The government is to pilot a visa scheme to make it easier for big business and tech start-ups to hire overseas talent for highly skilled roles.
The Global Talent Scheme has two streams: one for established businesses with an annual turnover of more than $4 million and another aimed at technology-based and STEM-related start-up businesses.
“The Government recognises there is fierce competition globally for high-tech skills and talent, and that attracting these people helps to transfer skills to Australian workers and grow Australian-based businesses,” Minister for Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs Alan Tudge and Minister for Jobs and Innovation Michaelia Cash said in a joint statement released this morning.
Unlike the 457 visas – which came to an end on Sunday – the scheme does not designate a list of occupations and the government is promising ‘simpler applications and faster processing’.
Bigger businesses can use the scheme to fill up to 20 positions with a minimum salary of $180,000 per year and the foreign candidates are expected to pass on their skills to Australian colleagues. Start-ups can employ five positions per year through the scheme, which must pay more than $53,900.
In both streams, a four year Temporary Skill Shortage visa will be issued with permanent residence applications available after three years.
"We want to ensure that Australian businesses can access the best talent in the world, because this will underpin business growth, skills transfer and job creation," Minister Tudge said.
"At all stages, Australians are prioritised for the jobs, but where the skills and experience are not available here, we want to be able to attract talent from overseas. This is part of the ongoing reforms to our skilled visa programs to ensure that Australians have priority for Australian jobs, but acknowledge that there are times when the skills are not available in the country," he added.
The Government said it will consult with industry on the details of the scheme over the next few months, before a 12 month pilot begin in July.
'Hurt us directly'
The announcement comes after months of criticism from the tech industry about the ending of the 457 visa class, which have now been replaced with the Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa class.
TSS visas are considerably more expensive and restrictive than their predecessors, and have a limited list of eligible roles.
Speaking last week at a Senate Select Committee on the Future of Work and Workers, Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes said the scrapping of the 457 temporary visa class had “damaged Australia’s reputation in the largest industry in the world”.
“We’ve said to the global tech industry, we are fundamentally closed for business. The government’s decision about the 457 visa and the uncertainty that came around that announcement hurt us directly as a company,” he said.
“The restrictions are suffocating our ability to become a leading innovation nation and fundamentally threatening Atlassian’s ability to remain headquartered here, as much as the founders would love that to be the case,” Cannon-Brookes added.
Google, whose submission to the government’s public consultation on the development of a digital economy strategy was made public in January, has also criticised the government’s changes to the visa system.
“Business-critical skills have been excluded from the longer term visa categories that are necessary to attract workers with the knowledge and experience required to train younger Australian employees,” Google argued in its submission.
“The jobs of the future in Australia are under threat unless continued access to highly-skilled workers can be maintained,” the company added.
In the statement today, Michaelia Cash said the new scheme would help local employers in “our growing innovation sector” and help them to create more Australian jobs.
"Industry figures say globally mobile, highly skilled and experienced staff can act as 'job multipliers' in Australian businesses, helping them to hire more local staff and fill critical areas of need," she said.