You will need to apply for a visa if you want to live and invest in Australia, whether in businesses or designated investments. For the majority of investors and entrepreneurs, the usual process is to apply for a Business Innovation and Investment (Provisional) Visa (Subclass 188). This article will explain whether the investor visa is the right choice for you and step you through the key requirements and application process.

Business Innovation and Investment (Provisional) Visa

The subclass 188 visa lasts for four years and you can use it as a pathway to a permanent visa at a later stage.

As with all visa applications, you (and all members of your family group) must be of good health and character. Therefore, if you or anyone in your family group have a significant health problem or criminal history, you will need to disclose it.

Process

It is a three-step process to apply for the 188 visa:

  1. submit an expression of interest to the Department of Home Affairs.
  2. receive an invitation by a state or territory government to apply. In some instances, you may also receive state nomination or employer sponsorship; and
  3. apply for the visa within 60 days of receiving the invitation.

The 188 visa is split into five different subclasses, each with different financial and business requirements.

1. 188A: Business Innovation Stream

This stream of the investor visa is available to people with a demonstrated history of business management who want to:

  • establish a new business in Australia; or
  • assist in the development and running of an existing business in Australia.

Key Requirements

You must usually be under 55-years-old, although this can be waived by the nominated state or territory if your proposed business will be of exceptional economic benefit to the state or territory. You must score at least 65 on the points test, which is a standard test applied to many visa applicants that takes into account:

  • English language skills;
  • qualifications; and
  • work experience.  

As part of the nomination application, you will also need to submit a proposal that demonstrates the business you seek to engage in. Most commercial activities will count towards this requirement, however, there are certain exceptions, including property development on a small scale.

Additionally, you must demonstrate not only that you will have an ongoing role in the day to day running of the business, but that the business will contribute to the economy of the nominated state or territory, for example, by creating jobs.

This visa is aimed at people in management roles. You need to not only demonstrate that you have had an overall successful business career, but you must also own a stake of between 10% and 51% of the proposed business. The exact amount will vary depending on:

  • the size of the company;
  • the company’s annual turnover; and
  • whether it is a publicly listed company.

You and your partner need to have combined total assets of at least AUD$800,000. In addition, for two of the four years preceding the nomination, your business turnover must have been at least AUD$500,000.

There are three different streams of the 188 visa which target investors, rather than people who are involved in the management of businesses:

  • 188B stream;
  • 188C stream; and
  • 188D stream.

2. 188B: Investor Stream

This stream requires less financial investment than other investor visas under the subclass 188. However, it does require demonstrated business experience and a commitment to ongoing business development in Australia.

Key Requirements

Similarly to the 188A, you must be under 55-years-old (although this may be waived) and score at least 65 on the points test.

You must make an investment of at least AUD$1.5 million in a state or territory’s government security. Additionally, you and your partner must have combined assets of at least AUD$2.25 million for two years preceding the application.

Alongside the financial requirement, you must also have a high level of management skill in relation to the investment.

If you wish to make an investment in the hospitality industry, for example, you must demonstrate that you have management skill in the hospitality industry or that you have managed investments in similar areas.  

You also need to demonstrate an overall successful investment history and portfolio.

Nationals of certain countries can be excluded from buying government bonds, including US nationals and residents and countries that the Australian government has sanctions over. Please get in touch if you are unsure whether you are eligible to apply for this visa.

3. 188C: Significant Investor Stream

The 188C and 188D streams are much less demanding in terms of demonstrated history and experience in management and investment. Unlike the other streams, they:

  • have no age requirement;
  • do not require functional English; and
  • are not points-tested.

On the other hand, they do require a greater financial contribution.

Key Requirements

You must invest at least AUD$5 million into complying funds. You must invest:

  • at least $500,000 in venture capital and growth private equity funds that invest in small companies and startups;
  • at least $1.5 million in managed funds investing in emerging companies that are listed on the Australian Stock Exchange; and
  • the remaining $3 million in other managed funds that may invest in broader activities.

Active investments in residential real estate are not included. However, passive real estate investment is considered if it is incidental to an eligible investment. You should speak with a fund manager to determine which investments to make.

4. 188D: Premium Investor Stream

Similar to the 188C stream, this visa has less stringent requirements, for a higher price. The 188D is not regulated by the states and territories, but is nominated by Austrade on behalf of the Australian government.

To apply for this visa, you will need to invest at least AUD$15 million into complying investments. The investments are a lot less restrictive than those for the 188C, but there is also a strict prohibition on residential property.

5. 188E: Entrepreneur Stream

The 188 stream of the 188 investment visa attracts people with innovative business ideas who have received significant funding.

For example, developers and inventors who have financial backing, rather than people who are seeking to run a regular business, even if they do have adequate funding and capital.

Key Requirements

You will need to be under 55-years-old to apply, although a state or territory government can waive this if the entrepreneurial activity will be of significant economic benefit.

You will need to demonstrate that your entrepreneurial activity relates to an innovative idea that will lead to the development of a product or service in Australia or a new business in Australia.

Finally, you must have an agreement in place that you will receive at least AUD$200,000 in funding from an Australian:

  • government body;
  • university;
  • research organisation; or
  • registered venture capital investor.

Can the 188 Visa Lead to Permanent Residency?

After you have successfully been granted your 188 visa, are living in Australia and are meeting the ongoing requirements of the visa, you will be eligible to apply for the (Business Innovation and Investment (Permanent) 888 visa.

The amount of time you must wait before becoming eligible to apply for this visa can vary depending on the stream of the 188 visa you originally applied for.

Key Takeaways

If you’re an investor looking to live and invest in Australia, the 188 visa may be the right choice for you. There are five streams of the investor visa, each with very different skills and financial requirements:

  • 188A: business innovation stream;
  • 188B: investor stream;
  • 188C: significant investor stream;
  • 188D: premium investor stream; and
  • 188E: entrepreneur stream.

If you would like to discuss whether the 188 investor visa is right for you, contact LegalVision’s immigration lawyers on 1300 544 755 or fill out the form on this page.

About LegalVision: LegalVision is a tech-driven, full-service commercial law firm that uses technology to deliver a faster, better quality and more cost-effective client experience.
Blythe Dingwall

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