Australian energy and resource companies requiring additional capital may benefit from the Federal Government’s plans to expand Australia’s Significant Investor Visa program (SIV). The changes to the SIV regime, as announced in the recently released Industry Innovation and Competitiveness Agenda (Agenda), are designed to “encourage more high net worth individuals to make Australia home and to better direct additional foreign investment.”

While the mooted changes are primarily focussed on streamlining and enhancing visa processing so as to increase the attractiveness for foreigners investing and settling in Australia, comments by Australia’s Trade and Investment Minister, Andrew Robb,   suggest that energy and resources companies may benefit from future changes to SIV. Specifically, Mr Robb has been quoted as saying, “My view is that we should channel investment into areas of relatively higher risk”.

Currently eligible SIV investments are limited to Commonwealth, State or Territory government bonds, regulated managed funds with a mandate for investing in Australia and direct investment into Australian proprietary companies (Complying Investments), whereby migrant investors are required to invest at least $5m in Complying Investments for a minimum of four years prior to being eligible to apply for a permanent visa.

While the final form of the changes are yet to be announced, it has been proposed that under the amended SIV arrangements, the criteria for a Complying Investment will amended to introduce a ‘premium investor visa’ concept, whereby a migrant investor will be able to hold a Complying Investment for a shorter 12 month period prior becoming eligible, provided that the aggregate amount of the Complying Investments are for amount of at least $15m. The changes to the Complying Investments are not expected to come into effect until the first half of 2015, with the PIV scheduled to be introduced from 1 July 2015.