The Federal government has recently announced amendments to the Business Innovation and Investment Programme. These changes are expected to be implemented over the coming months, and include alterations to the Significant Investor Visa (SIV) programme and the creation of a new “Premium Investor Visa”.

The SIV programme commenced on 24 November 2012 and since then more than 400 visas have been granted with over $2 billion invested in complying Australian investments. As part of the government’s SIV review announced in March and its broader Industry Innovation and Competitiveness Agenda, various changes have been proposed to the Business Innovation and Investment Programme. These changes aim to attract potential applicants to the country and maximise the benefits to the Australian economy, while maintaining integrity measures to guard against fraud and abuse of the migration programme.

To provide a more attractive pathway to permanent residency for larger investors, a new “Premium Investor” stream will be introduced within the Business Innovation and Investment (Provisional) visa (subclass 188) visa. Unlike the SIV stream, the usual residency requirements will be waived for Premium Investor visa holders, provided that they:

  • invest a minimum $15 million into a complying investment and maintain it for at least 12 months; and
  • are nominated by Austrade.

Alterations to be made to the existing SIV requirements include:

  • increasing the residency requirement to 180 days for new secondary SIV applicants. This new residency requirement is intended to encourage families of investors to settle permanently in Australia. The changes will not affect existing SIV holders;
  • allowing ‘role swapping’ between primary and secondary holders during the provisional visa in order to meet residency requirements; and
  • introducing Austrade as a nominator for the visa stream. Previously nomination for the SIV programme was limited to State and Territory governments.

The review has also foreshadowed expected changes to the investment requirements. Austrade will now be responsible for determining what constitutes a ‘complying investment’, consulting other government agencies and stakeholders where appropriate. It is not strictly clear what Austrade’s exact powers  will be. This could mean that Austrade would be responsible for:

  • determining the list of eligible managed fund investments that SIV compliant managed funds could invest in, either on a class of assets basis or on a case-by-case basis; or
  • determining whether a particular Australian Proprietary Limited company could be nominated as a complying investment.

The government has indicated that changes to the complying investment criteria will be announced “in due course” following Austrade consultations

The FAQs also stated that it remains the Australian Government’s policy that complying investments must remain unencumbered for the entire duration of the provisional visa. This comment is likely to be targeted towards specific managed funds which allow investors to borrow against their investment and repatriate those borrowed funds overseas. The FAQ states that the objective of the SIV programme is to contribute to ‘an increase in the inflow of foreign investment and growth of the stock of foreign capital in Australia’ and implies that borrowing against complying investments and repatriation overseas would be inconsistent with that objective.

No legislation has been introduced at this stage, but implementation of these changes is expected to take place over the coming 2014/15 program year.