The first visa has been issued under the government’s new Global Talent Scheme, a quarter of the way into the 12-month pilot program.
Queensland-based tech scale-up SafetyCulture recently received a visa for a product manager from the US in what is believed to be the first issued under the new scheme.
But concerns still surround the startup stream of the scheme, with one immigration lawyer saying the current format is “absolutely nonsensical” and “is going to fail”.
The Global Talent Scheme was launched in July after being announced to placate a tech sector that had been left shocked and outraged after the axing of the popular 457 visa scheme.
The new scheme sits underneath the Temporary Skills Shortage visa, and is meant to be a way for tech companies to target “highly skilled and specialised workers” that can’t be found in Australia.
It is split into two streams, one for the established businesses and another for startup companies.
There had been concerns that the GTS had been “effectively halted” due to political turmoil in Canberra and ministerial reshuffles, with the trial scheme requiring ministerial sign-off for every stage.
But it appears there has been some movement lately, with the establish business side of the scheme at least getting off the ground.
SafetyCulture has been approved under the established business stream of the Global Talent Scheme, and has successfully been issued a visa for a product manager from the United States.
Following the approval, the company can now access to four-year visas for overseas product managers with a pathway to permanent residency after three years.
Techvisa registered migration agent Sam Bricknell worked with SafetyCulture on the application, and said it was a surprisingly smooth process that took about one month from start to finish.
“It was actually a lot smoother than I thought it was going to be. All I’d read previously was that it wasn’t the silver bullet that people thought it might be, it was a difficult process and it all seemed a bit disjointed. But it was fine,” Mr Bricknell told InnovationAus.com.
“The feedback from the team in immigration was quite good – they got back to us within a day or two. We got it through without any issues really.”
“It means our client can sponsor specific job types for the next five years and offer four year visas with an avenue to permanent residence.”
Under the established business scheme, SafetyCulture had to prove that access to the GTS would “support job opportunities and skills transfer for Australians”, complete labour market testing, be in good standing with the regulators, be endorsed as a TSS-accredited sponsor and offer a position with an annual salary of at least $145,000.
If it hadn’t been approved under the GTS, SafetyCulture would have only been able to offer the US candidate a two year visa, with no option for permanent residency.
“That makes it difficult to attract people from the US who have good skills but have a family. They’re not going to relocate their family out to Australia with no permanent residency options. It’s now a bit more attractive for people to relocate a family out here,” Mr Bricknell said.
“This company now has an advantage over their competitors. Another IT company can offer a product manager two years, but SafetyCulture can now offer them four years with permanent residency.”
And although the approval process under the GTS may take some time, once this is complete the granting of a visa is fast-tracked, Mr Bricknell said, with the visa issue approved in one day.
“Now that SafetyCulture are an approved sponsor, we’ve put through their first nomination and it was approved within a day. Once you’re set up and got what you need and have the right person then you can pull the trigger and go for it, and there’s a pretty quick turnaround,” he said.
“That person was coming from the US and is already here. That all turned around within a week – flights were booked and they’re out here in the role.”
Both streams of the GTS have to do labour market testing for at least four weeks in the last four months.
This requirement has proved controversial in the startup sector, and Australian immigration lawyer and tech entrepreneur Glenn Pereira said it has scared many potential applicants away from the process.
“How do you do labour market testing for a co-founder, when they have the innovative ideas? To do labour market testing for that is absolutely nonsensical. It’s absolutely flawed,” Mr Pereira told InnovationAus.com.
“The labour market testing has to be removed completely. It should be for bringing in mainly co-founders,” he said.
But Mr Bricknell said this proved less troublesome for the established business.
“Companies would look locally anyway. With the visa fees, why would you not try to find someone locally first? Then if you can’t find someone you go through the process and the labour market testing is done. It’s not too arduous,” he said. “But it’s not ideal because it does slow down the process.”
With the labour market testing in place and a lack of transparent guidelines and checks and balances for the scheme it will likely go down the same path as the failed entrepreneur visa, Mr Pereira said.
“If you don’t have the transparent guidelines and a form to fill out, a template about what the criteria is, how do you evaluate the visa? It’s at the complete discretion of the department. How are you going to get an outcome from this?” he said.
“It’s going to fail, like the entrepreneur visa failed. They should’ve learned from this mistakes of that visa.”
With the scheme already about a quarter of the way through its one-year trial program and it appearing to only just be getting off the ground, it’s important that Australian companies make the most of it and prove its worth to ensure it is continued, Mr Bricknell said.
“There’s a limited amount of time to set up companies over the next three to six months to have approvals through the process by the time the pilot is up in July,” he said.
“If we don’t have many through then the government will say it didn’t work and that will be the end of it. There’ll be no data to show what roles are needed and they won’t update the list in areas we need.
“But if people access this and we get a whole bunch of IT companies that say they desperately need product managers but can’t find them locally, then the government will see a trend and maybe open up that as an occupation on the list when they do the next review.”