How South African business owners can move to Australia

*This content is brought to you by Sable International

By Sam Hopwood*

South African business owners looking to move to Australia have a variety of visa options. These can include starting a new business in Australia, opening a branch office or even investing in property development. We take a look at these routes in detail below.

Why Australia is the perfect location for your business

If you’re thinking about expanding your business or starting a new one overseas, then Australia is an excellent choice. In 2019, Australia entered its 28th year of consecutive annual growth – setting a new record among developed economies for uninterrupted expansion. It’s also the only country to have recorded no annual recessions from 1992 to 2018.

With a strong currency, solid infrastructure, booming economy and business-friendly laws and regulations, it’s easy to see why entrepreneurs from all over the world continue to head Down Under.

Getting started: Find out which visa is right for you

The Australian immigration system is quite complex. You must ensure that you apply for the correct visa, meet all the requirements and provide the correct documentation. It’s a good idea to chat about your circumstances and objectives with a MARA-registered immigration advisor before beginning the application process. A qualified advisor can ensure that you choose a route that is right for you, your family and business.

There are a few visas that allow you to move your business and family to Australia. We look at your options in more detail below.

The Business Innovation visa (subclass 188a)

While the cut-off age for most Australian visas is 45 years, the Business Innovation visa gives those over the age of 45 a route to Australia if they have experience in running and owning a successful business.

To be eligible, you must:

  • Be under the age of 55
  • Score at least 65 points on the migration points test
  • For two out of the four fiscal years immediately before applying, have had ownership of an established business or businesses that has/have at least AU$500,000 turnover in each of those years
  • Either yourself, your business partner, or you and your partner combined, must have total net business and personal assets of AU$800,000 that can be used to establish a business in Australia

This visa is valid for four years and three months from the date it’s granted. After you have lived in Australia for two years and your business has met the specific benchmarks, you can apply for a permanent residency visa, the subclass 888 visa.

The overseas business sponsorship visa

Sponsorships help international businesses sponsor employees to work in Australia and establish a presence in the Australian market. Through this route, you can nominate a position within your new Australian business and apply for it yourself through self-sponsorship.

How it works

Your South African company must first apply to be an overseas business sponsor. Once this has been granted you will create a position within your Australian company. You’ll then apply for a Temporary Skilled Shortage (TSS) visa (subclass 482), which will allow you to move to Australia and take up your new position.

This initial stage only grants you temporary residency. If you want to become permanent resident and eventually gain citizenship, your Australian-based business will need to obtain standard business sponsorship. Only migrants who are sponsored by Australian companies can make the transition to permanent residency after having lived and worked in the country for three years.

Once you’ve lived in Australia for four years and fulfilled all the residency requirements, you can apply for citizenship and your Australian passport.

The Business Talent (Permanent) visa (subclass 132)

This visa is especially suited to businessowners, investors or property developers. We’ve created a special programme that helps entrepreneurs meet the requirements of the Business Talent visa and start a business.

The programme requires that you form or join a property development company in Australia. Once the property development has been completed, you will then be able to sell the property.

With the assistance and guidance of our team in Australia, you can continue to buy, develop and sell property within your own company.

To be eligible for the Business Talent visa, you must:

  • Submit an Expression of Interest
  • Be nominated by an Australian state or territory government agency
  • Be invited to apply for the visa
  • Have the required funding or assets

This visa has two streams:

  • The Significant Business History stream, which allows experienced business owners to start a new or existing business in Australia
  • Venture Capital Entrepreneur stream, which allows you to start a new or existing business if you have sourced venture capital funding from a member of the Australian Investment Council (AIC), in the Venture Capital Membership category

Choosing the right business structure

There’s lots to consider when deciding to establish a business presence in Australia. One of the first decisions you’ll have to make is whether to set up a branch or subsidiary. These structures are very different, with both offering advantages and disadvantages.

Establishing a branch

Your Australian branch will operate as an extension of the parent company’s operations – it’s not considered a separate legal entity. The parent company will be held directly liable for any claims or liabilities arising from the actions of the branch.

Your branch will be taxed on all Australian income, which is currently set at 30%.

Establishing a subsidiary

A subsidiary operates as a separate legal entity from the parent company, which means the parent company will not be held accountable for the actions of the subsidiary. The process of setting up a subsidiary is much simpler than a branch. Depending on your business’s annual turnover, you’ll be taxed at 27.5%-30%.

Before deciding which type of structure is best for your business, you must consider the costs, reporting, profit, taxation and legal considerations. It’s best to get professional legal advice from someone who understands the processes and requirements involved in setting up a business in Australia.

  • Sam Hopwood is the MD of our Australian office and a migration expert. He will be in South Africa in November conducting one-on-one consultations for those interested in discovering their Australian visa options. Book a consultation with him to start your journey to Australia. Alternatively, you can get in touch with as at [email protected] or call +27 (0) 21 657 1526.