South Australia Innovation visa begins…in the form of a 408 (Temporary Activity) visa

Earlier this year it was reported that South Australia, should the Liberal Party win the state election, would be the testing ground for a pilot program to draw global innovators to the state. That program has finally come to fruition through regulations passed this week.

The government has been innovative themselves with implementing this promise into Australia’s visa system through the Subclass 408 – (Temporary Activity) visa by endorsing an “event” called Supporting Innovation in South Australia. This will run for three years, finishing at the end of November 2021.

This event requires primary applicants to:

  • Be under 45 years of age at the time they lodge their 408 visa application;

  • Demonstrate vocational English;

  • Have been endorsed by the government of South Australian for their visa; and

  • Provide a supporting business plan.

While the 408 visa has numerous pathways that may be appropriate for temporary activities, this innovation program comes under the Australia Government Endorsed Events pathway. This is generally reserved for short term events, the last of which was the Invictus Games that was held in Sydney in October 2018.

The monitoring of any visa holder will be the responsibility of the government of South Australia who may refer non-compliance to the Department of Home Affairs, who then may consider cancelling a visa should a primary visa holder not undertake what they intended in their visa application. It does seem, however, that there will be some adaptability with the entrepreneur’s business, allowing for modification of their business plan. The rigidity of traditional business visas may explain why Australia has found it difficult to attract entrepreneurs, as distinct from business owners.

The government of South Australia have already listed their eligibility criteria. Key points include:

  • Visa holders must be committed to South Australia and maintain their primary residence there;

  • Traditional business types such as retail, cafes and restaurants, consulting firms, employment agencies, import/export companies, franchises, and massage parlours are excluded;

  • Onshore student visa holders, Subclass 403 – Temporary Work (International Relations) visa holders, and Subclass 771 – Transit visa holders are excluded from endorsement, and Subclass 485 – Temporary Graduate visa holders must be engaged in a structured innovation program;

  • Projects will need to foresee at least half of their assets and employees located in South Australia;

  • Priority will be given to certain industries;

  • The financial capacity required ranges from AUD 5 000 to AUD 40 000 depending on the number of applicants and whether they are in or outside of Australia.

Visas for this program are granted for 4 years.

Given the program will run for 3 years, and this is a temporary visa, a question for visa holders will be what will happen when their visa expires? If they are not eligible for a Subclass 188 – Business Innovation and Investment (Provisional) visa, which requires, among many other things, business and personal net assets of at least AUD 800 000 (this can be combined with a spouse or de facto partner), they may struggle to find a suitable visa to continue with their entrepreneurial journey.