Investors applying for the initial visa either for direct permanent residency or a provisional visa for Australia’s investment program can apply without having to visit Australia. For those who already have the initial provisional investor visa and are looking for extension, they can avail Covid-19 concessions.
How can investors apply for Australia's investment program to gain residency without having to visit during the pandemic?
I'm an investor based in a Chinese city from where I can't travel abroad due to COVID-19 related restrictions. What are my options to invest in Australia without having to visit the country?
In most states, it is possible to make a "virtual exploratory visit" if you are unable to travel due to a Covid-19 related travel restriction. Some have the added condition that you must make a physical exploratory visit within six months of travel restrictions being lifted and before your visa grant. All other requirements for a business or investor visa can be met while the applicant is offshore.
The Australian government has introduced concessions that have been in effect from February 2020 that allow for certain amounts of time overseas to be considered as meeting the residence requirement in Australia and for the investment period to be reduced from the normal four years. However, the concessions only apply to visa holders who were granted the subclass 188 before July 2019. For visas granted later, there are currently no concessions available. I believe, it's likely the government will introduce further concessions as this will become more necessary as the travel restriction period is extended further. If you have not yet applied for an investor visa you should be aware that the visa application charge will increase by at least 11 percent plus an indexation increase from July 1, 2021; however, the investment period is planned to be reduced to a minimum of three years instead of four (specific details have not yet been announced). Not yet announced but very likely to be introduced in the future is an increase for the 188b from $1.5 million Australian dollars to $2.5 million Australian dollars or $3 million Australian dollars and a change away from the current government bond requirement to likely become a structured fund requirement. Applications and processing are continuing for all of these visas but processing times are long. The 188b is typically taking more than two years, so if you commence now you will likely be required to make your investment sometime in 2023 and then the visa will only commence after the investment has been made. The 188c is typically taking around six to 10 months currently. There will be sufficient time to complete the stay requirement in Australia assuming the travel restrictions are lifted in the next few years at latest.
As an investor, you can apply offshore for your investment visas and only upon visa grant are you obligated to make your initial entry to Australia. The best investment visa options without having to enter the country at the moment would be the Significant Investor stream (SIV) and the Investor Stream visas under the subclass 188 category. Your investment can be made directly from overseas. The processing time would depend on how well your application was submitted, the nature of your financial background and your country of origin.