By Moustafa Daly
Demanding an end to extended delays in issuing their permanent residencies, Chinese applicants to Australia’s Business Innovation and Investment (BIIP) Program took to the streets of Sydney last week in a rare protest.
“The protest is about the 888 grants, which is the second stage visa (temporary to permanent residence transition),” says James Hall, director at ANZ Migrate, to Uglobal. “The government has shifted its focus from the [BIIP] program to the general skilled and employer-sponsored categories, and it took places away (quotas) from the business program to use for these.”
Why are BIIP applicants protesting now?
The protest follows the biggest overhaul in Australia’s migration policy in decades. The change follows a review conducted by the government that found that the BIIP visa does not bring economic advantages to the country like other visa types that focus on attracting skilled migrants.
The BIIP is a nomination-based RBI program in which interested applicants must first demonstrate their wealth and business expertise, and their intention to launch and operate a business in Australia valued at AUD$2.5 million at minimum.
After the initial application stage, investors receive the temporary 188 visa. Once they complete their investments, they are eligible for the 888 permanent visas. However, protestors claim their visas have not been updated.
The issue arose after elections last year brought in a labor administration that seems to be less invested in the 888 visa category – significantly reducing the quota for the BIIP to 1,900 in the coming year, down from 5,000 this year (until June 30, 2023) and the 13.5k provided last year, says Hall.
“The 888 applicants are essentially collateral damage from this change. If the planning level [quota] remains this low, then the current 188 applications in the queue will take more than ten years to process,” Hall adds.
Protestors request the government make a distinction between new applicants and those already in the process to obtain the 888. They argue the new quota fails to make this distinction, leaving many applicants in a legal limbo.
How is Australia’s government approaching the BIIP dilemma?
The new government might eventually cancel the current applications altogether, says Hall, nodding to a similar situation a decade ago when the government also decided “to cancel and provide refunds of the application fees. That's a very rare occurrence, but a reminder that it is possible.”
However, a viable solution remains a possibility, as the government has yet to put the final touches to its immigration strategy.
“The government stated it will announce a strategy later this year, so this will hopefully provide some clarity of the intended direction,” explains Hall, albeit adding that the strategy would be based on the outcome of the review mentioned earlier, which wasn’t favorable to the economic viability of the BIIP.
Another alternative is for the government to replace the BIIP with a new program.
“It’s likely the government will close the current BIIP program for new applications and develop a new replacement program in the next 1-2 years, with investment as the main product rather than business,” adds Hall.
In all cases, it’s unlikely the BIIP will be taking in any new applicants, he said.
“I think in the coming program year, starting on 1 July 2023, there will be few to no places available for new applications. If there are, they will be very limited, likely requiring a higher entry requirement (set by the state/territory government providing the nomination) and likely place the significant investor stream as a priority over any others,” elaborates Hall.
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