What is it?

Australia’s business innovation and investor program allows for visa grants to individuals on the basis of business activity or investment activity – these visas are commonly known as “subclass 188 visas”.  The “Premium Investor Visa” is a stream in this program defined by an AUD 15 million investment or contribution requirement. A person who has held this visa for at least 12 months may be eligible to apply for the 888 permanent resident visa.

What are essential features of the Premium Investor Visa?

Without limitation, the applicant must:

  • be invited to apply; 
  • invest AUD 15 million in “a complying premium investment”; and
  • other than with respect to investment that is a philanthropic contribution, genuinely intend to hold the complying premium investment for the period of the visa.

Is that it?

No. These are some of the criteria which apply exclusively to the subclass 188 visa in the Premium Investor stream. There are other criteria relevant to the Premium Investor Visa which must be met for a successful application, including public interest criteria. Most importantly, neither the applicant nor any spouse or de facto partner of the applicant is permitted to have any “history of involvement in business or investment activities that are of a nature that is not generally acceptable in Australia” (Subregulation 188.211, Migration Regulations 1994). 

At the same time, there are rules that must be observed for the purposes of the complying premium investment. For example, the AUD 15 million which is being used for the complying premium investment must be unencumbered and the applicant will need to show that the funds were lawfully acquired. This obligation applies regardless of whether the AUD 15 million is to be applied for the making of an investment or for a philanthropic contribution or both. It is essential that any applicant for this visa is able to give a credible and complete “paper trail” for the funds that are intended for investment in Australia.

I am interested in applying for the Premium Investor Visa. To whom do I apply and what qualifies as “a complying premium investment”?

Austrade is the sole nominating authority for the Premium Investor Visa, and is presently advising that any expression of interest which is unsolicited will not be accepted. Austrade is also presently advising that it “will draw on its international network and work closely with federal government agencies and State and Territory Governments to identify and engage with potential candidates” for the Premium Investor Visa.

As the law presently stands, an investment may be made in any one or more of:

  • securities, subject to certain conditions;
  • bonds or notes, subject to certain conditions;
  • a proprietary company, as that term is defined in the Corporations Act 2001, where the company is incorporated in Australia and is a limited company within the meaning of the Corporations Act 2001;
  • annuities, subject to certain conditions;
  • Australian real property, subject to certain conditions;
  • for investments made through a managed investment fund, cash held by Australian ADIs, including cash-like instruments, subject to certain conditions;
  • derivatives, subject to certain conditions.

Any philanthropic contribution will need to be approved by a State or Territory government agency.

Does the applicant need to make the investment personally?

No. The law presently provides that the investor must be an individual, but that the investor can make the investment and/or contribution:

  1. personally;  or
  2. with the investor’s spouse or de facto partner;  or
  3. by means of a company that has issued shares and in which:
    1. the investor holds all of the issued shares;  or
    2. the investor and the investor’s spouse or de facto partner hold all of  the issued shares;  or
  4. by means of a trust to which the following applies:
    1. the trust is lawfully established;
    2. the investor is the sole trustee or the investor and the investor’s spouse or de facto partner are the sole trustees;
    3. the investor is the sole beneficiary or the investor and the investor’s spouse or de facto partner are the sole beneficiaries.

(Subregulation 5.19D(12), Migration Regulations 1994)

Will the 188 Premium Investor Visa attract high net worth individuals to Australia?

Time will tell.  Features of the visa that individuals may see as attractive include:

  • no upper age limit;
  • no points test;
  • no English language requirement;
  • no skill requirement;
  • opportunity to apply for permanent residency after holding the visa for 12 months only;
  • ability to include family on the application.