AUSTRALIA INVESTOR VISA PROGRAM
A new Premium Investor Visa has been introduced for foreign nationals who seek to invest at least AUD 15 million in Australia. The investment structure of the Significant Investor Visa program has been reformed to encourage investment in emerging Australian companies. Additionally, secondary visa holders can now act as the primary visa applicant for permanent residency applications in the Investor and Business Innovation streams if they meet residency and investment requirements
The Department of Immigration and Border Protection has amended the Business Innovation and Investment Programme (BIIP) in response to a review of the program’s policy performance. As expected, a new Premium Investor Visa (PIV) has been introduced and new criteria have been implemented for the Significant Investor Visa (SIV) and Investor and Business Innovation Visa. The changes are effective July 1, 2015.
The New Premium Investor Visa
The primary criterion for the new PIV is the investment of at least AUD 15 million at the invitation of the Australian federal trade agency, Austrade. Permissible investments include the following:
- Securities quoted on an Australian stock exchange;
- Bonds or notes issued by a company listed on an Australian stock exchange (or its subsidiaries), an Australian State/Territory or Commonwealth Government, or by another company if the bonds/notes are rated as investment grade in Australia;
- Investment in an Australian proprietary company;
- Annuities issued by a company registered under section 21 of the Life Insurance Act 1995, if the annuity does not repay capital during the period of the visa; or
- Australian commercial and residential property (subject to limitations).
Premium Investor Visa holders will be eligible to apply for permanent residency once they have held their complying premium investment for at least twelve months, with no residency requirement.
Revised Investment Structure of the Significant Investor Visa
The SIV was introduced in 2012. The primary criterion for the SIV is a qualifying investment of at least AUD 5 million, which must now be comprised of the following types of investments:
- At least AUD 500,000 in eligible Australian venture capital or growth private equity fund(s) investing in start-up and small private companies;
- At least AUD 1.5 million investment in emerging companies using qualified forms of securities, cash or derivatives; and
- The balance of the AUD 5 million investment in qualifying forms of securities, bonds/notes, annuities, commercial property, cash or derivatives.
The law has clarified that applicants cannot rely on a pre-existing investment.
SIV holders will be eligible to apply for permanent residency once they have held a complying significant investment for four years continuously, and once the primary visa holder has resided in Australia for a period of 40 days multiplied by the number of years in which they have held an SIV. A secondary visa holder’s residency can also be taken into account for this purpose if he or she has resided in Australia for 180 days each of the four years.
Secondary Visa Holders as Primary Visa Applicants
Secondary visa holders can now act as the primary visa applicant for permanent residency applications under the Investor and Business Innovation streams if they meet residency and investment requirements. Secondary visa holders under the Significant Investor and Premium Investor streams can only act as the primary visa holder if the primary visa holder has died or in the case of separation or divorce.
What This Means for Foreign Nationals
Foreign investors should see more flexibility in their investment and visa options with the new visa category and expanded investment opportunities. Importantly, it should be easier for foreign investors to qualify for the Investor and Business Innovation permanent residency visa since secondary visa holders can act as the primary visa applicant.