In November of 2019, the Department of Home Affairs (‘Department’) released the Skilled Work Regional (Provisional) visa (subclass 491) which also saw the expansion of how ‘Regional Australia’ is to be defined (now including all of Australia, save for Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane).
In the interest of increasing regional investment, Business & Skilled Migration Queensland (‘BSMQ’) have established a stream under the subclass 491 visa which permits eligible individuals to apply for State Sponsorship on the basis of their regional business investment.
Eligible applicants must first and foremost be in Australia and hold a valid visa that permits unrestricted work rights and operation of a business. In order for an applicant to be successful in obtaining a nomination by BSMQ, they must have the required skills and/ or experience relevant to an occupation on the Skilled Occupation List (found here). Upon identifying their occupation on the list, Applicants must thereafter obtain a positive skills assessment verifying their qualifications and experience from the relevant assessing body.
Once a positive skills assessment is procured, Applicants must obtain a “score” of at least 65 points to be eligible to lodge an Expression of Interest (‘EOI’) via SkillSelect (BSMQ have expressed that they will only nominate applicants that lodge EOI’s electing Queensland at their ‘preferred State’). Points are calculated based on factors such as age, education level, and skilled employment experience. Further, applicants must be no older than 45 and must evidence that they have at least a ‘competent’ English language ability, by completing an approved English language test (unless they are citizens of New Zealand, Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom or Ireland). It is, however, highly recommended individuals, even from exempt countries, undertake an English test in the interest of increasing their points score (a ‘Superior’ English language test result grants an individual an extra 20 points). The more points an individual obtains, the increased likelihood they will receive an invitation.
Applicants must also evidence they have previous business experience which can be evidenced by showing that their business has been in successful operation for a period of at least six (6) months prior to the EOI lodgement. Alternatively, this requirement can be met if an applicant holds relevant qualifications or has experience relating to the operation of a family-run business. Furthermore, Applicants must be able to evidence that they have sufficient funds to settle in regional Australia.
Although a positive skills assessment is mandatory, there is no requirement that Applicants purchase or own a business related to the occupation identified on their skills assessment. So, if you are a Geologist with a passion for fishing, the subclass 491 visa may just be your ticket to purchasing your very own tackle shop (and permanent residency) right here on the Gold Coast.
Applicants must hold and operate 100% of the business for a minimum of six (6) months prior to lodging their expression of interest and must be able to evidence that they employ at least one Australian resident (including Australian citizens, permanent residents or Special Category New Zealand visa holders) who is not a family member or subcontractor for a minimum of 20 hours per week.
While it is not mandatory to live and work in the same location, Applicants must reside in regional Australia for a minimum of six (6) months prior to lodging their expression of interest.
BSMQ have recently released upcoming changes to the stream set to be enforced from the 1st of April 2021 as follows:
- pre-existing businesses purchased will need to have been in operation for 2 years (instead of 1 year);
- The minimum purchase price must be $100,000 (rather than total investment in the business); and
- Sub-leases of franchises (such as petrol stations), and home-based businesses (such as courier and cleaning businesses) will not be considered.
BSMQ has said that these upcoming changes are being implemented in the interest of ensuring the program is sustainable long-term.
Nine steps to 491 success:
- Eligible occupation identification;
- Attainment of positive skills assessment;
- Points calculation of at least 65;
- Expression of Interest lodgement via SkillSelect, electing Queensland as the preferred State;
- Subsequent to the above, submit a SBO assessment form to BSMQ and await invitation;
- Provide any additional documents requested by BSMQ within 14 days and await approval;
- Await an invitation from the Department;
- Lodge Small Business Owners 491 via application within 60 days of receipt of invitation; and
- Await visa approval.
Marino Law practices extensively in business and immigration law and can assist from your business purchase right through to your permanent residency application. Should you be interested in the SBO pathway, whether you already hold an eligible business or not, we encourage you to contact us today to begin the process of planning your pathway to permanent residency.