Queensland makes changes to Small Business Owner visa pathway

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The Queensland government has amended the Small Business Owner Visa Subclass 491 program. From 1 April this year, it has become costlier and tougher pathway to gain permanent residency in Australia.

Introduced in December 2019, Visa Subclass 491 has become a popular pathway for people seeking permanent residency in Queensland.

Before these changes were announced on 24 February, the total investment in the business was required to be a minimum of $100,000, including base price and enhancements.

However, this visa now requires a minimum spend of $100,000 on the business to be purchased (rather than total investment in the business).

The business should also have been in operation for two years instead of one, as per the earlier requirements.

Furthermore, sub-leases of franchises (such as petrol stations) and home-based businesses (such as courier and cleaning businesses), will not be considered fit cases for this visa.

A statement released by BSMQ says it will prioritise businesses that create jobs, support COVID recovery industries or are located in a regional area of the state.

The BSMQ statement adds, “Queensland nominates business migrants in industries that are in demand, for both provisional visas and permanent residency, which allows you to invest or set up a business in Queensland.”

According to BSMQ, these requirements are aimed at ensuring the program is sustainable in the long-term.

Businesses that have been purchased before 1 April 2021 are not subject to the new requirements.

The Small Business Owners visa is considered to be a pathway for entrepreneurs on ‘easy terms’ and is an “excellent opportunity for business migrants.”

An applicant in the Small Business Owners category is not required to buy a

business in the same occupation as that in his/her skill assessment, for example, an IT specialist can buy a cafe. However, the applicant must have full working rights in Australia and a skill assessment.

This pathway is available to onshore applicants only willing to buy and run a small business in regional Queensland.

To be eligible for Queensland nomination, you must meet both the Australian Department of Home Affairs (DHA) criteria and Business and Skilled Migration Queensland (BSMQ) criteria for your chosen visa category.

The HA criteria requires you to:

  • have a points test result of 65 or higher, inclusive of state nomination points
  • have a positive skills assessment in your nominated occupation
  • be under 45 years of age
  • meet the minimum English language requirement of COMPETENT, unless a higher level is required by your assessing authority
  • submit additional documents if invited to lodge an application for a subclass 491 visa.

BSMQ criteria requires you to:

  • have an occupation on DHA’s Legislative instrument
  • have prior business experience (operating the business successfully for at least 6 months meets this criteria), qualifications to successfully run the business, or previous family-run business experience.
  • be on a visa that allows full-time work and operation of the business for a minimum of 35 hours per week
  • have purchased an existing business in regional Queensland
  • invested a minimum of $100,000 in the business prior to submitting an EOI
  • have 100% ownership of the business (partnerships or joint ventures not eligible)
  • be trading in the business for 6 months prior to application
  • employ one (1) employee who is an Australian resident working a minimum of 20 hours per week. Please note: an Australian resident for 491-SBO purposes is an Australian permanent resident, Australian citizen or New Zealand citizen on a subclass 444 Special Category visa.
  • provide evidence of sufficient settlement funds.

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