Changes to 188 and 888 Visas

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been changes to the criteria for many visa types in recent months.

One category of visas which has been impacted by these changes is the Business Innovation and Investment class. The Subclass 888 visa has been amended, to provide concessions to visa applicants who are on a pathway a Subclass 188 (Provisional) visa to a Subclass 888 (Permanent) visa. The amendments provide concessions in relation to specified levels of business and investment activity, and in relation to visa criteria requiring specified periods of residence. The amendments also permit Subclass 188 visa holders to obtain another Subclass 188 visa if they need more time to establish a qualifying business in Australia.

The following list summarises the changes pertaining to Subclass 188 and 888 visas:

  • Applications for a Subclass 888 visa may be made by a former Subclass 188 visa holder whose visa ceased during a concession period when travel was restricted due to COVID-19 (this must be lodged no more than three months after the concession period ends).
  • Holders and former holders of a Subclass 188 visa who are unable to meet the requirements to hold a 188 visa, or who are unable to meet the Australian residency requirements for a Subclass 888 visa, as a result of COVID-19 travel restrictions, are still able to apply for and be granted the visa if certain requirements are met.
  • Former holders of a Subclass 188A visa, who held the visa during a concession period, may apply for a Subclass 188X visa (Extension).
  • Holders and former holders of a Subclass 188 visa affected by COVID-19 travel restrictions may apply for up to two Subclass 188X visas (previously only one visa extension in that stream is available).
  • Investments held by an applicant for a Subclass 888A visa, who hold or held a Subclass 188 visa granted before 1 July 2019, can be withdrawn or cancelled during a concession period where the holder of a Subclass 188A visa has lived in Australia for two years requirements.
  • A balancing investment component held by an applicant for a Subclass 888C visa who hold or held a Subclass 188 visa granted before 1 July 2019, can be withdrawn or cancelled during a concession period, while the applicant maintains their investment component in venture capital and emerging companies.
  • Applicants for the Subclass 188C visa granted before 1 July 2019 are not prevented from accessing the visa if they have withdrawn or cancelled investments in accordance with the concession above.
  • Visa holders whose visa is subject to a condition requiring them to hold an investment throughout the visa period are still able to comply with the condition after withdrawing or cancelling investments under the new arrangements.

NOTE: The amendments made for Subclass 888 apply in relation to a valid visa application made on or after 19 September 2020.

Impact of these changes

These amendments will help ensure that Australia remains competitive in the international market when attracting business migrants. In doing so, they reduce disadvantages faced by Subclass 188 visa holders and former visa holders, and Subclass 888 visa applicants, who are negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

These amendments also positively engage the right to work, to the extent that they provide access to an additional visa extension for Subclass 188X visas for business owners whose business has been negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic impact. This will enable those business owners to continue working.

Changes ensure that a holder of a Subclass 188C or 188X visa, that was granted before 1 July 2019, who withdraws or cancels part of an investment, is not thereby in breach of the visa condition requiring the holder to continue to hold a significant complying investment for the full visa period.