Australia BIIP Applicants Protest as Permanent Residency Wait Times Balloon

Australia’s recent deprioritization of its Business Innovation and Investment (BIIP) visa is driving unrest among provisional visa holders awaiting their permanent residency (PR).

On Friday, a crowd of some 100 provisional BIIP visa holders staged a protest outside the ABC News’ offices in Melbourne to voice concerns about the extended waiting times for a PR.

In the fall of last year, Australia’s government removed BIIP visas from the priority processing list, a move that has seen average wait times for PR balloon from 3-5 months to around three years and brought about a historic backlog of applications that, at last count, had reached more than 32,000. The wait to obtain a PR under the BIIP is now nearly as long as for the initial provisional visa.

The amended processing times affect all provisional holders, many of whom are now seeing their long-term plans shattered. One protestor highlighted BIIP-holders' plight by stating that the Department of Home Affairs website indicated it would take six months for them to obtain PR, but that "now it's been more than 14 months" without any indication as to when they expect the PR.

To qualify for the PR under Subclass 888 (BIIP PR), investors must live for at least four years in Australia. Under the old processing times, that would usually mean a person would obtain a PR after five years, within the validity of their initial provisional visa.

This is no longer the case, however, as even those who applied before the deprioritization of the visa have suffered extended waiting times due to the backlog. Some protestors on Friday claimed to have waited 30 months or more so far.

BIIP investors protesting in Melbourne last week. Image credit: ABC News/Jason Fong

Last month, Australia residency expert James Hall highlighted in an analysis piece in IMI that BIIP applicants may be in for an even longer wait now that planning levels have been sharply reduced:

The backlog of BIIP applications is a significant issue. As of June 30th, 2022, the queue consisted of 32,412 applications. If current 2022/2023 planning levels were maintained, it would take over three years to process this backlog. However, with the reduced planning level for 2023/2024, this will increase further. 

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Such unexpectedly long wait times could also see many BIIP applicants' children "age out" of their path to residency in Australia, explained Hall:

A particular concern related to processing times is that the age of dependent children is assessed at the time of the decision of the application and, in most cases, if a child turns 23 before this decision, the child will not be granted a visa.

This is especially a blow for those who planned their migration to include getting their children into Australian universities as PR holders rather than international students.

Tan, a Chinese investor taking part in the protest, lamented his continued reliance on his business as the primary condition for residence status. "The 'forever wait' means that even if I'm running my business at a loss, I cannot just close shop and move on," he told South China Morning Post. Tan said he has been waiting 33 months for his permanent status.

The government intends to lower the allocation from 5,000 visas to 1,900 for the 23/24 financial year. The BIIP's share during the 20/21 financial year was 13,500, falling to 9,500 in 21/22, and finally to 5,000 last year. This represents an 86% drop in visa allocations in just four years.

Responding to ABC News' questions about the processing delays, the Department of Home Affairs said in an email that "the processing of the BIIP is afforded a lower priority" within ministerial directive number 100, which "prioritizes skilled visa programs that directly address workforce shortages and enable employers to fill skilled vacancies more quickly."

The department pointed out that Sublcass 888 visa applicants "already hold visas that allow them to live and work in Australia - either a provisional visa or a bridging visa that allows work. They are permitted to travel to, work, and remain anywhere in Australia while they wait for their permanent visa to be processed."

The department also indicated that a new migration strategy, which it plans to release later this year, will involve "radically reshaping" the BIIP.

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Ahmad Abbas AdministratorAuthorSubscriberParticipant
Director of Content Services , Investment Migration Insider

Ahmad Abbas is Director of Content Services at Investment Migration Insider and an 8-year veteran of the investment migration industry.

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