Business Migration Reforms Announced

By Mark Webster
28 May 2012

Significant changes to the business migration program have been announced last week, and will apply from 1 July 2012.

The Business Skills stream will be renamed the Business Innovation and Investment Program.

New visa subclasses will be introduced which have higher asset and business turnover requirements than the current system. The new subclasses require all applicants to apply via the SkillSelect system, and to be sponsored by State or Territory governments.

Overview of Business Migration

The business migration program is for business owners and investors, and is in general a 2-stage process. The first stage is to obtain a 4-year provisional business visa. Once business operations have been established in Australia, provisional visa holders can obtain a permanent visa providing they meet residence and business criteria.

The only exception to the 2-stage process is for very high net worth individuals who apply for a business talent subclass 132 visa - this type of visa generally requires the visa applicant to make a significant investment in an Australian business.

SkillSelect from 1 July 2012

From 1 July 2012, the business migration program will be part of the SkillSelect system. SkillSelect requires applicants to first lodge an "Expression of Interest" or EOI. The Department of Immigration will then assess the EOIs which have been submitted and invite the best applicants to make a visa application.

As a result, from 1 July 2012 people will not be able to apply directly for business migration, they must first make an EOI and receive an invitation from the Department of Immigration.

State Nomination

State nomination will be required for all of the new business migration subclasses. We understand that state and territory governments will have a limit on the number of business migrants they can nominate under this program as part of their State Migration Plans.

New Visa Subclasses

There will be 3 business migration subclasses from 1 July 2012:
  • Business Talent (Subclass 132) - a direct pathway to permanent residence for high level business people
  • Provisional Business Innovation and Investment (Subclass 188) - a 4-year provisional visa
  • Permanent Business Innovation and Investment (Subclass 888) - the permanent stage of the provisional subclass 188 visa
We have produced a summary of the new business innovation and investment visa subclasses on our site.

Innovation Points Test

A new innovation points test has been created for the provisional subclass 188 visa which gives points for:
  • Age
  • English Language Ability
  • Qualifications
  • Experience in Business or Investment
  • Net Personal Assets
  • Business Turnover
  • Special Endorsement by State/Territory Government

Currently, applicants for provisional business visas do not need to meet a points test. As SkillSelect will give highest priority to people with the highest points score, the new system will seek to advantage applicants who are more innovative and more likely to succeed in business in Australia.

Transitional Arrangements

People currently on provisional business visas (ie subclasses 160-165) will still be able to apply for permanent residence through the current system (ie through subclass 890-893). The same applies to anyone who applies for the current subclasses prior to 1 July 2012 - they will be assessed under the current visa criteria.

In particular, it appears that provisional business visa holders will not need to go through SkillSelect for their permanent stage.

Though not specifically mentioned, it is quite possible that the Established Business in Australia Subclass 845 visa and the Regional Established Business in Australia Subclass 846 visa may be abolished in the near future.

Conclusion

By reforming the business skills program, the Australian government is seeking to raise the bar for business migration. In particular, personal net assets and business turnover will be higher, and applicants will receive points for showing a higher degree of innovation.

Requiring applicants to go through SkillSelect will ensure that only the most highly qualified applicants will be able to make applications for business migration.

Feel free to contact us if you would like more information on how the changes to business migration affect you.

Sources

Immigration Business Skills Reform Page

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