Australia offers a variety of options for interested immigrants under their Business Innovation and Investment visa (Subclass 188). Separated into two stages—first provisional and then permanent—this visa allows investors willing to make a significant contribution to the Australian economy to move to, live and work in the country. The visa is divided into four streams: Business Innovation stream, Investor stream, Significant Investor stream and Premium Investor stream. In order to qualify, interested investors can develop and manage a business in Australia, invest at least AUD 1.5 million, invest at least AUD 5 million (Significant Investor Visa) or invest at least AUD 15 million (Premium Investor Visa). The various investment levels require different levels of business experience and offer different benefits. All investors must be nominated by an Australian state, territory or the Australian Trade Commission (Austrade), depending on their application category.
This visa initially grants investors temporary residence, allows them to run a business or make investments, travel in and out of the country and bring their qualifying family members to Australia. The provisional visa is valid for four years and three months, and investors can apply for permanent residency at various points throughout that duration depending on their investment stream. Provisional visas may also be extended depending on the investment stream.
History and Statistics
The Business Innovation and Investor Visa was originally established in order to encourage investment in the Australian economy and bring in high-net worth residents. The Significant Investor option was initiated in 2012, and the Premium Investor option—AUD 15 million investment—was launched in 2015. The launch of the premium option accompanied additional reforms to the Significant Investor stream, restricting the types of qualifying investments and encouraging investments in innovating sectors, including venture capital. The reforms were based partly on the concern that residential investments were driving up property prices in Australia and that the program was not bringing enough significant economic benefit to the country.
The program is administered by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP). As of November 30, 2015, Australia has granted 1,125 Significant Investor visas (SIV), in addition to visas in other streams. Over the life of the program, over 90 percent of SIVs have been granted to nationals of China or Hong Kong.
Eligibility and Requirements
The streams under the Business Innovation and Investment visa are intended for investors aged 55 or younger with significant net worth and/or some degree of business experience, depending on the category. In order to apply for the program in any stream, investors must be nominated by an Australian state or territory or Austrade and must meet health and character requirements. Each stream has varying additional eligibility measures and requirements. For investors over the age of 55, a separate visa is available that offers a temporary residency (up to four years) but does not lead to permanent residency.
Business innovation stream
In order to apply for the visa under the business innovation stream, investors must develop a qualifying business in Australia and:
- Be under the age of 55,
- Score a total of 65 points on the immigration points test,
- Have a successful business career, including previous ownership interest in a business in the preceding four years,
- Have at least AUD 800,000 in legally acquired business or personal assets able to be transferred to Australia within two years of visa approval, and
- Have a significant ownership interest in the nominated business upon which their application is based.
That interest is defined as follows:
- “51 percent, if the business has a turnover of less than AUD 400,000 per year
- 30 percent, if the business has a turnover of AUD 400,000 or more per year
- 10 percent, if the business is a publically listed company”
The nominating state may waive the age requirement if they determine that the nominated business is of significant economic interest.
The general investor stream requires an investment of at least AUD 1.5 million in government securities in an Australian state or territory, to be maintained for at least four years. In addition to the investment requirement, applicants must also:
- Be under the age of 55,
- Score a total of 65 points on the immigration points test,
- Demonstrate a successful business or investment record,
- Have management skills related to the qualifying investment, including direct management experience with a business or investment,
- Be committed to maintaining investment activity as an Australian resident, and
- Intend to reside in the state/territory of investment for at least two years
Additionally, investors need to have at least AUD 2.5 million in legally acquired assets able to be transferred to Australia within two years of visa approval. All proceeds from investment activities in Australia are subject to taxation under Australian law.
Significant Investor stream
The Significant Investor stream requires an investment of at least AUD 5 million spread out over qualifying categories, while removing many of the business requirements on the applicant. The investment must be maintained for four years. The qualifying investment must be divided as follows:
- “AUD 500,000 or more in venture capital and growth private equity funds […],
- At least AUD 1.5 million in approved managed funds investing in emerging companies listed on the Australian Stock Exchange,
- A ‘balancing investment’ of at least AUD 3 million 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”
In addition to investment requirements, investors should be committed to residing in the state or territory of their investment and continuing their investment activity after progressing from the provisional visa. Investors must reside in Australia at least 40 days per year while holding a provisional visa. All proceeds from investment activities in Australia are subject to taxation under Australian law.
Premium Investor stream
Like the Significant Investor stream, the Premium Investor stream relies on a large investment rather than business skills of the applicant. In order to qualify under this stream, investors must be nominated by Austrade, on behalf of the Australian government. However, this category is highly selective and unsolicited applications or expressions of interest are not accepted. If invited by the government to apply, this stream requires and investment of at least AUD 15 million across categories including government or corporate bonds, deferred annuities, philanthropic contributions and real property (excluding residential), among others.
There is no residency requirement for visa-holders and Premium Investors can apply for permanent residency in one year. All proceeds from investment activities in Australia are subject to taxation under Australian law.
Application and Renewal
Investors must first submit an Expression of Interest (EOI) online, indicating the stream in which they wish to apply and which state or territory they are seeking nomination from. Each state or territory may require different information from the applicant. The indicated entity will then review the applicant’s information and issue invitations to qualified candidates. Premium Investors are not able to file EOIs and must be nominated by Austrade, on behalf of the Australian government, directly.
If nominated to apply, investors will receive an invitation letter with application instructions. Applicants will need to provide various documents depending on their application stream, but all applicants must submit identity documents, health and character documents and evidence of English language ability. Applicants can apply from within or outside of Australia, by submitting their application online and sending supporting documents to the office indicated in their invitation letter.
After submitting their application, investors can expect to wait about nine months to receive a decision. Before being granted a visa, applicants will be asked in writing to make their qualifying investment and will be instructed on how to do so and how to document the investment.
Business Innovation and Investment visas are initially valid for four years and three months. Visas in the Business Innovation stream may be renewed one time for an additional two years to allow more time to meet program requirements and the Significant Investor visa can be renewed twice for two-year periods, for the same reason. Applicants under the Investor stream or Premium Investor stream cannot apply to renew their provisional visa.
Investors are able to apply for a permanent visa at various points depending on their investment stream, provided they have met the investment requirements of their stream. Business Innovation visa holders can apply for permanent residency if they have held their temporary visa for at least one year in the two years prior to applying for permanent residency, and if they have met certain business requirements (described in detail on the DIBP website). Investor visa holders can apply after four years, and Significant Investors can similarly apply after four years but must also meet the residency requirements described above. Premium Investors can apply after one year of holding the temporary visa.
Applicants can estimate the cost of their visa application using the calculator on Australia’s Department of Immigration and Border Protection website.
Applicants may choose to prepare the application and documentation on their own, or may find that it is easier to work with an Australian professional to guide them. Applicants are strongly recommended to seek out a qualified attorney familiar with the program prior to making any investments. Furthermore, various full-service companies exist that can educate investors about the program, direct them to attorneys and advisors and guide them through the application process.
 Smyth, Jamie. "Rule Change Hits Demand for Australian Investor Visas." Financial Times. September 15, 2015. Accessed January 4, 2016. http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/4e1c1192-57a4-11e5-a28b-50226830d644.html#axzz3vud9qCdF.
 "Significant Investor Visa Statistics." Department of Immigration and Border Protection. Accessed January 4, 2016. https://www.border.gov.au/about/reports-publications/research-statistics/statistics/work-in-australia/significant-investor-visa-statistics.
 Unless otherwise noted, all program information taken from "Business Innovation and Investment (Provisional) Visa (subclass 188)." Department of Immigration and Border Protection. Accessed January 4, 2016. https://www.border.gov.au/Trav/Visa-1/188-.
 See note 4.
 See note 4.
 "Significant and Premium Investor Visa Programmes." Austrade. Accessed January 4, 2016. http://www.austrade.gov.au/international/invest/guide-to-investing/coming-to-australia/significant-and-premium-investor-programmes/austrades-role.
 "Premium Investor Visa." McCollough.com. July 21, 2015. Accessed January 4, 2016. http://www.mccullough.com.au/icms_docs/222488_Premium_Investor_Visa.pdf.