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Can a Foreign Citizen Start a Business in Australia?

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In an increasingly globalised world, starting a business in another country has become more accessible. Indeed, the Australian government actively encourages foreign citizens to start businesses in Australia and contribute to the country’s economy. Perhaps you have an existing business model you wish to take to Australia. Alternatively, you may be sitting on an extraordinary business idea Australians will love. In those instances, now could be the perfect time to implement your plans. This article explains the different pathways to starting a business in Australia as a foreign citizen. In addition, it discusses the available visas and legal requirements an applicant must meet.

What Kind of Visas are Available?

The Australian government is committed to diversifying business expertise and encouraging entrepreneurial talent. Therefore, the Business Innovation and Investment Programme aims to provide visas to eligible foreign citizens who want to start a business in Australia. These visas are:

In addition, there are also specific visas for foreign citizens who want to set up businesses in regional, rural or low-growth areas of Australia. These visas operate in tandem with various state and territory-based economic initiatives. The following section will explore Business Innovation and Investment visas in more detail. 

Importantly, be sure you have the legal right to work in Australia. The consequences of starting a business without the proper authorisation to do so can be disastrous. Accordingly, it may be beneficial to speak to an immigration lawyer who can explain your options.

Business Innovation and Investment (Provisional) Visa (subclass 188)

The Business Innovation and Investment Visa (Provisional) is a 3-step process:

  • submit an expression of interest through SkillSelect;
  • receive a nomination from a state or territory government agency or Austrade; and
  • receive an invitation from the Department of Home Affairs to apply for the visa.

There are four visa streams available:

  1. Business Innovation;
  2. Investor;
  3. Significant Investor; and
  4. Entrepreneur. 

Each stream requires you to meet different financial thresholds for investment. In addition, you should show that you have the necessary business skills and want to establish, develop and manage a new or existing business in Australia. You will need to apply for and obtain a nomination from a State or Territory government agency or Austrade (on behalf of the Australian government). Each State or Territory may have additional eligibility requirements to the Department of Home Affairs requirements. You can bring your immediate family to Australia on these visas, provided they also meet all health and character checks.

The four streams generally allow you to stay in Australia for up to five years. The Business Innovation and Significant Investor streams also have extensions enabling you to extend your stay for up to two to four years (respectively). Nevertheless, you may be interested in staying in Australia permanently. Accordingly, the subclass 888 visa would be the next step.

Business Innovation and Investment (Permanent) Visa (subclass 888)

Once you have met the requirements of your provisional visa, you can apply for the Business Innovation and Investment (Permanent) Visa subject to meeting additional requirements. This visa requires you to meet other financial thresholds and health and character tests. It gives you and your family permanent residency in Australia and the opportunity to apply for citizenship once eligible.

Front page of publication
LegalVision Guide to Australian Business Visas

This guide sets out the key business innovation and investor visas available to individuals and businesses looking to start or manage a business or make a significant financial investment in Australia.

The publication also includes a list of frequently asked questions about business migration pathways in Australia.

Download Now

Starting a Business in Australia

If you are a foreign citizen and have successfully obtained an Australian visa, you can begin to develop your business. Firstly, consider the legal and regulatory issues associated with starting and operating a business in Australia. Specifically, you should consider the following:

Importantly, seeking legal advice regarding the legal and regulatory steps involved in the process is recommended. For example, you may need assistance choosing a company structure, securing a purchase or lease when looking for premises or obtaining local development approval.

You should also be aware of your legal obligations concerning the following:

Remember that your obligations will depend on the type of business you wish to start in Australia. There is no one-size-fits-all approach, and it is prudent to understand the legal and regulatory steps involved before jumping straight into a business. 

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Key Takeaways

You must have the correct visa if you are a foreign citizen looking to expand or start a new business in Australia. You can apply for several visas and streams, so make sure you understand the criteria for each before applying.

Significantly, the Australian Government announced that for the 2022-2023 Migration Program, there are 5,000 slots available to applicants for Business Innovation and Investment Visas. This is significantly lower than the 13,500 slots allocated in 2021-2022. This significant change in number requires that interested applicants be persuasive and strategic in their applications. You should seek legal advice to assess whether you have reasonable prospects of success in applying for the Business Innovation and Investment Programme.

Once you have obtained your visa, you need to consider the legal and regulatory issues associated with operating a business in Australia. You should also seek legal advice to ensure your business complies with Australian law and regulations.

If you need help starting a business in Australia as a foreign citizen, our experienced immigration lawyers can assist as part of our LegalVision membership. For a low monthly fee, you will have unlimited access to lawyers to answer your questions and draft and review your documents. Call us today on 1300 544 755 or visit our membership page.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long can I stay in Australia on visa subclass 188?

Once you have obtained this visa, you can stay, work and study in Australia for up to 5 years. You may apply for subclass 888 afterwards to obtain permanent residency.

What are the other considerations for starting a business in Australia?

When starting a business in Australia, you must consider an appropriate business structure. Likewise, consider where you will locate your business premises and how to protect your business’s intellectual property. Furthermore, there may also be a legal requirement to obtain necessary licences.

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