Small business owners now eligible for government nominations for migration

Lottie Twyford 23 July 2021
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Small business owners may now be eligible to seek nomination from the ACT Government for a 491 or 190 visa. Photo: File.

The ACT Government has recently introduced a new ‘Small Business Owner’ pathway through which Canberra business people can apply for a government nomination for either a 491 or 190 visa for people who can fill skill shortages.

While an ACT nomination does not guarantee the individual’s migration outcome, it does trigger a formal visa invitation letter from the Department of Home Affairs.

There are now three categories through which an individual can become eligible for an ACT Government nomination: an occupation on the current ACT Critical Skill List, a 457/482 visa holder, and the new Small Business Owner category.

The new stream means the applicant does not need to have their occupation listed on the ACT critical list, although other criteria apply.

NewStars general manager Victor Lin participated in the discussions which led to the new policy.

He says it’s his understanding that anybody who is running a genuine and profitable business within ACT can meet the eligibility criteria comfortably.

“We consider it as a clear message from the ACT Government that they care about people who are actually contributing to the ACT’s economic growth,” Mr Lin said.


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Mr Lin said the ACT Government took much inspiration from Queensland, which has a similar scheme, although they relaxed the requirements to make it more accessible.

He’s also hopeful the scheme will be a long-term and stable one to help attract skilled investors and businesspeople to the ACT.

“We noticed that with fewer international students and graduates coming from ANU and UC, there was a gap in the market, and there were many places free which needed filling,” Mr Lin explained.

Last year also saw a reduction in the number of occupations included on the critical skills list.

All of this despite the fact the ACT’s number of nominations grew to 2000 this financial year, up from 1400 last year.

Victor Lin

Victor Lin from NewStars participated in the discussions that led to the new policy. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Mr Lin said the entire process of working with the ACT Government to develop the scheme had been great, and he is very pleased with the resulting, fair scheme.

The Small Business Owner Category does exclude those running a sub-tenancy, ride-share, taxi, delivery, courier services or an on-sold business previously used to qualify for ACT nomination.

According to the ACT Government guidelines, small business owners are required to be the majority owner (at least 51%) of a registered, profitable business actively operating in the ACT with a minimum turnover of $200,000 per annum.

Owners must also employ an Australian citizen, permanent resident or New Zealand citizen for at least 13 weeks (minimum 20 hrs per week) and be paying themselves a taxable salary.

More points are given on the matrix for the longer the business has been trading for.


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The two types of visas for which people in the ACT can apply are the Skilled Work Regional (provisional) subclass 491 visa or a Skilled Nominated (permanent) subclass 190 visa.

The 491 allows skilled workers who have been nominated by their state or territory government to live and work for five years within regional Australia. The 190 visa, however, allows applicants to live and work as a permanent resident. People must still be nominated by the state or territory government.

Each year, the ACT Government is only allowed to nominate a fixed number of applicants, and they use the Canberra matrix to manage this nomination process to select applicants.

An individual can score points on the matrix for length of ACT residence, occupation, employment, English, study, investment and close family living in Canberra.

See the full ACT Nomination guidelines at Canberra Your Future.


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