The Australian Government has announced that it will be slashing business and investment visa streams from the existing nine categories to four, to support Australia’s post-COVID-19 economic recovery.
The current Business Innovation and Investment Program (BIIP) includes three visas and nine streams for applicants who have a demonstrated history of success or talent in innovation, investment and business.
These streams will now be cut back to four – Business Innovation, Entrepreneur, Investor, and Significant Investor, as part of the Morrison Government’s latest visa reforms aimed at bolstering foreign investment critical to the country’s economic recovery, as it strives to shake off the impact of the pandemic.
Announcing the changes that will come into effect from 1 July 2021, Acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge on Thursday said the streamlining of the BIIP will maximise the economic contribution of these high-value investors to get the best possible outcome for Australians.
Our Migration Program for 2020-21 is clearly focussed on job creators, those with key skills and migrants who are going to invest in Australia’s future – Alan Tudge
Changes to visa eligibility requirements:
As part of the changes, the requirements for Business Innovation visa – which allows successful applicants to operate a new or existing business in Australia – will now be increased, making it tougher for new applicants to prove their ‘business acumen.’
Business Innovation visa holders will now be required to hold business assets of $1.25 million, up from $800,000 and need to have an annual turnover of $750,000 up from $500,000.
At the same time, some visas will have lesser thresholds, for instance, the $200,000 funding threshold currently required for Entrepreneur visa applicants will be scrapped from July next year.
In addition, the Premium Investor, Significant Business History and Venture Capital Entrepreneur visas will be closed to new applications from 1 July 2021. Applications already lodged for these visas will continue to be processed.
Under the existing program, the majority of BIIP migrants enter Australia on a provisional visa for a minimum of four years. After this period, they can apply for a permanent visa if they meet the stipulated visa requirements.
The changes will now allow provisional visas to be valid for five years giving applicants extra time to meet the residency requirements.
“Provisional visa holders in all four streams will be able to apply for permanent residence if they meet the requirements after three years, but the provisional visa will now be valid for five years, meaning they have additional time to meet the requirements,” as per the Minister’s statement.
‘Way to clear the backlog’
The BIIP has continued to fill its allocated Migration Program places. Places were set at 7,260 since 2014-15 but were reduced in 2019-20 to 6,862. They were, however, doubled to 13,500 earlier in October for the current program year, in line with the growing demand for the visas which was way more than the allocation under the previous programs.
Adelaide-based migration agent Mark Glazbrook said while the demand for these visas has gone up over the years, so has the backlog which was sitting at 23,000 applications as on 30 June 2019 which could have prompted the government to overhaul the system.
“There may be changes being made to limit the number of people who can apply so the Department can clear its backlog.
“Having said that, we really need to ensure as a country that if we are serious to rebuild post-COVID, that we are attracting the best type of business migrants who maximize returns and not just someone who is going to make a passive investment into Australia in return for permanent residency,” said Mr Glazbrook.
He added that while the overhaul will allow the government to reboot its business program, the changes, however, still do not reflect the needs of regional Australia.
“What we typically see is business migrants gravitating towards the big cities where there’s the biggest economic activity instead of regional or low population areas where there are great opportunities to buy or start up a new business.
“So, it’s a bit of a shame that even though they are restructuring the program, the government and immigration department has once again overlooked the opportunities for regional Australia,” said Mr Glazbrook.
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