How to start a business in Australia

28.02.17
5 minute read

With a recent focus on engaging entrepreneurs, it’s a great time to consider starting a business in Australia. The organization StartupAUS recently even proposed the implementation of an Entrepreneur Visa, as well as a program for education non-residents about the benefits or establishing in Australia.

Whether or not StartupAUS’ plan ever comes to fruition, Australia is still poised as one of the best environments for startups, ranked 1st in the Asia-Pacific region and 7th globally in the 2017 Global Entrepreneurship Index.

For those ready to make the leap, there’s some great news; establishing a company in Australia as a foreigner is fairly simple. Keep reading to learn more about what types of visas you can get, what kinds of entities are possible to establish, and how to register your business down under.

Getting started: visa requirements

No matter what type of business you’re hoping to establish in Australia, you’ll need to start by getting a visa. This is the biggest hurdle of the entire process, but there are a couple of options available to you as a non-resident.

Business Innovation and Investment Visas

Business Innovation and Investment Visas are designed for individuals with proven business skills who want to set up a new business in Australia. In order to apply for the visa, you’ll first need a nomination by a state or territory government. The steps for getting a nomination are as follows:

  • Submit an Expression of Interest to the DIBP (Department of Immigration and Border Protection). This can be done online through their SkillSelect service.

  • Wait for a state or territory to contact you to invite you to apply for a visa. (You may also contact state and territory governments directly.)

  • If you receive an invitation, you can then apply for the visa. However, please note that there are certain requirements and documents you’ll need to support your application.

If your visa application is approved, you’ll be granted a provisional visa, which is valid for four years. This visa is the first step towards obtaining your permanent Business Innovation and Investment visa.

Business Talent visa

Alternatively, you may be qualified for a Permanent Business Talent Visa. There are two types of individuals who are eligible:

  • Individuals who own or part-own an overseas business, have net business and personal assets totalling AUD $1.5 million or more, and a yearly business turnover of AUD $3 million at a minimum.

  • Individuals who have been granted a minimum of AUD $1 million in venture capital funding in Australia.

Choosing a business structure

Once your visa is taken care of, you can choose from any of the four most common business structures in Australia: sole trader, company, partnership, or trust. Before deciding what structure is best, you may want to seek advice from a business consultant, lawyer, or accountant.

Australia’s Department of Industry, Innovation, and Science (DIIS) has set up extensive online resources to help you understand the benefits and limitations of each Australian business type.

Becoming a legal entity

After you’ve chosen your business structure, you’ll need to register for an Australian Business Number (ABN).

With an ABN in place, you’ll be able to:

  • Confirm your business identity for the purpose of ordering and invoicing

  • Avoid ‘Pay As You Go’ tax on payments received

  • Claim Goods and Services Tax credits

  • Claim energy grants credits

  • Purchase an Australian domain name

Building your brand

The next step in the process is ensuring your chosen business name is available for registration in Australia. To find out, search the Australian Securities and Investments Commission website for company name availability.

Once you’re sure the name you’ve picked is available, you’ll want to contact a trademark attorney to help with the official filing.

Registering your Australian business

There are two ways to register your business in Australia:

1. Contract a private service provider (PSP) to manage your application.

A PSP will handle the entire registration process for your company for a fee. Many PSPs in Australia use software with direct access to ASIC’s systems which increases the likelihood that your application is processed swiftly with minimal intervention. It’s best to conduct your own preliminary research before choosing a firm.

2. Apply directly with the ASIC

You can also register your company directly by filling out Form 201- Application for Registration as an Australian Company and sending it to the ASIC. The form must be sent with the required fees (paid by check or money order) in order to be processed.

Once your application is processed, the ASIC will:

  • Provide you with an ACN (Australian Company Number) which then allows you to apply for an ABN (Australian Business Number) if necessary

  • Send you a certificate of registration

  • Give you a corporate key for managing your company’s online account.

To learn more about the process, you can use ASIC’s checklist for registering a company to ensure you’ve taken all the correct steps for completing your registration.

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Is that it?

Hopefully, but not necessarily. There are a number of other registrations and licenses your specific business may require. Luckily, the Australian Business License and Information Service has set up an easy search tool to help you get the right information for starting your company.

If you have any questions or need further help, each agency involved in the process has simple, easy-to-use web pages to guide you through the process.

Another good place to start is on the Australian Trade and Investment Commission’s guide to guide to setting up a business in Australia.

The Australian Securities and Investment Commission also has great online resources for entrepreneurs looking to set up in Australia.

The most robust resource available to new businesses down under, however, is business.gov.au, where you’ll find a multitude of helpful guides, how-to’s, and checklists for registering your business.

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