Can a foreign citizen start a business in Australia?


Starting a business in Australia as a foreigner

Starting a business in Australia is exciting but can also be challenging if you are not prepared. The Australian government actively encourages foreign citizens to start a business in Australia and contribute to the country’s economy. But when you start a company in Australia as a non-citizen you need to make sure you know:

  • how to get the right visa in Australia
  • what the legal requirements for starting a business in Australia are

Obtaining the right visa

If you are a foreign citizen, you will need a visa to work in Australia. You may consider:

If you are interested in specific visas for foreign citizens who want to start a business in Australia in regional, rural or low-growth areas, there are different state and territory-based economic initiatives available.

It is best to seek the advice of an immigration lawyer to work through which Visa is relevant for your circumstances. They will be able to navigate the challenges with obtaining a visa in this instance as well.

In considering the legal requirements for starting a business in Australia as a foreign citizen, you should pay attention to:

1. Setting up an appropriate business structure in Australia

When starting a business in Australia, an overseas company may choose between two main options available to them, being:

  • setting up a company in Australia (subsidiary); or
  • establishing a branch in Australia.

While you can change your business structure at any time it can be more complex to do so. We recommend you investigate how you plan to operate in Australia before you make any decisions about what may be the most appropriate business structure. It is also important that you are aware that the legal requirements for starting a business in Australia will differ depending on the structure you choose.

Related: Subsidiary or branch: Choose the right business structure when setting up in Australia

2. Where your business premises will be in Australia (registered business address or office presence)?

Key Australian business centres include Sydney (NSW), Melbourne (VIC), Brisbane (QLD), Adelaide (SA) and Perth (WA).

Australian Business Address 

When registering a company in Australia you are required to have an Australian Business Address which is the registered office premises of the company. Azure Group can provide our office as the Business Office address for the company, including redirecting all general correspondence sent to our office.

Another option when setting up a business in Australia is to set up an office presence in the state in which you register your business. In this instance you may also choose this as your registered business address.

3. Seeking advice to help you with the regulatory steps involved in the process of setting up a business in Australia

Azure Group understands the importance of ensuring your company set up in Australia is efficiently managed to enable you to focus on setting up your brand and services in this new market. We can assist you with the following Australian Company Set up Services which once complete will enable the company to be fully operational in Australia. These include but are not limited to:

  • Australian Company Incorporation & Formation
  • Registration Application
  • Audit Relief Application
  • Substituted Accounting Period Application
  • Australian Bank Account Set up
  • Australian Insurances Set up

4. Tax matters (how much tax will you need to pay?)

One of the most obvious legal requirements for starting a business in Australia are tax obligations. In Australia tax is governed by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). Generally, if you are earning money in Australia regardless of your structure you will be required to pay tax. You must comply with a range of obligations. Failure to comply with the Australian governing bodies can result in heavy fines or even a criminal conviction. This is a specialised area and it is essential that you get the support and advice of a registered tax accountant.

5. Do you want to employ Australian workers? (Australian payroll + Single Touch Payroll (“STP”), what you need to know)

Another legal requirement for starting a business in Australia are the employee obligations that a company will be subject to when employing staff in Australia. You firstly need to ensure that they are legally allowed to work in Australia. Those that can work here legally are Australian citizens, permanent residents, and New Zealand citizens. If they are a visitor, they need to have the appropriate working visa.

All workers eligible to work in Australia will have a Tax File Number ("TFN") that is assigned to them by the ATO. You will also need to manage employee Superannuation obligations as necessary under your Employer obligations.

Recently the ATO has introduced new regulation called STP  which simplifies reporting to the ATO but adds an initial administration burden to businesses in ensuring the setup is done properly. If you are employing workers in Australia, you will also need to have workers compensation. If you are employing a larger workforce, you may need to pay payroll tax. You need to also be mindful of additional benefits that you give employees, which may be considered a Fringe Benefit as tax may apply (known as a Fringe Benefits Tax).

Related: Australian Payroll: What global companies need to know?

6. How you meet the reporting and disclosure requirements set by the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC)

An additional legal requirement for starting a business in Australia that foreign companies should be aware of is the requirement to lodge certain notices with ASIC. Every company in Australia is required to lodge certain notices with ASIC. In addition to annual returns, these include details of any change of officers, registered office, share structure and terms of special resolution of the company, and for the changes in constituent documents etc.

Related: Why do you need an Australian Resident Director when Registering a Company in Australia?

Get in touch 

Azure Group is a leading international accounting firm. We have built a strong reputation on assisting offshore clients start a business in Australia, and have continued to manage the complex compliance of these global entities, through our comprehensive range of services. Get in touch to learn more about starting a business in Australia. 

Have you noticed our #FridayExpertTips... here's one that relates to #International

"One common problem that INTERNATIONAL ENTREPRENEURS encounter is that they don't have all of the resources supporting them in a foreign country. Finding the right support could be critical for GLOBAL SUCCESS."


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About Author

Azure Group
Azure Group

Azure Group is the leading Chartered Accounting, Business Advisory and Strategic Advisory firm supporting the growth & success of fast growing entrepreneurial businesses.

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