Start a business in Australia

Setting up a business in Australia
Updated 2023-06-03 20:57

On the whole, Australia is a welcoming country for expats looking to start a business. The Australian government makes it easy by offering support programs and visas designed to encourage foreign investment and entrepreneurship. Overseas entrepreneurs can take advantage of a stable political and economic environment, a highly skilled workforce, and a diverse market.  

However, opening a business is never exactly simple and when you are starting off as someone unfamiliar with a country and its regulatory and legal requirements, it can be even more difficult. We break down some of these important aspects of starting and doing business in Australia, including visa advice, how to obtain the necessary permits and licenses, what you need to know about taxes, and how to comply with workplace laws and regulations.

Visas for doing business in Australia

First things first: in order to start a business in Australia, you need the appropriate visa. Luckily Australia has a number of visa options that are geared toward entrepreneurs and investors. The two main visas in this class are the Business Innovation and Investment (subclass 188) visa, which is a temporary visa that allows you to own and manage a business in Australia, and the Business Talent (subclass 132) visa, which is a permanent visa for “high-caliber” business people who want to establish or develop a business in Australia.

Business Innovation and Investment visa

Depending on your situation, you may be able to apply for a Business Innovation and Investment Visa. This visa allows you to own and manage a business in Australia, conduct business and investment activity in Australia, or undertake an entrepreneurial activity in Australia. There are different streams of the visa, including the Business Innovation Stream, Investor Stream, Significant Investor Stream, Premium Investor Stream, Entrepreneur Stream, and Business Innovation Extension Stream. Each stream has different eligibility requirements and criteria, such as a minimum investment amount, turnover, or net assets.


To be eligible for the subclass 188 visa, applicants must be nominated by a state or territory government or Austrade and score at least 65 points on the points test. They must also meet health and character requirements and have sufficient funds to support themselves and their families during their stay in Australia. After holding a subclass 188 visa for a certain period and fulfilling certain criteria, such as maintaining business or investment activities, creating jobs, or meeting turnover requirements, applicants may be eligible to apply for the subclass 888 visa, which is a permanent residency visa for Australia.

Length of stay

This provisional visa allows you to stay in Australia for up to four years and three months. After this expires, you are eligible to apply for the permanent stream of the visa, which allows you to stay in Australia permanently.


The costs for this visa vary depending on the stream you apply for, but generally, costs include a visa application fee of AUD 7,880. This fee is non-refundable, even if your visa application is rejected. In addition to the base fee, you may need to budget for the cost of health assessments, English language proficiency tests, and the business costs associated with setting up a business in Australia, such as registering your business, leasing or buying property, and hiring staff (more on these steps below).

Application steps

  • Submit an expression of interest through the Department of Immigration SkillSelect online service. You must wait to see if a state or territory government decides to invite you to apply for a visa. You can wait for a state or territory government to contact you, or you can contact them directly. If you receive an invitation, you can then apply for a visa. You will need to meet certain requirements and provide documents to support your application.
  • If you are granted one of these provisional visas, it will be valid for four years, and you will have completed the first step towards getting a permanent Innovation and Investor Visa. For more information on this visa type, visit the Department of Immigration's website.

Good to know:

You can't ask for an investor's visa if you do not have previous management experience. Your managerial skills in your home country will be analyzed in detail before the immigration service can grant you an investor visa.

Permanent business talent visas

The Business Talent visa is designed for experienced and high-caliber business owners who are willing to invest in a new or existing Australian business. This visa has two streams: the Significant Business History stream and the Venture Capital Entrepreneur stream. The first stream is for experienced business owners who have a successful record of managing and growing businesses, while the latter is for people who have obtained venture capital funding in Australia.


Eligibility for the visa depends on meeting the following conditions:

  • A net value of at least AUD 1.5 million (lawfully acquired)
  • An annual business turnover of at least AUD3 million for at least 2 of the 4 fiscal years immediately before you are invited to apply
  • Total net assets of at least AUD 400,000 as the ownership interest in one or more qualifying businesses for at least 2 of the 4 fiscal years immediately before you are invited to apply

Length of stay

The Business Talent visa allows you to stay in Australia indefinitely. This is a permanent visa, which means that once it is granted, you can live, work and study in Australia for as long as you like. You may also be eligible to apply for Australian citizenship after meeting the eligibility criteria.


The application costs for the Business Talent visa are AUD 4,045 for the primary applicant, and it also includes an additional applicant charge for family members: AUD 2,025 for each adult and AUD 1,010 for each child under 18 years of age.

Application steps

As with the business innovation visa, applying for the business talent visa is a two-step process:

  • First, you submit the expression of Interest using the Department of Home Affairs' SkillSelect system. The EOI should include details of your business background, experience, and proposed business activity in Australia. If the EOI is successful, the applicant will receive an invitation to apply for the visa.
  • The second step is to submit a visa application. This application requires more detailed information about your personal and business history, as well as evidence of your assets. The applicant will also need to undergo a standard health and character assessment.

Starting and doing business in Australia

Once you've got your visa, all you have to do is start and run a business in Australia. But don't worry; there is lots of advice and guidance on how to do this, and we've collated some of it here for you.

Australia is generally considered a welcoming place to do business it was ranked 14th out of 190 countries surveyed by the World Bank in terms of ease of doing business.

What kind of business?

As with starting your business anywhere, a huge part of the process is researching the market and industry and figuring out what might lead to success.

Depending on what visa you were granted, you may already be familiar with your sector. However, studying consumer behavior, identifying competitors, understanding regulations, and determining demand and supply, are all key factors to your business's success. It is always a good idea to start a business in an industry you understand, but, in general, promising areas to start a business in Australia include technology and IT services, renewable energy and sustainability, education and training, health and medical services, food and hospitality, construction and real estate development, professional services (consulting, accounting, legal, etc.), e-commerce and online retail, creative industries (design, advertising, film, etc.), and manufacturing and engineering.

Business structure

Choosing a business structure is another key step in the process. Make sure to select a business structure that suits your business needs and complies with Australian laws. In Australia, the options include:

  • Sole Trader: An individual operates the business as a single person and is personally responsible for all aspects and liabilities.
  • Partnership: Two or more individuals or entities come together to run a business as co-owners, sharing responsibilities and liabilities.
  • Company: A separate legal entity from its owners (shareholders) that offers limited liability protection with legal and reporting obligations.
  • Trust: Assets are held by one party (trustee) for the benefit of others (beneficiaries) according to the terms of a trust deed.

Regulations, laws and taxes

As an expat looking to start a business in Australia, there are several key business regulations and laws to be aware of and taxes to register for. Here are some of the most important ones:

  • Company registration: All companies must be registered with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) and comply with the Corporations Act 2001.
  • Australian Business Number: An ABN is a unique identifier for your business. You can apply for an ABN through the Australian Business Register (ABR) online or by completing the necessary forms.
  • Taxation: Businesses are required to register for an Australian Business Number (ABN) and Goods and Services Tax (GST) if their annual turnover is over AUD 75,000. Businesses must also pay income tax and comply with other tax laws. For instance, you may need to register for PAYG withholding to deduct and remit tax from employee payments. You can register for PAYG withholding online with the ATO.
  • Employment laws: Employers must comply with Australia's employment laws, including minimum wage rates, working hours, leave entitlements, and anti-discrimination laws.
  • Consumer protection laws: Businesses must comply with consumer protection laws, including the Australian Consumer Law (ACL), which provides protection for consumers against misleading and deceptive conduct and unfair contract terms.
  • Intellectual property laws: Australia has strict intellectual property laws to protect trademarks, patents, and copyrights. It is important for businesses to ensure that their intellectual property is properly registered and protected.
  • Workplace health and safety: All businesses must comply with workplace health and safety regulations to ensure the safety of employees and customers.
  • Data protection: Businesses must comply with Australia's data protection laws, including the Privacy Act 1988, which regulates the handling of personal information by businesses.
  • Environmental regulations: Businesses must comply with environmental regulations to ensure that they are operating in an environmentally sustainable way.
  • Financial reporting: Companies must comply with the Australian Accounting Standards and prepare financial reports that comply with the Corporations Act 2001.

Hiring employees

Once you've successfully launched your business in Australia, the next step is finding the right employees to support its growth.

First off, you've got to assess what your staffing needs are. Determine the roles and skills required for your business and create a clear picture of the type of employees you need. After that, you must write detailed job descriptions that clearly outline the responsibilities, qualifications, and expectations for each position. This will help attract suitable candidates and clarify responsibilities within the company.

Next, spread the word about your job openings through online job boards, social media platforms, industry-specific websites, and local job agencies. Make sure your advertisements comply with anti-discrimination laws. Depending on what kind of business you are starting, you may advertise locally or nationally, head hunt your ideal employees or put a sign up in the window.

Once the applications come in, it's your job to review them, select the most promising candidate and conduct interviews to assess their qualifications, skills, and cultural fit. Before extending offers of employment, consider conducting reference checks to validate their credentials.

Support and guidance

There are several support programs available for expat entrepreneurs in Australia and even for citizens and permanent residents. Below are some examples:

In addition to federal programs, state and territory government programs each have their own range of support programs for businesses, including funding, advice, and networking opportunities

Industry-specific support programs can also offer you support and networking opportunities, depending on which sector you are operating in. For instance, there is the Australian Technology Showcase for technology companies or the Australian Tourism Industry Council for tourism businesses.


For more detailed information on all aspects of business in Australia, we recommend consulting both the Australian Taxation Office website and the Australian Government Business website. Requirements and regulations do change, and government-run websites will be the most up-to-date source of information.

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.