Immigration laws hamper franchise growth: Jim Penman

Sarah Stowe

Jim’s Group founder Jim Penman has expressed his frustration with Australia’s immigration laws which block him from offering franchise partnerships to cashed-up business people from overseas.

Penman believes he could take 1000 unemployed Australians off the dole within 12 months, if the visa rules were modified to encourage individuals with the means to run a small to medium enterprise to Australia.

“My biggest problem has been to find the entrepreneurial talent to run successful franchises. Places like South Africa have such talent in abundance, with thousands of skilled managers and business owners keen to come to Australia, but they lack the formal qualifications or very high capital requirements of the current immigration system,” Penman explained.

The Jim’s group, which began as a lawn mowing franchise in 1989, now has more than 3,100 franchisees in over 30 divisions across four countries. Sectors such as mowing, fencing, antennas, and dog wash are in particular need of unskilled Australians, said Penman. “We can train in these areas from scratch in a few weeks through the Jim’s Group training programs.”

In response, a Department of Immigration spokesperson said “The most appropriate visas for a foreign business person wanting to migrate to Australia to own and operate a franchise in Australia are the provisional business owner or the state/territory government-sponsored provisional business owner. The latter has lower threshold criteria and is the most common visa granted to migrant entrepreneurs in the business skills program.”

In general terms, applicants seeking a state/territory government-sponsored provisional business owner (subclass 163) visa need to be under 55 years of age with a successful business career, including owning and operating a business with annual turnover of more than $300 000, and with minimum business and personal assets of $500 000. Applicants need to show a genuine commitment to enter into business in Australia.

“Business migrants are free to establish any business of their choosing when in Australia, including franchise businesses. The only requirement is that they have a demonstrated successful career in business to the extent of the criteria for the visa they are applying for.”