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Doing business in Australia

At a glance

  • One of the most common places for Brits to emigrate to
  • Opposite ends of the planet, but share language, culture and legal frameworks
  • And new, remote technologies have made doing business between the countries more practical
  • A tourism-related business is a good option for emigres
  • Anyone wishing to move to Australia to set up in business should apply for a business skills visa
Businesses for sale Melbourne: doing business in Australia

Australia's first immigrants may have been reluctant European outcasts, destined for a lifetime of hard labour, but today this vast country lures 150,000 people annually from the UK alone.

Twenty-six percent of the Australian population is foreign-born, of which the biggest constituency by far is Britain, with more than 1.2 million born in the UK. Many of these hopefuls arrive to set up in business for themselves in search of the famed Australian sun, scenery and quality of life.

With property prices - including commercial property - and other living costs significantly lower, it's no wonder the country is so popular with Britons.

Shared language, a common basis for commercial law, a similar business culture and the presence of UK companies in the market make Australia hugely accessible

Shared culture

Australia is an affluent country with a stable economy and strong links to the UK, making it a more significant market for the UK than its comparatively small population of 22 million might suggest. With an economy worth $1.6tn, it's a prime location for business immigrants.

The advantages of a shared language, a common basis for commercial law, a similar business culture and the presence of many UK companies in the market make Australia hugely accessible to the fledgling and experienced exporter alike.

Admittedly there isn't anywhere on the planet further away from the UK than Australia, but the geographical gap between the countries has been bridged by technological advances. The emergence of the internet and related technologies such as Voice-over-Internet phones, as well as video conferencing technology, have made doing business between the countries a lot easier.

Business broker Eric Lahra, who has 30 years' experience selling businesses in Melbourne and the rest of Australia, has some advice for Brits relocating their business Down Under: "Continue in the same field and don't try to reinvent the wheel. Business here has adopted a very British system and there's a chance you'll introduce some new ideas to the local scene."

Australia is a huge country (more than 30 times the size of the UK) with most people living in one of the major cities and three quarters of the population living in centres of 20,000 or more, making the market easily identifiable.

The principal cities of Sydney and Melbourne are large by international standards, with populations of 4.3 million and 3.8 million respectively. The capital, Canberra, has a population of just 330,000, although it is in the midst of a record-breaking construction boom.

Australia's cities are vibrant, cosmopolitan places thanks to waves of post-war immigration from southern Europe and south-east Asia. Creative and media, food and drink, recreation and leisure industries thrive.

Other prime sectors in the country are agriculture, mining, oil and gas, telecommunications, biotechnology and railways. With most of Australia's population living within 20km of the sea, it is a significant player in marine industries.

Western Australia, whose biggest city is Perth, is Australia's largest state, covering the most resource-laden third of the country. As close to Singapore as it is to Sydney, it is ideally equipped to service the growing economies of Asia and the Indian Ocean rim.

It is also well placed for air travel, freight networks, shipping lines and telecommunications, and the state is home to Ernst & Young, Coopers & Lybrand and many other key international businesses.

The comparatively sparsely populated regions of the Northern Territory, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland are home to numerous lucrative industries, including offshore gas exploration, mining, farming, fishing and tourism, but they are still ripe for investment as most migrants head for the economically strong cities.

Tourist trade

The tourist trade should be highly attractive to the business migrant as Australia's rich aboriginal culture and stunning natural beauty continues to draw in over a million visitors a year. Lahra feels that the best business move for an individual looking for a lifestyle change would be in this industry.

"I would recommend a tourism and/or accommodation business - motel or B&B - where you normally get the housing with the business," he says. "This makes the start in a new country much easier and you start interacting with the travellers and local community immediately."
If you want to live in Australia and set up a business, or buy/manage a new or established business, you will need to apply for a provisional business owner visa, although you must be under 45 years old. If you can get sponsored by a state or territory then then threshold rises to 55 years old.

It is advisable to seek assistance from an agent before making your application, as competition is fierce.

Under the country's two-stage arrangements, business migrants can apply to upgrade their provisional visa to a residence visa after meeting the requisite level of achievement or maintaining their eligible investment. Applicants for provisional visas must have had a successful business career to date and significant net assets to settle in Australia.

Find out about the various options for provisional and permanent visas at the Department of Immigration and Citizenship website.


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