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In December 2015, the Federal Government announced a $1.1 billion plan to boost business-based research, development and innovation in Australia. The plan focuses on driving the ‘ideas boom’ in the new century and will strengthen ties and foster collaboration between businesses, institutions and the government.

There are also new measures to attract entrepreneurial talent to Australia, including the introduction of new visa pathways for entrepreneurs. Taking effect in November 2016, the new Entrepreneur Visa, coupled with changes to the General Skilled Migration Visa, will shake-up Australia’s migration programme and incentivise entrepreneurs to start their businesses in Australia.

Changes to the General Skilled Migration

There are currently over 230,000 international students enrolled in higher education in Australia. Many higher education students go on to complete postgraduate studies. Due to the competitive nature of the labour market, coupled with the lack of work experience, many postgraduate students find it difficult to apply for a General Skilled Migration (GSM) Visa.

With the newly announced changes, postgraduate students in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields will obtain additional points when applying for their visa. This means Australian doctorate-level and masters-by-research qualifications in STEM subjects will be awarded extra points under the current points tested skilled migration programme. This change will strengthen their pathway to residency and ease the stress in obtaining permanent residency after the completion of their studies. This will retain talent within Australia and create local jobs.

New Entrepreneur Visa

The Federal Government also introduced a new visa category aimed at attracting overseas entrepreneurs to Australia. Currently, applicants only have access to the 188 visa (Business Innovation and Investment Provisional Visa) and 132 visa (Business Talent Permanent Visa). The 188 visa is aimed at people wishing to invest in Australian businesses, or own and manage a new or existing business in Australia. Meanwhile, the 132 visa allows high-calibre business owners to establish businesses in Australia or have sourced venture capital funding from the Australian Venture Capital Association Limited (AVCAL). While both visas attract business talent, the new Entrepreneur Visa will be more suited to fast-growth startup entrepreneurs seeking to capital raise and grow their idea in Australia.

Taking effect in November 2016, the provisional Entrepreneur Visa will allow entrepreneurs to enter Australia to work on their business idea, with an option to extend to permanent residency. Qualification for the entrepreneur visa must satisfy some criteria, including:

  • Obtaining funding from a third party, assessed by the newly created Innovation and Science Australia; and
  • Proving a high-growth and innovative idea that can be implemented in Australia.

Changes to the GSM and the introduction of the New Entrepreneur Visa will be coupled with a Federal Government initiative to promote Australia as a world-class destination to start an innovative business. This will include the creation of ‘innovation landing pads’ across the world, with Israel being the first city to host Australian innovators. Landing pads will provide market-ready startups with an operational base in innovation hotspots.

Promoting Innovation

With the new Entrepreneur Visa taking effect late 2016, this will provide a pathway for foreign innovators to gain permanent residency in Australia and assist in creating local jobs and growth. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has stated that there will be no set cap on the number of visas to be granted. The visa initiative will attract the best and brightest entrepreneurial talent and skills to Australia, and we look forward to working with more innovative startups and aspirational entrepreneurs.

Questions about startups or the new Entrepreneur Visa? Call us on 1300 544 755 or let us know on Twitter @legalvision_au. 


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