The 188 visa is a provisional visa for business owners, investors, and entrepreneurs to conduct business and investment activity in Australia.
There are 4 streams of the 188 visa, namely:
- Business Innovation stream;
- Investor stream;
- Significant Investor stream; and
- Entrepreneur stream.
On 1 July 2021, the Entrepreneur stream of this visa (188E) was overhauled to streamline some of the previously onerous criteria, and provide the individual State/Territory governments with power to decide on their own selection criteria.
The below outlines the process to apply for the 188E visa, and the new (post-1 July 2021) criteria to be eligible.
What are the steps to apply for the visa?
Procedurally, to apply for this visa, you must:
- first submit an Expression of Interest (EOI) through the Department of Home Affairs (Department) Skill Select website.
- submit an application for State/Territory nomination;
- If nominated, you will receive an invitation from the Department of Home Affairs and have 60 days from that date to lodge your visa application.
- lodge your Subclass 188 visa application (188E) with the Department within that allocated timeframe.
As there are both State nomination requirements and visa requirements – practically, it is worth reviewing the:
- 188E visa criteria (set out below); and
- individual State/Territory criteria for where you’re proposing to establish or run your business.
What are the visa requirements for the entrepreneur stream?
Generally speaking, to be eligible for the Entrepreneur stream of the 188 visa, you must:
- be under 55 at the time of the invitation to apply for the visa (unless the State or territory nominating the applicant determines that there will be exceptional economic benefit to the State or Territory in which the agency is located);
- have a genuine intention to undertake, or propose to undertake, a complying entrepreneur activity;
- not have a history of involvement with a business activity or practices that are of a nature that is not generally acceptable in Australia;
- be nominated by an Australian State / Territory government – and satisfy them that the net value of your business and personal assets is sufficient to allow you to settle in Australia;
- demonstrate a “competent” level of English; and
- meet health and character requirements.
What is a complying entrepreneurial activity?
Your entrepreneurial activity should 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.
While “innovative” is not defined in the legislation, we can look to it’s ordinary meaning which involves using new methods or ideas. Practically in this context, it could largely related to the use of something that’s never been done before, is brand new, or has technological aspects.
The proposed your business activity cannot be related to any of the following:
- Labour hire entity;
- Residential real property; or
- Purchasing, investing, or acquiring an interest in an existing entity (including a franchise).
What are the State / Territory nomination criteria?
The nomination criteria is entirely at the discretion of the relevant State / Territory government, and so varies from the relevant regions.
In addition to the visa criteria outlined above, each State/Territory would require you to propose a business based in their particular State/Territory. A summary of the criteria at time of writing are outlined below:
- Must be accepted into a NSW Startup Accelerator Program or Startup Incubator Program;
- Secure adequate funding from an “approved entity”
- Strong Background in business/entrepreneurial activity or the field of your product/service
- Secure adequate funding from an “approved entity”
- Startups who have completed or participating in a Startup Accelerator Program or Incubator Program are highly regarded
- Priority given to preferred sectors
- Must have support of a service provider – which largely relates to being accepted into certain start-up accelerator programs including: the Innovation & Collaboration Centre (ICC), Stone & Chalk, New Venture Institute (NVI), Moonshots, ThincLab
- Priority given to proposals supporting the strategic objectives of SA Government
- Must promote innovation and new technology or enhance industry capability and be an untested or unknown business model
- High regard had for: certain target sectors, business concepts with clear competitive advantage/genuine innovation/novel IP, entrepreneurs with higher academics degrees relevant to proposed entrepreneurial activity, and strong potential to create local employment/new skills/export revenue
- Provide at least AUD 50,000 towards proposed entrepreneurial activity
- Proposed to undertake entrepreneurial activity in the ACT
- Proposed activity must have endorsement from recognised industry/subject matter expert based in the NT. Expert must have a recognised reputation in the field relevant.
How much does the visa cost?
The EOI for the 188 visa is free. Some of the relevant State / Territory governments charge a fee to seek their nomination. The government fees for the subsequent 188E visa application if invited are as follows:
$ 4,240exc surcharges
$ 2,120exc surcharges
< 18 dependent
$ 1,060exc surcharges
A second visa application charge applies for applicants over the age of 18 who are unable to demonstrate a “functional” level of English.
What are the requirements to eventually obtain permanent residence through the 888 visa?
As with the 188 visa, there are both State nomination requirements (required for the 888E) and visa requirements.
Generally speaking, you are required to:
- hold the Subclass 188E visa for at least 3 years, and resided in Australia for at least 2 years while holding the 188E visa; and
- demonstrate an overall successful record of undertaking activities of an entrepreneurial nature. This assessment is made having regard to:
- the number of Australians employed;
- the level and nature of ongoing funding/investment in activities;
- annual turnover of businesses in relation to the activities; and
- any endorsement of your record by a body recognised by the nominating State/Territory agency as a start-up accelerator, incubator or other body that assists start-up businesses.
If you want further information about the 188 visas, feel free to contact us by email at [email protected] or phone (03) 9016 0484 or (02) 8005 1484 for information about how we can help you.