Startups to have easier access to global talent under new scheme being piloted by government


A new visa scheme will be piloted for 12 months from 1 July, this year, in a bid to attract highly-skilled global talent to Australia and boost the nation’s capacity for innovation, Minister for Jobs and Innovation, Michaelia Cash, has announced.  

[Related: If employers can’t import critical talent on visas, they’ll consider overseas hires, says CEO]

In a joint statement with Minister for Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs, Alan Tudge, Minister Cash said the Global Talent Scheme will consist of two streams – one for established businesses with an annual turnover of more than $4 million, the other for technology-based and STEM-related startups.

Established businesses will be able to sponsor highly-skilled and experienced foreign workers for positions with earnings above $180,000 if they satisfy certain conditions. In addition to having a must have a track record of hiring and training Australians, the sponsoring business must demonstrate that their recruitment policy gives first preference to Australian workers and that there will be skills transfer to Australian workers as a result of the person being granted a visa.

Meanwhile, technology, science and engineering startups that have been endorsed by a yet-to-be-decided startup authority will be able to sponsor experienced foreign workers with specialised technology skills if they can demonstrate that they prioritise the employment of Australians.

Under the scheme, established businesses will be able to sponsor up to 20 foreign workers per year, while startups will be able to sponsor up to five workers per year, with each paid at least $53,900 annually . In both instances, a four-year Temporary Skills Shortage (TSS) visa will be issued, with permanent residence applications available after three years. To be eligible for sponsorship in either stream, workers must have at least three years of work experience directly relevant to the position and have the capacity to pass on their skills to Australians. Further, workers must have no familial relationship with any directors or shareholders.

According to the Australian Financial Review, although the TSS visa covers 461 occupations, down from 651 under the now-abolished 457 Subclass Visa, the Global Talent Scheme doesn’t cover a set list of occupations, with the aim being to enable employers to “import skills the government doesn’t know they need”.

Minister Tudge said the Global Talent Scheme is recognition from the Government that it needs to provide pathways for Australian businesses to access global talent in circumstances where workers with the skills and experience they need are not available in the country.  Meanwhile, Minister Cash said the scheme will help employers create more local jobs. She explained, “Industry figures say globally mobile, highly-skilled and experienced staff can act as ‘job multipliers’ in Australian businesses, helping them to hire more local staff and fill critical areas of need.”

Australia’s peak national startup group, StartupAUS, has welcomed the Global Talent Scheme, with CEO Alex McCauley describing it as a “proactive approach” by the Federal Government to helping high-growth tech companies and startups access international talent.

“Being able to access the right kind of talent quickly is the core challenge for fast-growing technology companies and startups in Australia,” he said. “A little while ago the Government flagged it wanted to do more to help trusted businesses access visas quickly and easily. Typically, in Australia that would mean big, established businesses. Thanks to input from StartupAUS and others, there’s now a ‘startup stream’ which will help genuine startups access these new favourable arrangements too. That’s a real win for the sector and for companies looking to hire top quality global talent to help them grow. It’s encouraging to see the Government has really listened on this.

“These changes should help young Australian tech businesses compete more effectively on the global stage. That will allow them to grow quickly and hire more Australians across the business. It’s a good bet that everyone hired on one of these visas will be a net job creator for Australians.”

McCauley added that including equity in salary considerations for foreign workers sponsored on a TSS visa by startups was a “step forward”.

“We’ve been making the case for a long time that startups need to be treated a bit differently in situations like this,” he said. “When you’re looking at how much startups are prepared to pay people, you have to take equity into account. Just about every startup in the world uses equity as a lever to help attract top talent, so you can’t ignore it. The Government has listened to us on that one, which is a very positive sign.”

Mr McCauley also noted that it would be important for government and industry to work closely together to identify startups which qualify for the scheme.

“As part of the vetting process for this and future pilot schemes, startups will need to be identified by an expert group, which is working closely with the startup community.  The important thing is that there remains close industry collaboration and consultation.”

In conversation with Dynamic Business, McCauley explained that while Australia must focus on producing home-grown talent for new and emerging roles, so that there are enough candidates to meet the needs of local tech startups, the nation’s young companies “must have access to a global talent pool in order to be globally competitive”. He added, “Startups are having to compete for talent that is in high-demand around the world, so if the right setting aren’t in place to enable them to compete… well, they’re not going to be successful. They need to have the ability to hire people in new and emerging roles, where sufficient numbers don’t yet exist here in Australia.”

The Government will consult on the details of the Global Talent Scheme ahead of the pilot commencing in July. In addition, it will be provided with ongoing advice for the pilot by an industry advisory group.