The federal government has unveiled a new, fast-tracked migration stream for highly-skilled global talent as part of its newfound effort to address the local skills gap and grow the tech sector.
The Home Affairs department has set aside 5000 places within the existing permanent migration program, capped at 160,000 places, for the new Global Talent Independent Program.
The scheme is aiming to attract highly-skilled workers from around the world to Australia, with a focus on up to six specific industries that the government wants to grow locally.
It is meant to complement the Global Talent-Employer Sponsored scheme, which offers fast-tracked visas for Australian businesses and was made permanent last week after a 12-month pilot.
Immigration minister David Coleman officially launched the new visa scheme at a speech on Tuesday night.
A spokesperson for the immigration minister said the department is looking to actively recruit overseas tech talent and entice them to relocate to Australia.
“Home Affairs officers will be placed in key overseas locations to seek out the very best people in high-growth industries, and encourage them to come to Australia to help grow those industries,” the spokesperson told InnovationAus.com.
“An officer is already in place in Berlin, and additional staff will commence work next month in the United States, Singapore, Santiago, Shanghai and Dubai. By attracting the very best in high-growth industries, we will help to build businesses that will employ large numbers of Australians in high-skill, high-wage jobs.”
The scheme will fast-track the visa process for the selected individuals, with an aim to complete the process within weeks, rather than months. The applicants would also be given a specific contact within the Department to hasten the process.
The government will also be establishing an advisory panel of prominent members in academia and business to advise on which industries to focus on, with a focus to likely be on agricultural technology, fintech and quantum computing.
The scouts to be placed in overseas locations will be advertising the program and looking for specific individuals to recruit, with a focus on those with advanced degrees or experiences at leading global institutions.
The program is a way to “identify, target and incentivise” the best global talent to come to work in Australia, StartupAus chief executive Alex McCauley said.
“We can think about this as Home Affairs sending out talent scouts to hotspots around the world to look for the best and brightest workers. In an era where there is an international war for technology talent, that makes a lot of sense,” Mr McCauley told InnovationAus.com.
“If Australia’s appeal for high-skilled tech workers was as strong as it is for tourists we’d have our pick of the best people in the world. This is a firm step in that direction.”
“If we can combine this with strong industry engagement to identify the right people and roles, and think creatively about ways we can continue to increase Australia’s attractiveness as a destination for high-skilled workers in cutting-edge fields, it could have a really big impact on our country’s economic prospects.”
The Coalition has recently focused efforts on combating the growing skills gap in the local tech sector, with the official launch of the Global Talent-Employer Sponsored (GTES) scheme last week.
The visa program had been running as a pilot since mid-2018, and Mr Coleman announced that it would now be made permanent.
The scheme allows businesses to access fast-tracked visas for overseas talent in jobs where there are no local workers available.
The startup stream offers five visas per company per year, while established businesses can access 20.
Companies must first be approved under the scheme, with an expert panel giving the green light to applying startups, and can then access fast-tracked visas under the Temporary Skills Shortage category. The Department aims to complete the process within two weeks after an application is received.
The renewal of the program was welcomed by the tech sector, but a number of concerns surrounding the scheme and the government is yet to make any changes to it.
Only 23 companies received approval under the visa scheme in the 12-month pilot, with five startups accepted. There has been criticism of the high application fees for early-stage companies and the waiting times involved with advertising for the position locally first.
The Department has said it will look to make changes to the GTES at a later point.