The Holy Grail of Australia for Entrepreneurs: a visa to stay in the country up to 3 years to start a business!

Article by Marion Vigot, find the original version here

Hard reality of the visa etiquette:

After creating a first business in Vietnam, which I will talk about in future posts, one of my dream career move was to work and live in Australia. I landed in Melbourne on February 5th, 2018 to start a gypsie journey traveling and living in a van for a couple of months. This experience was all about reflecting on past experiences, take some time for myself and time to discover this part of the world, which I strongly needed after a recent business acquisition.

As most foreigners coming to Australia without any kind of planned employment, I asked for a WHV (Working Holiday Visa), which allows me to travel and work at the same time, not too bad as a first step. However, reality hits hard once in the country: the WHV is “The Backpacker Visa”. In other words, your options are limited, your working conditions are unstable, and oh, forget about everything business. Not great. Not what I was expecting, and time is running out. Of course, there is always this option of renewing the visa, however, what for if this is to be under the same hat, I want to create a business, not just extend my time here, I also want to be taken seriously.

Hello Google: “entrepreneur visa in Australia”
Google: There is an entrepreneur visa in Australia, you have to invest AUD200,000 to apply for it.
Me: What? Is it really an “Entrepreneur” visa? No thanks.

Is it really possible to stay in Australia and launch a startup? I mean AUD200,000 is A LOT.

SISA: First Entrepreneur Visa issued by the South Australian Government

7 months in Australia and I still had no clue on how I could stay here and work on my own business, as a foreigner. Of course looking at sponsored visa was also an option, but who says “Sponsored” means “work for another business, full time, or you have 28 days to leave the Country”. Not really what I want. Discussing options with a fellow Entrepreneur, I found out a pilot program supporting innovations in South Australia was on its way to be launched at the end of 2018.

November 2018: this is it, the South Australian Government is opening a program called SISA : Supporting Innovation in South Australia.

Applicants will be applying under a Temporary Activity (subclass 408) visa under the Australian Government Endorsed Event stream. The duration of the visa is up to three years, depending on the time of visa grant.

Photo by Marcus Wallis on Unsplash

A chance to launch a business in Australia and stay 3 more years in the Country? YES!

Long story short, we applied and this is all the steps we had to go through with of course the important bits: time & money.

Timeline & Cost:
December 2018: Touch base with the Government to get more information.
January 2019: Submission of the Business Plan to the service provider in SA. After approval, lodging of application on the SA Government website (AUD200) and IELTS English Test (AUD340)
February 2019: Endorsement Letter from the SA Government & official application on the Australian Governement website for the 408 visa (AUD285)
March 2019: Visa granted.
> Total cost: AUD925. Definitely not too bad considering other visa options are WAY more expensive and take much longer, with more paperworks. It’s also the very beginning of the program.

Sounds easy and fairly quick, yes? However there are a couple of things we had to consider and you will too.

  • you need to have a business plan for an innovative idea you think would benefit the State of SA, potentially employ Australian people in the future and grow the Economy of SA: this is the whole point of this pilot program. If you are just looking for a way to stay and enjoy Australia, and are not serious about creating a business, there are big chances you won’t even get an endorsement letter from SA.
  • have a good level of English, demonstrated by a certificate that you will have to provide. We had to do the IELTS test and that was extra $$.
  • all business plans are checked and reviewed by a “Service Provider”, in other word agencies that are here to look at your profile, experiences and business idea in order to have “real applicants”. You will also have a strong link with this Service Provider all the way through the process and during the 3 years, as they will follow up with you and help you get your business out there.
  • choosing and getting in touch with the most appropriate service provider of your choice is your first step into the process. You can also do everything by yourself but the processing time is going to be longer. Click here to see the list.
  • it cannot be ANY business, there is a list of recommended and non-eligible businesses you have to check.
  • Student visas, Subclass 403, Subclass 771 holders cannot apply.
  • you can apply onshore or offshore, so even if you are not here, you can still apply and you don’t need to be in the country. Once you get the visa you have 90 days to move to SA.
  • once the visa granted, there are some obligations in the startup community, I won’t share much on here as we are still looking to get informations about it.
  • with this visa, you can also legally work up to 20 hours per week to support yourself and the business, which is great in my opinion.

I am all about Community!

I love creating communities, I have done it a few time in lots of different industries and being part of this new program, I recently created a group on facebook where I want to build a community regrouping entrepreneurs that have been granted with the SISA visa and also other entrepreneurs that might be interested to apply. Looking forward to see you there and hopefully meetup at networking events and aferworks. Also don’t hesitate to join and ask any visa related questions!

More information about the SISA visa checklist can be found on the official Governement website here and more info on eligibility criteria and requirement here.

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