by Pamela Pau, Senior Immigration Lawyer

During the COVID pandemic, the focus of the Australian Government’s migration program has been individuals who have critical skills, investors, and global talent who will transfer new skills and knowledge to Australia and act as job multipliers.

We saw the introduction of the 408 visa-pandemic stream to enable temporary visa holders in critical sectors such as agriculture, food processing, health care, aged care, disability care, child care and now tourism and hospitality to remain in Australia during the COVID19 pandemic.

In September 2020, the Australian Government introduced a new occupation list, the Priority Migration Skilled Occupation List (PMSOL) to enable employers to fill critical skill needs to support Australia’s economic recovery from COVID.

There has also been a focus on attracting exceptionally talented individuals in target sectors who are job multipliers and will potentially have a significant economic impact, through the expansion of the Global Talent visa.

The Business Innovation and Investment Program (BIIP) has been another important pillar of the migration program. In December 2020, then Acting Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs Alan Tudge stated ‘Almost $1.3 billion dollars was invested through the Business Innovation and Investment Program last year, investment that is critical to our COVID-19 economic recovery’.

The number of BIIP places was almost doubled from 6862 in 2019-2020 to 13,500 places for 2020-2021. The Department conducted a review of the BIIP program and had a public consultation process with relevant stakeholders, with a view to improving the program to obtain better outcomes for the Australian economy.

Changes to the BIIP program

Some of the main changes that will come into effect on 1 July 2021 are as follows:

  • The BIIP program is being simplified from 9 streams to 4 streams- the Business Innovation, Investor, Significant Investor and Entrepreneur stream (188A, 188B, 188C and 188E).
  • Applications for the Premium Investor stream (188D), the 132A (Significant Business History stream) and 132B (Venture Capital Entrepreneur stream) will no longer be accepted from 1 July 2021.
  • Provisional visa holders in all 4 streams can apply for permanent residency (PR) after 3 years if they meet PR requirements. The provisional visa will now be valid for 5 years so that visa holders have more time to meet the requirements to apply for PR.
  • 188A (Business Innovation stream) and 188C (Significant Investor stream) visa holders will have a mechanism to extend their visas.
  • 188A visa holders can apply for a 2 year extension if they can demonstrate a realistic commitment to continue to manage a business that has been actively operating in Australia for the previous 2 years.
  • 188C visa holders can apply for two 2 year extensions as long as they continue to maintain their complying investment.
  • 188A visa holders will be required to hold business assets of $1.25 million (up from $800,000) and have an annual turnover of $750,000 (up from $500,000) in order to demonstrate their business acumen.
  • For the 188E (Entrepreneur stream) visa, the $200,000 funding requirement will be removed and instead, applicants will need to be endorsed by a State or Territory government.

Changes to the Complying Investment Framework

  • The required investment for the 188B (Investor stream) will increase from $1.5 million to $2.5 million.
  • The current Complying Investment Framework (CIF) for the 188C is as follows:
    • Venture Capital and Private Growth Equity funds (VCPE): $0.5 million (10%)
    • Emerging companies: $1.5 million (30%)
    • Balancing investment: $3 million (60%)
  • From 1 July 2021, this will change to:
    • Venture Capital and Private Growth Equity funds (VCPE): $1 million (20%)
    • Emerging companies: $1.5 million (30%)
    • Balancing investment: $2.5 million (50%)
  • The CIF will also be applied to the 188B visa as follows:
    • Venture Capital and Private Growth Equity funds (VCPE): $0.5 million (20%)
    • Emerging companies: $0.75 million (30%)
    • Balancing investment: $1.25 million (50%)

Funds will also be required to provide annual independent audit reports to demonstrate their compliance with the CIF. The rationale for increasing the VCPE component was to better support innovative and emerging companies, with anticipated flow-on effects for job creation and stimulating economic activity in Australia.

If you have any questions or comments on the changes to the Business Innovation and Investment Program (BIIP), or any other immigration related enquiry, please don’t hesitate to contact us via ohl@owenhodge.com.au or phone us on 1800 770 780.