In an increasingly globalised world, it has become easier to start a business in another country. For example, the Australian government actively encourages foreign citizens to start business in Australia and contribute to the country’s economy. This article explains the different ways in which you can start a business in Australia if you are a foreign citizen. If you are considering starting a business in Australia, you should know which visas you need, as well as the legal and requirements you are expected to 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:

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.


Business Talent (Permanent) Visa

To apply for this visa, you need to be a foreign citizen wanting to set up a new business, or develop an existing business, in Australia. If this is you, you must first supply an expression of interest through SkillSelect. The Minister of Immigration and Border Protection may then invite you to apply for the visa.

At this point, there are two application streams available:

  1. Significant Business History Stream, which is intended for high-calibre business owners or part-owners wanting to do business in Australia; and
  2. Venture Capital Entrepreneur Stream, for those who can prove they have sourced a threshold level of venture capital funding from a member of the Australian Capital Association Limited (AVCAL).

To qualify, you must show that you meet certain financial thresholds. For example, if you are in the significant business history stream, you need to meet financial benchmarks regarding personal assets, business assets and turnover. Similarly, if you are in the venture capital entrepreneur stream, you need at least $1 million AUD in venture capital funding for a promising high-value business idea.

Once you have obtained this visa, you are permitted to stay, work and study in Australia indefinitely. You will have access to Medicare and can apply for citizenship if you have remained in the country for the appropriate length of time. You can also include your partner and any dependant family member on your application, and sponsor other eligible relatives to come to Australia. However, you and your family members must meet all of the relevant health and character checks before being approved.


Business Innovation and Investment (Provisional) Visa and Business Innovation and Investment (Permanent) Visa

If you want to apply for the Business Innovation and Investment (Provisional) Visa, you need to submit an expression of interest through SkillSelect. The Minister of Immigration and Border Protection may then invite you to apply.

At this point, there are four application streams available:

  1. Business Innovation Stream;
  2. Investor Stream;
  3. Significant Investor Stream; and
  4. Premium Investor Stream.

Each stream requires you to meet different financial thresholds for investment. It also means that you need to be nominated by various government bodies and groups. For example, the state and territory governments must nominate you in the Investor Stream and Business Innovation Stream. In the latter, you also need to show that you have business skills and want to establish, develop and manage a new or existing business in Australia. Both a state or territory government and Austrade (on behalf of the Australian government) need to nominate you in the Significant Investor Stream. However, only Austrade (again on behalf of the Australian government) can nominate you for the Premium Investor Stream.

You can bring your immediate family to Australia on these visas. However, they must meet all health and character checks.

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

Starting a Business in Australia

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

You should seek legal advice to help you with the legal and regulatory steps involved in the process. 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 regarding:

  • how much tax you need to pay;
  • whether you want to employ workers;
  • how you will ensure the health and safety of your workers;
  • how you will meet the reporting and disclosure requirements set by the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC);
  • maintain the privacy of your employees and confidential business information; and
  • comply with consumer law.

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.

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Key Takeaways

If you are a foreign citizen and are looking to expand or start a new business in Australia, you need to have the right visa to do so. There are a number of visas you can apply for, so make sure you understand the criteria for each before applying. Once you have obtained your visa, you need to consider the legal and regulatory issues associated with operating a business in Australia. You should seek legal advice to ensure your business is complying with Australian law and regulations. If you have any questions, contact LegalVision’s 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.
Carole Hemingway

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