Reopening visa program a potential lifeline for start-ups

Proposals have been forwarded to reopen the Significant Investor Visa (SIV) program as a way to help start-up businesses manage the current COVID-19

SIV has the potential to provide up to $100 million as a lifeline for new and emerging businesses and business owners who are finding themselves crippled by the crisis and in danger of shutting down, according to Executive Chairman of Atlas Advisors Australia, Guy Hedley.

Hedley called on the Australian Government to give urgent priority to the fast-tracking of capital flows under the SIV program, pointing out that 40-50 final stage applications under the SIV program have stalled since travel restrictions were imposed by the Federal government.

“This could provide up to $100 million in urgently needed funds which could save many startups and emerging companies from closure,” Hedley said.

The program is a pathway to provide for significant migrant investment into Australia under the Business Innovation and Investment visa program. No visa approvals have been granted since the travel ban was imposed, however, meaning that funds from investors have dried up.

“An unintended consequence of this is that start-ups do not have access to money that would otherwise have been available,” Hedley explained. “As a result, the financial health and wellbeing of many Australian start-ups is at stake and unnecessary failures of great entrepreneurial and employment-generating companies could result.”

Hedley emphasised that applicants should be permitted to execute their investment obligations while delaying their physical stay in Australia until travel restrictions are lifted. University-backed investment fund Uniseed and venture capital fund Follow[the]Seed also joined in Atlas Advisors Australia’s call.

“Reopening approvals under the SIV program would fulfill the program’s original intent to support thin capital markets,” Hedley said.

The COVID-19 crisis follows a serious drop in early-stage venture capital investment in recent years.

“The Australian Government should harness the opportunity now to support local start-ups starved of growth capital because of the devastating impact of COVID-19,” Hedley said.

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