Are you a talented business owner who is ready to invest in Australia? Investor visa could be your pathway to establish a business in Australia.

An investor visa provides a potential pathway to permanent residence in Australia for applicants who are willing to invest a prescribed minimum amount of funds in certain types of investments in Australia for a specified minimum period.

A Business Innovation and Investment (provisional) (subclass 188) visa under the Investor stream is a temporary residence visa which is available to eligible applicants who are willing to invest at least $1,500,000 in a nominating State or Territory government security in Australia, called a designated investment, for a minimum period of 4 years, and who intend to maintain that investment after it has matured. To be eligible for this visa, you must demonstrate that you have high level management skills, experience and an overall successful record in relation to prescribed types of investments or business activities. You must also pass a points test and have a genuine intention to live in your nominating State or Territory for at least 2 years from visa grant. Further requirements, including an age limit and assets test, also apply. The term of the subclass 188 visa under the Investor stream is 4 years and 3 months.

You may then qualify for permanent residence via the Business Innovation and Investment (Permanent) subclass 888 visa under the Investor stream. To be eligible for this visa, you must have held a designated investment for a continuous period of 4 years and have resided in Australia as a subclass 188 visa holder for at least 2 out of the 4 years immediately before lodging your permanent residence visa application. Additional requirements also apply.

Alternatively, if you are willing to invest at least $5,000,000 for a minimum period of 4 years into a complying significant investment in Australia, and either you or your spouse or de facto partner genuinely intends to reside in your nominating state or territory, the Significant Investor stream is a potential option to consider. Under this visa stream, you will have the option to apply to extend your visa for an additional 2 years (which you can apply for twice, meaning a potential total visa term of 8 years). There is no age limit or points test under this visa stream. Further requirements also apply. The term of the subclass 188 visa under the Significant Investor stream is 4 years and 3 months.

The Significant Investor stream of the subclass 188 visa also provides a pathway to permanent residence via the Business Innovation and Investment (Permanent) subclass 888 visa. To qualify, either you or your spouse or de facto partner (as a secondary applicant) must meet a residence requirement in Australia, and you must have held a complying significant investment continuously for at least 4 years during the term of the subclass 188 visa. Additional requirements also apply.

The subclass 188 visa works on an invitation basis, which means that you cannot simply apply for the visa. The first step in the application process is to lodge an Expression of Interest (EOI) with Immigration to express your interest in applying for the subclass 188 visa. Only upon receipt of an invitation from the Department can you then proceed to apply for the visa (within 60 days).

For each of the visa streams noted above, both for the temporary subclass 188 visa and the permanent subclass 888 visa, in addition to Immigration requirements outlined above, you must also satisfy nomination criteria as set by the State or Territory Government from whom you seek to receive nomination approval. This criteria will vary across each jurisdiction as is set independently by each authority. The nomination application must be lodged with the relevant State or Territory Government authority at the same time as you submit your EOI with Immigration. If you are considering applying for nomination approval in South Australia, please refer to out article titled ‘How to get sponsored by South Australia for a business visa.’ Be aware that you must also agree to abide by specified obligations imposed by your nominating state or territory government after the visa has been granted.

There is a third option available under the Premium Investor stream of the subclass 188 visa. This is a special category for applicants who are willing to invest $15,000,000 in a complying premium investment in Australia. It requires nomination by the Australian Trade and Investment Commission (Austrade) and is by invitation only (unsolicited applications are not accepted, meaning you cannot apply to Austrade for nomination under this visa stream).

For each of the above visa options, eligible family members of the primary applicant may apply as secondary applicants. To qualify, they must meet specified requirements, including health and character criteria.

For a comprehensive guide to Business Migration to Australia, please refer to our article, which can be accessed here. This article covers all 7 types of business and investor visas, with a discussion about 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. You can also complete our business visa eligibility test to determine potential visa options which may be available to you under the business visa migration programme.

In this article, we focus on the key aspects to be aware of if you are considering applying for a Business Innovation and Investment (provisional) (subclass 188) visa under the Investor or Significant Investor visa stream.

Investor stream

What is the age limit to qualify under the investor stream?

To qualify for a business visa under the investor stream, you must be aged under 55 at the time you receive an invitation to apply for the visa. There are exceptions in certain circumstances, namely, if you are proposing to establish or participate in a business or investment activity that your nominating State or Territory government agency has determined to be of exceptional economic benefit to the relevant State or Territory.

What is the points test?

To qualify for a business visa under the investor stream, you must pass a points test, which requires achieving at least 65 points. The points test comprises a series of attributes, and a sliding scale of points are awarded to each. The relevant categories that make up the points test are outlined below:

  • Age;
  • English language proficiency;
  • Educational qualifications;
  • Investor experience;
  • Financial assets; and
  • Business turnover.

You can calculate your pass mark result by completing our business visa assessment.

What is an overall successful record of eligible investment activity or qualifying business activity?

To be eligible for the investor visa under the investor stream, you must demonstrate that you have an overall successful record of at least 3 years of direct involvement in managing one or more qualifying business or eligible investments. You must also demonstrate a high level of management skill in relation to the eligible investment or qualifying business activity.

Management skills can be demonstrated by providing evidence showing that:

  • you have been responsible for several employees;
  • you have been responsible for strategic policy development, and thus had a significant impact and influence over key aspects of the business, including profit, production activities, (significant) expenditure and major staffing issues; and
  • your skills can be adapted successfully to the Australian business and/or investment management environment.

For the purposes of meeting this requirement, qualifying business and eligible investments are specifically defined terms in the migration provisions.

A qualifying business is defined as an enterprise which:

  • is operated for the purpose of making profit through the provision of goods, services or goods and services to the public (with the exception of rental property); and
  • is not operated primarily or substantially for the purpose of speculative or passive investment.

An eligible investment is defined as one which is owned for the purpose of producing a return in the form of income or capital gain and is not for personal use. It comprises an ownership interest in a business, cash on deposit, stocks or bonds, real estate and gold or silver bullion.

What is direct involvement in managing eligible investments or in a qualifying business?

A further visa grant requirement stipulates that you must also demonstrate that you have maintained direct involvement in managing eligible investments owned by you and/or your spouse or de facto partner, for at least 1 of the 5 financial years immediately before the application is made, with the total net value of the eligible investments being at least $1,500,000.

Alternatively, you must demonstrate that you have maintained direct involvement in managing a qualifying business owned by you and/or your spouse or de facto partner. The minimum ownership interest of you and/or your spouse or de facto partner in the qualifying business must also be at least 10% of the total value of the business.

What types of investments qualify as designated investments?

To qualify for visa grant under the investor stream, you must make a designated investment of at least $1,500,000 in your nominating State or Territory, either in your name, as the primary applicant, or together with your spouse or de facto partner.

Acceptable investments are prescribed government securities in primary stock, with a maturity of no less than 4 years and where repayment of principal is expressly guaranteed on maturity. These securities must also not expose the Commonwealth Government to any financial liability.

If you are seeking to invest in South Australia, South Australian Government Financing Authority Bonds issued by the South Australian Government Financing Authority are prescribed for this purpose.

How can the designated investments be funded?

The funds deposited in the designated investment must have been generated through a qualifying business or eligible investment activity undertaken by you, as the primary applicant, and/or your spouse or de facto partner. This can include personal assets, provided those assets were acquired through funds accumulated from these business or investment activities. The assets must also have been owned (not borrowed).

What is the assets test to qualify under the Investor stream?

In the 2 financial years immediately before the time of invitation to apply for the visa, the business and personal assets of you and/or your spouse or de facto partner, must have a net value of at least $2,250,000.

The value of net assets may include, but are not limited to, eligible investment assets (as discussed above in this article).

Significant Investor stream

To qualify for grant of a business visa under the significant investor stream, you do not need to pass a points test or meet an age requirement (as you do under the investor stream discussed above). For this visa stream, the key requirement for visa grant is to make a prescribed complying significant investment for a minimum specified term.

What types of investments qualify as a complying significant investment?

Under this visa stream, you must make a complying significant investment with a minimum value of $5,000,000 for a term of at least 4 years.

The investment must include an investment of at least $500,000 in one or more venture capital funds and at least $1,500,000 in emerging company investments. The remainder of the investment may be invested in one or more balancing investments, or in either of the two options noted above.

You must provide evidence that your investment complies with the prescribed requirements under the migration provisions. To comply with this requirement, you must lodge a Form 1413D Declaration in Relation to Complying Significant and Premium Investments with your application. The form should be completed by each relevant fund manager. Also be aware that you may be requested to provide additional supporting evidence if the documents provided are insufficient as evidence that you have made and hold the prescribed complying significant investments.

You must also submit a completed Form 1412 Deed of Acknowledgement, Undertaking and Release. This form must be signed by each applicant who is at least 18 years of age at time of lodgement of your application. The purpose of this form is to:

  • acknowledge that each signatory is responsible for their financial and legal affairs;
  • undertake not to bring an action of any kind against the Commonwealth or the Minister in a court or other body pursuant to form 1412; and
  • release the Commonwealth and the Minister from any liabilities in relation to any loss pursuant to form 1412.

In conclusion, we note that the above discussion provides an outline of the key aspects to be aware of if you are considering applying for a Business Innovation and Investment (provisional) (subclass 188) visa under the Investor or Significant Investor visa streams.

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 or investor 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.