The Business Skill Program Reforms
The Australian Government announced sweeping changes to the Business Skills Program on 25 May 2012. The existing Business Skills Program was introduced in 2003 and the changes are in response to a 2011 review of the Program, which assessed its suitability in the post-
GFC business environment. These changes will come into effect on 1 July 2012, along with the significant reforms of the independent skilled and employer-sponsored skilled migration program.
The new Program will be called the “Business Innovation & Investment Program” and aims to directly create new businesses, as visa holders become business owners. This Program is not aimed at providing skilled labour for Australian businesses experiencing or at risk of skills shortages – this is the role of the general skilled migration and employer sponsored migration programs. By increasing entrepreneurial talent and business expertise in Australia, the Government plans to increase business activity, innovation and employment opportunities.
The most significant change in the new Program will be the reduction in business
visas subclasses from 13 visa subclasses to three, to address the serious
underutilization of some existing visa subclasses. The three visa subclasses after 1
July 2012 will all be State or Territory nominated visas:
1. Business Talent visa (Subclass 132);
2. Provisional Business Innovation & Investment visa (Subclass 188); and
3. Permanent Business Innovation & Investment visa (Subclass 888).
The Business Talent visa will have two streams: significant business history and
venture capital entrepreneur stream.
The other two visas will have business innovation and significant investor
streams. In this context, significant investment will mean an investment of at least
AUD5,000,000 in State or Territory Government bonds, ASIC regulated managed
fund with a mandate for investing in Australia and/or direct investment in Australia
companies. Investment cannot be held in superannuation. Further details of this
stream will be released shortly.
In line with reforms in other migration programs, English language skills will be
important for applicants in the new Program.
The new Program will also integrate with the new SkillSelect
Expression of Interest database.
Other key changes include:
1. Steps to assist entrepreneurs that have sourced venture capital funding in
2. Introduction of an innovation points test for provisional visa applicants
3. Introduction of flexibility provisions to encourage innovative businesses
4. Increasing asset thresholds to align with the current Australian business
5. Changes to improve integrity in the Program.
Existing holders of provisional business skills visas (subclasses 160, 161, 162, 163,
164 & 165) are not eligible to apply for visas under the new Program and must apply
for the existing permanent visas (subclasses 890, 891, 892 or 893).