The business (investment) visa migration programme is aimed for individuals who are seeking to establish and manage or to invest in a business, or to innovate a product or service for commercialisation in Australia. Both temporary and permanent visa options are available under this programme, with both requiring you to be nominated by a State or Territory Government (or by a specified Government agency in certain cases). Another common feature is that you must first receive an invitation to apply for the visa before proceeding with your application. This is facilitated though the Expression of Interest (EOI) process, which you must submit to the Department as a first step, together with an application for nomination to the relevant State or Territory Government authority whom you are seeking to nominate you.

The first option which may be available to you is the Business innovation and Investment (Provisional) subclass 188 visa, a temporary residence visa which allows you to reside in Australia for a period of up to 4 years and 3 months, with options to extend the visa term, depending on the visa stream for which you apply. The subclass 188 visa also provides a pathway to permanent residence via the Business Innovation and Investment (Permanent) subclass 888 visa once you have held the temporary visa for between 1-4 years, provided specified requirements are met. The subclass 188 visa consists of 5 streams, and 2 additional ‘extension’ streams which extend the temporary visa term. Each stream sets out the prescribed requirements to qualify for the visa, which can include investing a specified minimum amount of funds in Australia or entering into a funding agreement with a third party to carry out your proposed business activity. You may also need to pass a points test to qualify. Under this test, you will be allocated a score based on such factors as your age, qualifications, the financial value of your assets (combined with your partner) and business turnover.

Alternatively, you may be eligible to apply for a Business Talent (Permanent) subclass 132 visa, a permanent residence visa allowing you to remain indefinitely in Australia. It comprises of 2 visa streams and requires you to demonstrate that you have the minimum required assets and turnover, or that you have secured a specified minimum amount of venture capital funding, to operate a new or existing business in Australia.

You can also apply to have eligible family members accompany you to Australia as visa dependents. They will need to meet visa grant requirements including health and character criteria.

Both visa subclasses also allow you and dependent visa holders to enter and depart Australia without restriction over the visa period.

The Government has recently announced the launch of a South Australian Entrepreneur Visa, a pilot programme which commenced on 21 November 2018. We will provide further information on our website in relation to this programme as further details are announced.

In this article, we provide an overview of the business visa migration programme, including the requirements you will need to meet to lodge a valid visa application and to qualify for visa grant, how to apply for an EOI and subsequently for the visa once an invitation is received, and the types of costs and expected application processing times you should be prepared for if you apply for a business visa. We also discuss the key requirements to be satisfied if you are seeking nomination approval in South Australia.

Business Innovation and Investment (Provisional) subclass 188 visa

The subclass 188 visa consists of the following streams:

  • Business Innovation
  • Business Innovation Extension
  • Investor
  • Significant Investor
  • Significant Investor Extension
  • Premium Investor
  • Entrepreneur

To lodge a valid application for a subclass 188 visa, the key requirements which must be met include the following:

  • You must have received an invitation to apply for the subclass 188 visa;
  • You must lodge your visa application within the period stated in the invitation, being 60 days;
  • You must be nominated by a State or Territory government agency (or Austrade, where applicable);
  • The application must be lodged online on the Department’s website via ImmiAccount;
  • The correct application fee must be paid (further information is provided later in this article); and
  • If the application is lodged from onshore, you must hold either a substantive visa, or a Bridging A, B or C visa. If your current visa is subject to ‘No Further Stay’ condition 8503, you will be unable to apply for the subclass 188 visa in Australia (exceptions may apply).

Note that additional requirements must be met if you are applying for the extension stream.

The requirements for subclass 188 visa grant will vary, depending on the stream for which you apply, as set out below.

Business Innovation stream

The following visa grant requirements apply to the Business Innovation stream:

  • You must have received an invitation to apply for the subclass 188 visa;
  • You must be aged under 55 years at the time the invitation is received (there is an exception where the nominating State or Territory government agency has determined that your proposed business or investment activity is of exceptional economic benefit to that State or Territory);
  • Achieve a score of at least 65 in the points test;
  • In 2 out of the last 4 financial years before you are invited to apply for the visa, you must have had an ownership interest in an established business with at least $500,000 in turnover in each of those years;
  • Have at least the following ownership interest in the business:
  • 51% if turnover is less than $400,000 per year
  • 30% if turnover is $400,000 or more per year
  • 10% if the business is a publicly listed company;
  • Have an overall successful business career;
  • Have a genuine desire to continuously own and maintain a management role in a business in Australia
  • Demonstrate that there is a need for you to reside in Australia to establish or operate your proposed business activity;
  • If your business provides professional, technical or trade services, you must have spent no more than 50% of your time providing those services (as opposed to general management of the business);
  • At the time of invitation, you and your partner must have combined total net business and personal assets of at least $800,000, which were lawfully acquired and available for legal transfer to Australia within two years of visa grant;
  • Your nominating state or Territory Government agency must be satisfied that the total net business and personal assets owned by you and your partner, apart from the assets referred to in the above point, are sufficient to allow you to settle in Australia;
  • You and your partner must not have been involved in unacceptable business or investment activities; and
  • Health and character requirements also apply.

Your proposed business activity must be a qualifying business, which means that it operates with the purpose of making a profit through the provision of goods and services.

You must have a realistic commitment to either establish a new qualifying business or participate in an existing one in Australia. This commitment extends to maintaining a substantial ownership interest in, and engaging in, daily management of the business. This would include making decisions affecting the overall direction and performance of the business such that it benefits the Australian economy.

Investor stream

The following visa grant requirements apply to the Investor stream:

  • You must have received an invitation to apply for the subclass 188 visa;
  • Be aged under 55 years at the time the invitation is received (there is an exception where the nominating State or Territory government agency has determined that your proposed business or investment activity is of exceptional economic benefit to that State or Territory);
  • Achieve a score of at least 65 in the points test;
  • Have high level management skills in relation to the eligible investment or qualifying business activity;
  • Have at least 3 years’ experience of direct involvement in managing one or more qualifying businesses or eligible investments
  • Have an overall successful record of eligible investment or qualifying business activity
  • Have a genuine and realistic commitment to continuing your business and investment activity in Australia after the original investment has matured
  • Have a genuine intention to reside in the State or Territory in which you have made a designated investment for at least 2 years
  • For at least one of the 5 financial years before you are invited to apply for the visa, have directly managed one of the following:
  • a qualifying business of which you owned at least 10%
  • eligible investments of which you owned at least $1,500,000
  • During the 2 financial years’ immediately before you are invited to apply for the visa, you must have business, investment and personal assets valued at least $2,250,000 (and which can be legally transferred to Australia within 2 years of the visa being granted)
  • Make a designated investment of at least $1,500,000 in a State or Territory Government security (using funds accumulated from qualifying businesses or eligible investments) and be prepared to hold that investment for at least 4 years from the date of issue in your nominating state or territory;
  • Have not been involved in unacceptable activities; and
  • Health and character requirements also apply.

Significant Investor stream

You will need to satisfy the following Immigration requirements for visa grant under the Significant Investor stream.

  • You must have received an invitation to apply for the subclass 188 visa;
  • Have a genuine and realistic commitment to:
  • reside in the State or Territory where you are seeking nomination
  • continue your business and investment activity in Australia once the term of your temporary subclass 188 visa concludes
  • live in Australia for at least 40 days per year (cumulatively) whilst you hold the subclass 188 visa;
  • The minimum value of your net assets (combined with your partner) is at least $5,000,000 and can be used to make the complying investment in Australia;
  • Neither you nor your partner have been involved in unacceptable business or investment activities;
  • You must make a complying significant investment of at least $5,000,000 over four years, as follows:
  • at least $500,000 in venture capital and growth private equity funds which invest in start-ups and small private companies
  • at least $1,500,000 in approved managed funds investing in emerging companies listed on the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX);
  • A balancing investment of at least $3,000,000 in managed funds that may invest in a range of assets, including ASX-listed companies, Australian corporate bonds or notes, annuities and commercial real estate; and
  • Health and character requirements also apply.

Premium Investor stream

You will need to satisfy the following Immigration requirements for visa grant under the Premium Investor stream.

  • You must have received an invitation to apply for the subclass 188 visa;
  • Approved nomination by Austrade on behalf of the Australian Government;
  • Invest at least $15,000,000 in a specified complying investment, including Australian securities exchange listed assets, real property in Australia (excluding residential property) or deferred annuities issued by Australian registered life companies;
  • Have a genuine and realistic commitment to continue your business and investment activity in Australia once your temporary visa ends;
  • The minimum value of your net assets (combined with your partner) is at least $15,000,000 and can be used to make the complying investment in Australia;
  • Neither you nor your partner have been involved in unacceptable business or investment activities; and
  • Health and character requirements also apply.

Entrepreneur stream

You will need to satisfy the following Immigration requirements for visa grant under the Entrepreneur stream.

  • You must have received an invitation to apply for the subclass 188 visa;
  • Be aged under 55 years at the time the invitation is received (note there is an exception where the nominating State or Territory government agency has determined that your proposed business or investment activity is of exceptional economic benefit to that State or Territory);
  • Have competent English (note there are specified requirements for achieving this English competency level);
  • Undertake or propose to undertake a complying entrepreneur activity in Australia and genuinely intend to continue this activity; and
  • Health and character requirements also apply.

A complying entrepreneur activity is an activity that relates to an innovative idea that will lead to the commercialisation of a product or service in Australia, or the development of an enterprise or business in Australia.

This activity must not relate to any of the following:

  • Residential real estate
  • Labour hire
  • Purchase of an existing enterprise or franchise in Australia

 

An activity is a complying entrepreneur activity if all of the following requirements are met:

  • You have one or more legally enforceable agreements to receive funding with a total of at least $200,000 from a Commonwealth Government agency, State or Territory, Government, Publicly Funded Research Organisation, Investor registered as an Australian Venture Capital Limited Partnership or Early State Venture Capital Limited Partnership, Specified Higher Education Provider;
  • Under the agreement, at least 10% of the funding must be payable within 12 months of the activity commencing in Australia;
  • Own at least a 30% interest in the entrepreneurial entity when you entered into the agreement; and
  • Have a business plan for the entrepreneurial entity addressing how your innovative idea will lead to the commercialisation of a product or service in Australia, or the development of an enterprise or business in Australia.

Pathway to permanent residence for subclass 188 visa holders

After you have held the temporary subclass 188 visa for a certain length of time, you may then be able to apply for permanent residency via the subclass 888 if you meet certain requirements. Depending on which stream you apply under will determine when you can apply for the permanent residence visa.

Business Talent subclass 132 visa

This visa is designed for applicants who seek to establish a new business or develop an existing business in Australia. The subclass 132 visa consists of the following streams:

  • Significant Business History stream; and
  • Venture Capital Entrepreneur stream.

There is no points test for this visa.

To lodge a valid application for a subclass 132 visa, the key requirements which you will need to satisfy include the following:

  • You must have received an invitation to apply for the subclass 132 visa;
  • You must lodge your visa application within the period stated in the invitation, being 60 days;
  • You must be nominated by a State or Territory government agency;
  • The application must be lodged online on the Department’s website via ImmiAccount;
  • The correct application fee must be paid (further information is provided later in this article); and
  • If the application is lodged from onshore, you must hold either a substantive visa, or a Bridging A, B or C visa. If your current visa is subject to ‘No Further Stay’ condition 8503, you will be unable to apply for the subclass 188 visa in Australia (exceptions may apply).

The requirements for subclass 132 visa grant will vary, depending on the stream for which you apply, as set out below.

Significant Business History stream

The following visa grant requirements apply to the Significant Business History stream (all values referred to below are for yourself and your partner combined):

  • Total net assets of at least $400,000 as the ownership interest in one or more qualifying businesses for least two of the last four financial years immediately before you are invited to apply for the visa. In cases where the qualifying business is a publicly listed company, you must own at least 10% of the total issued capital;
  • Net business and personal assets with a minimum value of $1,500,000 and which can be transferred to Australia within two years of visa grant;
  • Total annual turnover of at least $3,000,000 in at least one of your main businesses in two of the four financial years immediately before you are invited to apply for the visa;
  • The following minimum ownership interest:
  • 51% of a business with turnover of less than $400,000 per year
  • 30% of a business with turnover of more than $400,000 per year
  • 10% of a publicly listed company
  • An overall successful business career;
  • Not been involved in unacceptable business activities;
  • A genuine desire to own and manage a business in Australia; and
  • Health and character requirements also apply.

You must also be under 55 years of age however note there is an exception where the nominating State or Territory government agency has determined that your proposed business or investment activity is of exceptional economic benefit to that State or Territory.


Venture Capital Entrepreneur
stream

You will need to satisfy the following Immigration requirements for visa grant under the Venture Capital Entrepreneur stream.

  • You must have received at least $1,000,000 in funding from an Australian venture capital firm for the purpose of funding a start-up business, commercialising a product, or to develop or expand a business in Australia;
  • You must have entered into a formal agreement with the venture capital firm for the funding; and
  • Health and character requirements also apply.

The venture capital firm must be a member of the Australian Private Equity and Venture Capital Association Limited (AVCAL).

If your application is successful, you will need to fulfil a number of requirements following visa grant including:

  • Proceed to establish a business in Australia, or participate in an existing business in Australia if you apply under the Significant Business History stream
  • Meet the requirements of your venture capital agreement if you apply under the Venture Capital Entrepreneur stream.

If you apply under the Significant Business History stream, you will be required to report back to Immigration by completing a survey after 2 years holding the subclass 132 visa. As part of this requirement, will need to provide evidence to document that you have achieved specified state nomination requirements as declared when you submitted your application. This includes information about the type of business being conducted, the scale of the business and which of the Benefit to State requirements you have met. If you fail to do so, you risk having your visa revoked.

What is the process to apply for a business visa?

A business visa application comprises the following three steps:

  1. Submit an EOI online on the SkillSelect There is no fee to apply;
  2. At the same time as the EOI is submitted with the Department, apply for nomination approval to the relevant State or Territory Government agency; and
  3. Upon recept of an invitation to apply for a business visa, you can then proceed to lodge your visa application with Immigration. You can apply either in Australia or from offshore.

What are the nomination requirements for a business visa?

Requirements for nomination approval will vary for each State and Territory Government agency. If you are applying for the subclass 188 visa under the Premium Investor stream, a nomination by Austrade is required. The Significant Investor stream also includes an option for Austrade nomination approval.

How do you apply for SA State Nomination?

The application is to be submitted online with Immigration SA at the same time as you lodge your EOI. The current nomination application fees are listed below.

Business visa subclass

 

Current nomination application fee

 

Business innovation and Investment (Provisional) subclass 188 visa

 

$500
Business Innovation and Investment (Permanent) subclass 888 visa

 

$750
Business Talent (Permanent) subclass 132 visa

 

$750

 

This fee is payable at time of lodgement (a payment surcharge will also apply).

When submitting your EOI, ensure that you select South Australia as your nominating State.

As part of the SA Immigration nomination application process, you must attach all required documents to be considered as part of your nomination application. Ensure that you check the Immigration SA documentary requirements as they apply to your circumstances. Failing to provide all required information and documents (and in the correct format) can result in processing delays.

If your application for State nomination is successful, you will receive an invitation to apply for the relevant business visa subclass from the Department.

For further information about applying for nomination in South Australia, please refer to our article ‘How to get sponsored by South Australia for a business visa.’

What is the cost to apply for a business visa?

The current application lodgement fees payable when applying for a subclass 188 visa are set out in the table below.

Subclass 188 visa streamMain applicant – lodgement feeAdditional applicant aged 18 years and over – lodgement feeAdditional applicant aged under 18 years – lodgement fee

 

Business Innovation Extension

and

Significant Investor Extension

 

$600$300$150
Significant Investor$7,310

 

$3,655$1,830
Premium Investor

 

$8,770$4,385$2,195
Entrepreneur

 

$3,755$1,875$940
Business Innovation

and

Investor

 

$4,985$2,495$1,245

The current application lodgement fees payable when applying for a subclass 888 visa are set out in the table below.

Subclass 888 visa applicantApplication lodgement fees – Additional Applicants
Main applicant$2,405

 

Additional applicant aged 18 years and over$1,205

 

Additional applicant aged under 18 years$600

 

 

The current application lodgement fees payable when applying for a subclass 132 visa are set out in the table below.

Subclass 132 visa applicantApplication lodgement fees – Additional Applicants
Main applicant$7,290

 

Additional applicant aged 18 years and over$3,645

 

Additional applicant aged under 18 years$1,820

 

 

The above fees are subject to change, and you should therefore check the costs that will apply to your application before proceeding with lodgement.

Depending on your payment method, a payment surcharge may also apply.

An ‘additional applicant’ is any eligible family member who is applying as your visa dependent, for example, your partner or child.

The above listed fees are payable at lodgement (first instalment).

If any of your dependent family members who are aged at least 18 years of age at time of lodgement of your application are not able to demonstrate that they have a functional level of English, an additional fee (a second instalment) of $4,890 is payable before the visa can be granted. The applicable second instalment fee for the main applicant is $9,795.

Additional costs may also arise, depending on your personal situation, which can include:

  • Health examinations and specialist medical fees if issues are identified;
  • Police certificates (costs and requirements will be different, depending on the relevant country;
  • Official English translations for foreign language documents; and
  • Registered migration agent or immigration lawyer professional fees, if applicable.

How long will it take for an invitation for a business visa to be issued?

If you are seeking to apply for a business visa, the jurisdiction to which you apply will assess your application to determine whether you satisfy the specified criteria for nomination approval. The average processing time will depend on the business visa stream for which you apply, with current estimated times being between 1-4 weeks (subject to receipt of all your required documents; this process may be delayed if further information and/or documents are required).

Data on the number of nomination issued by each State and Territory for business visas are published by the Department monthly. Nominations issued during the period from 1 July 2018 to 30 November 2018 can be accessed here.

How long will it take for a decision to be made on your business visa application?

The current processing times for the subclass 188 visa are set out in the table below.

Subclass 188 visa stream

 

Current average processing times for 75-90% of applications lodged

 

Business Innovation

 

19-20 months
Business Innovation Extension

 

There are no standard processing times for this visa stream

 

Investor

 

Data unavailable due to low volume of applications

 

Significant Investor

 

Data unavailable due to low volume of applications

 

Significant Investor Extension

 

There are no standard processing times for this visa stream.

 

Premium Investor

 

Data unavailable due to low volume of applications

 

Entrepreneur

 

Processing times are not available for this visa stream.

 

 

Data on the current processing times for the subclass 888 visa are unavailable due to low volume of applications.

The current processing times for the subclass 132 visa are set out in the table below.

Subclass 132 visa stream

 

Current average processing times for 75-90% of applications lodged

 

Significant Business History

 

20-21 months
Venture Capital Entrepreneur

 

Data unavailable due to low volume of applications

 

 

These processing times are dependent on you providing all the required information and documents with your application. Any gaps in information or documents supplied, or where further clarification is required, will likely result in delays in processing your application.

 

In conclusion, we note that the above discussion provides an overview of the business visa migration programme, including the requirements you will need to meet to lodge a valid visa application and to qualify for visa grant, how to apply for an EOI and for subsequently for the visa once an invitation is received, and the types of costs and expected application processing times you should be prepared for if you apply for a business visa. We also discuss the key requirements to be satisfied if you are seeking nomination approval in South Australia.

Australia’s migrations laws are complex, and each case is different. We have also referred to several terms which are defined in the migration provisions (and whose meanings may differ from their ordinary usage). We recommend that you seek professional advice before you proceed with applying for any visa class, as being fully informed about the process and requirements that apply will give you the best chance of achieving a successful outcome on your application, and thus lessen the chance that it will be refused. A migration professional can help you to do this.

For up to date advice on applying for a business visa, including South Australian State Nomination, book your confidential consultation with a migration agent in Adelaide. PAX Migration Australia is a leading immigration advice service based in Adelaide.