Starting a business as a visa holder

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Have you ever dreamed of being your own boss, making your own rules, and pursuing your own passion? That’s great, because entrepreneurs and start-up companies are good for the country’s economy. Over the years, Australia has been the lucky beneficiary of innovative businesses started by its immigrant men and women.

 But starting a business while on a visa is not quite so straightforward as it is for citizens. You might have to deal with complex and changing immigration laws, strict visa conditions, and potential legal consequences. But don’t worry, we’re here to help.

First things first

You need to decide whether your business model requires you to be a sole trader, a partnership, or a company. Starting a company in Australia has strict requirements in that you must have at least one Australian permanent resident as a director of the company. For a public company, you must have at least two Australian permanent residents out of three directors. This means that you cannot start a company by yourself if you have not been granted permanent resident status. Every company must be registered with the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC).

Help is at hand

Following a careful step-by-step plan, it is possible to realise your dream to operate a new or existing business while a visa holder. Firstly, you will need a visa to start a business in Australia, but not just any visa, and you may be able to secure financial assistance to help you realise your business dream.

  • A Business Innovation and Investment (Provisional) Visa is available to people who have existing business skills and meet the business and personal assets requirements. Valid for 4 years and 3 months, this visa may lead to successful application for a permanent visa upon meeting particular requirements.
  • A Business Talent Visa requires your nomination by a government agency in a state or territory of Australia, or you can be invited to apply for the visa – either way, you must have a significant business history. You will be required to show that you have the necessary funding or assets for the business or that you have a venture capital stream available to fund the business. This is a permanent visa.

Student and employer-sponsored visas – Caution required

You might be able to start a business in Australia even if you don’t have a business visa, as long as you follow the rules of your current visa. For instance, if you are a student, you can work for up to 48 hours every two weeks while studying, which means you can use 20 hours a week for your business. But you also need to study full-time and pass your courses. Likewise, if you have a visa sponsored by an employer, you can start a business as long as you keep working for your employer in the job you have declared.

Dot the i’s and cross the t’s

Whether on a visa or not, all business owners in Australia must meet their legal obligations, including registering their business, applying for an Australian Business Number (ABN), registering with the Australian Tax Office (ATO), and obtaining specific business licences. They must comply with consumer law, with employment law, with health and safety laws, and they must attend to required business and taxation reporting within time limits. It sounds like a lot, but fortunately for Australia, 2.5 million private businesses owners thrive here.

 Beware of hiccups

The last thing you will want to do is accidentally violate the rules of your visa while pursuing your business dream. Get it right with sound advice. Owen Hodge Lawyers, we are here to help. 



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