Virginia, US
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| Teresa Liu

The Premium Investor Visa - All To Do About Nothing ?

On 1 July 2015, a new investor visa, called the Premium Investor Visa (PIV), was introduced. This allows for fast tracking to permanent residence by virtue of making and holding a complying investment of at least AUD15milion for 12 months, with no residence requirements. For the wealthy looking at Australia as a potential new home, particularly for the ever growing pool of Chinese wealthy investors who have dominated this category of visa to date, there was a flurry of interest, including how this might be a far better option than the SIV, particularly with the introduction of more restrictive Significant Investor Visa (SIV) criteria on 1 July.

But was it all about nothing ?

It soon became apparent that although the allowable complying investments and the ability to directly invest was much broader, including into philanthropic works, the ability to apply under the PIV is only by invitation of the Australian federal trade agency, Austrade. Indeed since it's introduction and up until September, no applications have been made under this visa category. It is also expected that only a handful of invitations might occur over the coming migration calendar period.

So what does this mean for a foreign investor wanting to make Australia home ?

Unless there are other pathways under the broader Business Innovation and Investment program (BIIP) available to foreign investors, or other skilled or family pathways, the new requirements of the SIV visa need to be met.  

In broad terms, the SIV is open to investors who seek to hold a complying investment in Australia of AUD5million with transition to permanent residency possible after this is held for a period of 4 years. There is accompanying residence requirements that are also required to be met, but which are substantially less onerous than the usual criteria under the BIIP program.

Significant changes to the SIV were made on 1 July in an attempt to drive investments away from passive investments such as government bonds and residential real estate schemes, and instead, help support build Australia’s economic growth through investment into innovative Australian businesses and otherwise promoting investment, innovation and commercialisation of Australia’s ideas, research and development. 

The mechanism the Government has sought to achieve this is through a framework of complying investments restricted to licensed/registered funds and fund managers and minimum amounts of the AUD5million to be invested in eligible Australian venture capital or growth private equity fund(s) investing in start-up and small private companies ($500,000), and in emerging companies using qualified forms of securities, cash or derivatives (AUD1.5million). The balance in investments can be made in qualifying forms of securities, bonds/notes, annuities, commercial property, cash or derivatives.

One question already being asked in the community is whether the changes have done enough to meet these goals and whether further changes are required ?

So for Foreign investors looking towards this category there is a clear attempt to drive you to more active and entrepreneurial investments and into more controlled managed funds. This might suit you. However, if you are an investor with a history of investments or business ownership, other BIIP program options might better suit you, particularly as rules from 1 July offer the ability for secondary visa holders under these other BIIP options to act as the primary visa applicant at the permanent visa stage if they are better suited to meet residency and investment requirements.