Asia-Pacific

Backlog for Australia’s Closed BIIP Could Take Decades to Clear, Says Agent

In a shift aimed at attracting global talent and boosting economic growth, the Australian government has unveiled its new innovation visa. This move is part of a broader overhaul of Australia’s migration system, as revealed by Treasurer Jim Chalmers during the annual budget presentation last week.

The center-left Labor government is seeking to address the surge in migration following the pandemic. The influx of students and other arrivals has strained the rental market, contributing to rising prices. In response, the government plans to increase scrutiny on student visas and introduce a ballot system for the popular work and holiday visas for applicants from China, Vietnam, and India, starting in the fiscal year ending June 2025.

These new policies are projected to reduce net overseas immigration. From a high of 528,000 arrivals in 2022–23, the government expects to see this number halved to 260,000 in 2024-25. This reduction aims to balance the demand for skilled workers with the need to control population growth and its impact on the housing market.

Australia’s communication on BIIP leaves much to be desired

The innovation visa will replace Australia’s investor migrant program, the Business Innovation and Investment Program (BIIP) or “golden visa,” which the government abolished after concluding it had “minimal” economic benefits. The government’s goal is to target exceptionally talented migrants who will drive growth in sectors of national importance.

The formal closure of BIIP is leaving 18,500 pending applications in limbo, explains James Hall, director of ANZ Migrate. “Australia isn’t communicating effectively. This contrasts significantly with New Zealand, which abolished its investor visa and introduced a new one, but they communicated everything clearly at every step. For Australia, it’s quite the opposite,” he exclaims.

He predicts that “BIIP visas are likely to be granted to those in final stages. For those in earlier stages, the assessment will be case-by-case.”

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The backlog could take nearly two decades to clear up as the government has allocated only 1,000 places to be cleared in 2024/2025, reveals Hall, down from 1,900 in 2023/2024 – which was also a significant reduction from the year before. If it keeps up the same pace, “this means an 18.5-year wait for those at the end of the queue.”

Hall believes Australia’s government doesn’t want those BIIP applications but has yet to decide how to proceed with them. One option on the table is refunding willing BIIP applicants to reduce the queue and then deciding on the best approach to deal with the rest.

An obstacle applicants might run into in this scenario is that the government requires a copy of the bank statement showing the payment of the original fee. For some applicants, this statement might have been issued a decade ago and could, therefore, be challenging to retrieve. Hall adds that proof of identification isn’t sufficient to get a refund.

“They have also indicated BIIP policy guidance will be tightened,” he says.  “So, while they won’t change the legislative requirements for those existing applications, the policy that determines how the legislative requirements are assessed will be tightened, meaning more applications will be refused where they don’t meet the effectively heightened requirements.”

Government hints it may introduce a new investor visa

While the BIIP is formally closed, the Australian government indicated that it may soon introduce a new investor visa. This follows a government migration review that indicated that the Significant Investor Visa (SIV), a sub-category of the broader BIIP scheme that required investments of AUD 5 million, had demonstrated benefits to the economy. A similar scheme, therefore, may be in the cards, albeit with stricter requirements.

“Given that they are mentioning a direct permanent visa rather than a two-stage process, it would likely mean a more stringent assessment of the candidate and their ability to contribute to Australia,” says Hall.

“We may see monitoring and cancellation provisions introduced, such as under the previous direct permanent visa for high-level business applicants (Subclass 132) who had a monitoring period of three years where the visa was subject to cancellation if they didn’t maintain substantial ownership in an eligible business in Australia that they intended to continue actively managing,” he adds.

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Moustafa Daly AdministratorAuthorParticipant
Head of Digital , IMI

Moustafa Daly is the Head of Digital at IMI, based in Cairo.

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