Tech visas on the way
The Federal Government has introduced a new visa for tech professionals in response to mounting pressure from business groups
The ‘Global Talent Scheme’, which will be piloted from July 1, will allow businesses to bring in experienced information and communications technology (ICT) professionals from overseas.
The move is a response to business opposition to the axing of the 457 visa, with many ICT leaders saying they are unable to bring in vital experience and talent from overseas to grow their Australian operations because of the due to the restrictions of the new visa arrangements.
The purpose of the new visa is to attract highly skilled global talent and deliver innovation to Australia, according to jobs and innovation minister Michaelia Cash citizenship and multicultural affairs minister Alan Tudge.
“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,” they said, in a joint announcement.
The Global Talent Scheme will be available to both established businesses and start-ups.
Established businesses must have an annual turnover of more than $4 million to sponsor highly skilled individuals earning above $180,000.
The businesses must also have a track record of hiring Australians, prove they prioritise the hiring of Australian employees, and demonstrate there will be a skills transfer to local workers as a result of the person being granted a visa.
Start-ups planning to bring an experienced overseas worker must operate in the fields of technology or STEM, demonstrate they prioritise the employment of Australian workers, and be recognised by a start-up authority.
In both cases, a four-year Temporary Skill Shortage visa will be issued, and recipients can apply for permanent residency after three years.
The Government is still working on the fine detail of the scheme but it has said the 12-month pilot would commence on 1 July 2018.
There are no details yet on how many visas will be granted under the new scheme, or which jobs they will specifically apply to.
The peak body or Australia’s ICT professionals, the Australian Computer Society (ACS), has welcomed the new visa scheme.
“It is no secret that there is a skills shortage in Australia’s technology sector,” said ACS President Yohan Ramasundara.
“The future for our economy will involve organisations in fast-paced high-tech industries and employers often need to fill specialised positions and sometimes are unable to find Australian workers for the position,” he said.
“As we continue to push for greater development of our local skilled workforce, we cannot afford to let growth stagnate. Therefore, a sensible approach to skilled migration in the technology sector is crucial,” Mr Ramasundara said.
The Business Council of Australia also applauded the move, saying skilled migrants were good for business and the wider economy.
“The government’s scheme will give businesses the ability to expand into new markets, fill skills shortages and adapt to change. Skilled migrants contribute to a more productive and innovative economy, helping create the conditions for higher wages and growing the economy for all Australians,” said CEO Jennifer Westacott.
“Our members prefer to employ Australian workers but this pilot will provide companies with the flexibility they need to continue growing and evolving where there is a genuine need for specialised skills,” Ms Westacott said.
“It also helps Australian businesses create more jobs for Australians because the scheme helps them compete globally. It also gives Australian workers the opportunity to collaborate with highly skilled migrants and share, develop and learn these specialised skills.”
Recently, the co-CEO of Australian software giant Atlassian Mike Cannon-Brookes, spoke out on the issue saying his company might be forced to relocate overseas.
“Lack of access to experienced, global talent is the single biggest factor constraining the growth of the technology industry in Australia,” he told a Senate committee.
“Highly skilled, experienced migrants are ‘job multipliers’ for Atlassian – for every one senior person we import, we hire many more around them.
“The government’s policy changes to 457 visas – and the uncertainty that came with the announcement – hurt us directly.
“The restrictions are suffocating our ability to become a leading innovation nation – and threatening Atlassian’s ability to remain headquartered here,” Mr Cannon-Brookes said.
Universities Australia also welcomed the decision.
“The university workforce is global and highly competitive — and this visa category could be a pathway for professionals at the cutting edge of the knowledge economy,” said UA chief executive Belinda Robinson.
However, UA said it would push for the minimum salary level to be reduced.
AMES Australia Senior Journalist