The Australian government’s new Global Talent Scheme (GTS) visa program has officially launched, beginning at the start of this month on 1 July.
Details of the program were first published by the Department of Home Affairs in March, with the intention of integrating the GTS into the broader TSS visa system. The Department’s decision followed a period of sustained backlash from Australia’s tech industry which came in response to the abolishment of the 457 visa program.
The GTS program is intended to help companies recruit workers with in-demand technology skills and will feature a stream for established businesses and one for start-ups.
The first stream will be made available to businesses that have an annual turnover of at least $4 million—for at least two years—and will be limited to positions with minimum yearly salary of $180,000.
Conversely, the start-up stream will feature significantly looser requirements, including a reduced annual salary threshold of $80,000. The start-up stream will also recognise equity—something that start-up companies often offer in lieu of higher wages—as a legitimate salary component for foreign workers.
The start-up stream will be made available to any business that operates in a STEM-related field, and receives accreditation from a “start-up authority”. This will involve applying for a one-off assessment that will qualify the business as a “start-up”—with initial candidates to be funded scale-ups—although the definition of a “start-up” will be loosened as the pilot program continues.
Established businesses will currently be given access to a maximum of 20 foreign workers per year via the GTS program, while start-up businesses will be limited to five. These visas will also not be required to correspond to any existing skills shortage list.
Foreign workers who qualify for this program will then have access to a four-year visa with an eventual path to permanent residency. The start-up visas have also been given high-priority status, meaning they will be fast-tracked through processing, and are expected to take between 17 to 30 days to be approved.
Both streams will require businesses to engage in labour marketing testing, have a record free of breaches of workplace or immigration law, and demonstrate a worker recruitment policy that clearly favours local Australian workers. Businesses from either stream will also still be able to apply for the TSS visa program in order to fill other roles.
The Minister for Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs, Alan Tudge, has issued a statement in support of the GTS program’s launch, saying that it will address issues with the skilled visa program that critics—including Google and Atlassian—have previously labelled “uncompetitive”.
“This scheme is designed to facilitate businesses accessing top talent from around the world. It complements existing Temporary Skill Shortage visa arrangements by providing the flexibility to handle high value, niche skills that can’t be obtained under the standard visa program,” Tudge said.
“A lot of the top talent is in fierce demand from companies all over the world. We want this talent to come to Australia, to support businesses here and create wealth for the nation.”
“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 said.
A Senior Migration Agent from Absolute Immigration, Grant Frankcombe, was positive about the new program’s launch, saying that it will help address some of the issues caused by the abolishment of the previous 457 skilled visa program.
“It’s great to see a visa scheme in place that enables Australian businesses to attract highly-skilled workers to Australia without the rigid settings of the TSS work visa program,” Frankcombe said.
“If the government wants to ensure that the Australian tech industry remain competitive in an increasingly global marketplace then businesses need to be able to access high-value foreign workers.”
“With the GTS program’s greater flexibility companies should now be able to attract the workers needed to fill skill shortages that the Department is too slow-moving to address,” he said.
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