Tech visas slashed as global talent taskforce rebadged and re-funded

Joseph Brookes
Senior Reporter

The federal government will pour another $19.5 million into its global talent attraction taskforce despite slashing the number of global talent visas to be offered in half and the program’s history of failing to attract overseas talent.

Migration planning levels released by the Department of Home Affairs in conjunction with this week’s federal budget show the Global Talent (Independent) visa intake level will be slashed from 15,000 to 8,448 next financial year. Business Innovation & Investment visa places will also drop by 30 per cent from 13500 to 9500.

It comes as the government commits another $19.5 million over two years to a rebadged Global Business, Talent and Investment Taskforce it set up in 2020 to support the Global Talent visa. The taskforce will continue as the “Global Australia Taskforce”.

Global Talent visa places will be nearly halved next financial year

The Global Talent visa began as a pilot program in 2018-19 with 1000 visas issued. It was radically overhauled in late 2020 in a bid to attract the world’s best researchers and businesses from targeted sectors as the pandemic intensified competition, offering permanent residency and fast-tracked applications.

A Global Business and Talent Attraction Taskforce was established with nearly $30 million in funding for Home Affairs. While not responsible for approving applications, the taskforce can nominate applicants and help them develop their expressions of interest for the invite-only visa. High calibre candidates identified by the taskforce can also have the process expedited.

The taskforce is led by special envoy to the Prime Minister Peter Verwer, a former Property Council of Australia boss, and includes officials operating from offices in Canberra and several “global talent officers” in Europe, the US, and Singapore. It aims to find candidates which excel in 10 technology-heavy areas, including digital, energy, health, fintech and financial services, defence, advanced manufacturing and Space.

Visa places under the program were tripled to 15,000 in anticipation, but it has struggled to meet the limit or attract truly global talent.

InnovationAus revealed in May last year around 70 per cent of successful applicants to the revamped global talent visa program were already in Australia and in another visa category. At the time Home Affairs declined to provide information on how many people the taskforce had assisted and their location, or on how the taskforce’s impact is being measured.

Official figures released in September showed the final figure for Global talent visas issued last financial year was 9584, with almost no visas awarded in many of the priority growth sectors. More than three-quarters of Global Talent visas were awarded to applicants already in Australia.

The biggest sponsors of the program is IT industry group the Australian Computer Society, which lodged 87  Global Talent visa applications over two years. collecting a fee from candidates for the service, and several universities.

Places under the Global Talent stream will now be slashed from 15,000 to 8,448 but the taskforce will continue.

On Tuesday, budget papers revealed the taskforce will be renamed to the “Global Australia Taskforce” to “attract talented individuals and international investment to Australia”.

Home Affairs will receive around $6.5 million each year for the taskforce until 2023-24, while Austrade will get the remaining $3.3 million each of the next two years.

While Global Talent and Business Innovation & Investment visas will decrease next year, others under the Skill stream will increase, with overall stream numbers rising from 79,600 to 109,990.

This will come from large increases to State and Territory nominated visas, Regional, Skilled Independent and Employee Sponsored places.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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