Entrepreneur visa lite…maybe

On Sunday, the Minister of Home Affairs, Peter Dutton, announced he had given an undertaking to the leader of the Liberal Party in South Australia to institute a pilot program to attract overseas entrepreneurs to South Australia before a rollout in 2019.

While the press release is short of facts, the proposed program would not require any capital backing. Entrepreneurs and investors need an innovative idea and a supporting business plan to apply for a temporary visa. If granted, and the business succeeds, they may then be eligible for a permanent visa.

As the undertaking appears to not extend to the current premier it is likely this is conditional on Liberal Party success in the state election this Saturday.

Attracting entrepreneurs to Australia have been a difficult task. There are few visas available, including the subclass 132 – Business Talent (Permanent) visa under the Venture Capital Entrepreneur stream, and the subclass 188 – Business Innovation and Investment (Provisional) visa under the Entrepreneur stream, which can lead to a subclass 888 – Business Innovation and Investment (Permanent) visa.

Despite these visas available, due to the need to secure agreements with certain bodies, the number of applications lodged have been negligible. A Freedom of Information request released last year reported many years where no 132 entrepreneur visas were either lodged or approved.

The 188 visa under the Entrepreneurial stream only attracted one visa applicant according to a news source in the year and a bit since the visa was implemented. There is no evidence that application was approved.

A new entrepreneur visa which does not require binding agreements might attract more attention from this much elusive cohort who have the potential to contribute significantly to Australia’s economy. That being said, just how the Minister distinguishes entrepreneurs from general business owners, and what is an appropriate performance metric is the crux of Australia’s entrepreneur visa problem.