be able to extend their provisional visas if they do not meet the business and residence thresholds in the required timeframe.
  5.        Business Innovation provisional visa holders can apply for a two-year extension provided they demonstrate a realistic commitment to continuing to manage a business that has been actively operating in Australia for the previous two years.
  6.       Significant Investor provisional visa holders can apply for two, two-year extensions provided they continue to maintain their complying significant investment
  7. The requirements for Business Innovation visa holders will be increased to ensure the program is attracting migrants with proven business skills. Business Innovation visa holders will be required to hold business assets of $1.25 million (up from $800,000) and have an annual turnover of $750,000 (up from $500,000) to prove their business acumen. These settings have not changed since 2012 when the program was first introduced.
  8. The $200,000 funding threshold required for Entrepreneur visa applicants will be scrapped. Applicants will need to be endorsed by a State or Territory government. This follows the successful Supporting Innovation in South Australia pilot program and will give states and territories an additional way to attract international entrepreneurs.

Proposed changes to the Investor Visa (188B)

The Australian Financial Review recently reported that the federal government is set to make changes to the Investor Visa will see the investment requirement lift from $1.5 million to $2.5 million, with some potential rule changes around reducing the waiting times to gain access to that permanent residency.

The new rules likely to be announced within coming weeks.

The government’s final changes to the investment visas are expected to direct much-needed capital into small- to medium-sized businesses by increasing allocations for investor visas into these businesses instead of government bonds, which is the current requirement.

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