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There are not many visa options for small business owners in Australia. Normally, a business owner would explore the Business Innovation and Investment Visa. However, this option requires the applicant to meet quite onerous financial thresholds, relating to their assets and business revenue. However, visa subclass 491 offers small business owners an alternative option when nominated through Tasmania or Queensland. This is a new skilled independent visa, requiring a specific skill set and level of business experience. The visa came into effect on 16 November 2019. Subclass 491 visa holders will be eligible for permanent residency through the subclass 191, which comes into effect on 16 November 2022. This article explores the small business owners pathway in Queensland and Tasmania. To be eligible for this visa, you must meet both the Australian Department of Home Affairs (DOHA)’s and the relevant state’s criteria. 

DOHA Eligibility Criteria

There are various DOHA criteria that you need to meet. You must have:

  • received an invitation to apply for this visa;
  • been nominated by a state or territory government agency, which they have not since withdrawn;
  • a positive skills assessment in a nominated occupation;
  • a points test result of 65 points or higher (this includes any points you receive from being nominated by your state);
  • applied before you are 45 years of age;
  • established ‘Competent English’ language skills, meaning the equivalent of at least IELTS 6.0 in each band level (the DOHA website specifies the other equivalent test scores); and
  • met certain health and character requirements.

A skills assessment is issued by the relevant skills assessing authorities. This is an organisation that analyses your skills against the minimum standards for the relevant occupation.

Queensland (BSMQ) Eligibility Criteria

In addition to the DOHA criteria, you must satisfy the requirements for Queensland State nomination. This requires you to have:

  • previous business experience or qualifications to run the business successfully;
  • an existing visa that allows full-time work and the ability to operate the business for a minimum of 35 hours per week;
  • been living in a regional area for at least 6 months prior to lodging an EOI;
  • purchased an existing business in regional Queensland and paid at least $100,000 for the business;
  • 100% ownership in the business (for example, you cannot be in a partnership);
  • been trading in the business for six months prior to lodging the 491 visa application;
  • at least one Australian resident employed for a minimum of 20 hours per week; and
  • evidence of sufficient settlement funds. 

This visa stream is not available for start-up businesses or home-based businesses. Further, your business location must be in one of the following Queensland postcodes: 4124, 4125, 4133, 4183, 4184, 4207-4275, 4280-4287, 4306-4498, 4507, 4517-4519, 4550-4575 or 4580-4895. 

Tasmania Eligibility Criteria

Tasmania also has a small business owner pathway for the subclass 491 visa. In addition to the DOHA eligibility criteria, you must also:

  • be living in Tasmania when you lodge your 491 application;
  • have established and operated your business for at least six months;
  • show that the business would offer you a personal income that exceeds the taxable income requirement set by DOHA ($53,900 per year at the time of writing) for at least three years in the next five years;
  • provide a comprehensive business plan, including evidence of research and understanding of the target market, relevant industry conditions and licensing or registration requirements; and
  • prior business ownership or business management experience.

An additional consideration is the nature of the business and its long-term benefit to Tasmania. However, this visa stream is not available for: 

  • franchises; 
  • share-owned businesses; 
  • service stations; 
  • massage clinics; and 
  • taxi/Uber related businesses.

Application Process

To apply, you will first need to: 

  • submit an expression of interest (EOI) with SkillSelect; and 
  • select either Queensland or Tasmania as the nominating state of choice. 

You will then need to apply for either Queensland or Tasmania State nomination. DOHA will then assess your EOI to see if you meet all criteria. If you are successful you will receive an invitation to apply for the subclass 491. Importantly, you need to lodge the 491 visa within 60 days of receiving an invitation from DOHA. 

Length of Visa and Permanent Residency (PR) Pathway

This visa is a provisional visa that allows the nominated worker to work and live in regional Queensland or Tasmania for five years. It is also a pathway to permanent residency. After meeting certain criteria, you will become eligible for the subclass 191 Permanent Residence (Skilled Regional) visa.

These criteria require you to have:

  • lived in Queensland or Tasmania for at least three years; and
  • earned a minimum taxable income of $53,900 for at least three years.

The subclass 191 visa is a new visa that commences on 16 November 2022, as the subclass 491 visa only commenced recently on 16 November 2019.

Key Takeaways

There are limited options available for business owners based in regional locations. The subclass 491 small business owner pathway may be appropriate for your business. Fortunately, it also has a permanent residency pathway through the subclass 191 visa. To apply for this visa, you must:

  • ensure that you satisfy the DOHA and state-based requirements;
  • submit an EOI with DOHA; and
  • if you receive an invitation to apply, submit your application within 60 days.

If you would like help assessing your eligibility and obtaining a subclass 491 visa, contact LegalVision’s immigration lawyers on 1300 544 755 or fill out the form below.


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