The Global Talent Scheme “GTS” is a new visa program introduced by the Government on 1 July 2018 as part of a 12 month trial.
The scheme is focused on industries relating to science, technology and engineering. The GTS is apart of a broader policy drive by the Government to entice highly skilled talent and to facilitate the transfer of skills and innovation into Australian businesses.
The GTS Scheme consists of two streams, being:
- The “Startup Stream” – for startups operating in a STEM (science, technology, engineering or maths) related field (up to 5 visas per year).
- The “Established Business Stream” – for businesses with an annual turnover exceeding $4 million for positions earning above $180,000 (up to 20 visas per year).
The GTS has been hailed by Alex McCauley, CEO of Australia’s peak national startup group, StartupAUS as a “proactive approach to helping startups access international talent”.
The visas processed under the Startup Stream are able to offer a lower salary threshold then the market salary rate for the occupation of the visa applicant, and include an equity component to satisfy the visa salary requirement (however there must still be a minimum cash component of $53,900 – i.e. the current Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold).
These benefits have been lauded by industry as a positive step towards attracting and retaining skilled workers in Australia, given that equity is a crucial component that start-up companies rely on to recruit and retain top talent’.
Australian software companies such as Atlassian will benefit greatly from the GTS due to the increased access to skilled foreign workers. Approximately 250 of Atlassian’s 1000 employees were on 457 temporary migration visas. Co-founder Scott Farquhar has stated that access to a high quality, dynamic skilled visa system is will be of fundamental importance to building a fast-growing company in the Australian software industry”. The GTS scheme will be of some relief to Australian companies like Atlassian that were negatively affected by the abolishment of the 457 visa, which saw the number of workers allowed into Australia falling from 130,000 to 70,000 per year.
Although the Global Talent Scheme opens up further Australian visa options, a number of restrictions placed on sponsors and visa applicants remain in place. Sponsors are still required to prove that Australian workers are prioritised during recruitment; to show evidence of labour market testing for the specific position; and demonstrate that a skills transfer will occur between sponsored workers and Australian workers Furthermore, start-ups must be endorsed by a “start-up authority”, details of which are yet to be confirmed.
Visa applicants under this scheme are required to meet certain criteria relating to their health, a requirement of 3 years work experience directly relevant to the position, qualifications relevant to the role and a capacity to facilitate the skills transfer in order to be successful.
The GTS supplements the 482 visa, which replaced the controversial 457 visa in March 2018. Asia-Pacific economist Callam Pickering argued that the 457 visa occupation list excluded tech occupations, and the lack of permanent residency options for foreign workers made ‘Australia less desirable’ meaning that these highly in demand global workers would ‘choose to go elsewhere’.
The GTS scheme reforms the limitations set by the 457 visa by axing the occupation list, offering a four year Temporary Skills Shortage (TSS) visa and the opportunity for visa holders to apply for permanent residency after three years. This allows STEM startups as well as established businesses the opportunity to import skilled workers with less restrictions.