On 7 December 2015, the Australian Government announced the National Innovation and Science Agenda (NISA), which included a range of initiatives and changes to the visa system to help Australia attract foreign entrepreneurs to start companies in Australia.
New Entrepreneur visa
The Australian Government has made it easier for entrepreneurs worldwide to launch startups in Australia.
From 10 September 2016, a new Entrepreneur stream will be added to the Business Innovation and Investment Programme. The Entrepreneur visa will allow entrepreneurs with $200,000 in funding from a specified third party to develop and commercialise their innovative ideas in Australia.
Entrepreneur Visa Criteria
To be eligible for the Entrepreneur visa, you must:
- be under 55 years old
- have a competent level of English
- have funding in place for at least $200,000 to grow your entrepreneurial venture in Australia
- hold at least 30 per cent interest in that entrepreneurial venture
- be nominated by a state or territory government.
Entrepreneurs interested in applying for the Entrepreneur visa will need to submit an Expression of Interest (EOI) in SkillSelect and be nominated by a State or Territory government. Expressions of Interest for the Entrepreneur visa will open in SkillSelect from 10 September 2016.
Sources of funding
The $200,000 in funding can come from Commonwealth agencies, state and territory governments, publicly funded research organisations, investors registered as Venture Capital Limited Partnerships or Early Stage Venture Capital Limited Partnerships, or any combination of these.
The funding agreement must involve the transfer of at least 10% of the funds within 12 months of commencing the activity in Australia.
If you are a co-founder of an entrepreneurial venture, you and your other co-founders can apply for an Entrepreneur visa for the same venture, as long as you each have a 30 per cent share when you enter into your funding agreement. This means that you can have no more than 3 visa applicants per entrepreneurial venture.
Complying entrepreneurial activities
Your business activity must relate to an innovative idea that is proposed to lead to the commercialisation of a product or service in Australia or the development of a business or enterprise in Australia. Some activities that are deemed to be insufficiently innovative will be excluded, for example, the purchase of an existing business or franchise, activities related to real estate, or activities related to labour hire.
You can progress from the temporary visa to permanent residency after four years if you meet residence requirements and success measures, which include factors such as business turnover, employment of Australians and ability to obtain significant financial backing.
Immigration is a hot topic for the tech community, and the country as a whole. Many industry leaders have claimed that Australia’s immigration system needs to be amended to ensure Australia is competitive with other countries to attract entrepreneurial talent and innovation.
Previously, tech companies would rely on 457 visas to bring skilled workers from other countries into Australia. However, that strategy only works for people migrating to work for existing companies. The entrepreneur visa opens up possibilities for international entrepreneurs to start new ventures, without having to show a minimum amount of personal net assets or significant business background required for other business or investor visas. These changes will be welcomed by many tech and startup-oriented groups.