Attracting the best and brightest skilled migrants to boost Australia’s economic recovery

Guest post by Chris Spentzaris, Fragomen

Reflecting the importance that migration will continue play in Australia’s economic recovery, the October’s deferred 2020 Federal Budget included several key immigration initiatives focused on attracting global talent and high value investment to Australia.

With the annual permanent migration program levels to be maintained at 160,000 places for the 2020-21 migration program year, the Global Talent visa, a new permanent visa program targeting highly skilled migrants with international expertise in certain high growth industries, and Business Innovation and Investment program for highly skilled business owners and investors, benefited from a significant boost to their allocated visa places:

  • 15,000 places have been allocated to the permanent Global Talent visa program (tripling the 2019-20 program year allocation); and
  •  13,500 places have been allocated to the Business Innovation and Investment visa program (up from the 6,862 places that were planned for 2019-20).

The deferred Budget also included an allocation of over $13.5M for the whole-of-Government Global Business and Talent Attraction Taskforce, which has been established as part of the Australian Government’s JobMaker Plan to attract high value global businesses and exceptional talent to Australia to support the post-COVID recovery and boost local jobs. Headed by Peter Verwer AO, the Taskforce is comprised of various Federal Agencies (including Treasury, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources) as well as State and Territory Governments, and has an initial focus on the advanced manufacturing, financial services (including FinTech) and health sectors. This follows the Prime Minister’s announcements in July this year regarding proposed new economic incentives for export-oriented Hong Kong-based businesses to relocate to Australia, with visa pathways for all critical staff, including permanent residency pathways.

About the Global Talent visa programs

In late 2019, the Government introduced two new ‘bespoke’ visa programs in recognition of the high competition for global talent and to provide greater flexibility for certain highly skilled workers who do not fit within the parameters of the standard employer sponsored visa programs.

The Global Talent Independent (GTI) program provides a streamlined, priority permanent visa pathway for high income earners with niche skills and international recognition in one of the following target sectors:

  • AgTech
  • FinTech
  • MedTech
  • Cyber Security
  • Quantum Information, Advanced Digital, Data Science and ICT
  • Space and Advanced Manufacturing
  • Energy and Mining Technology

Aiming to help grow these target industries, drive innovation and facilitate the transfer of skills, the GTI program is also open to high performing recent PhD, Masters or Bachelor (Hons) graduates in one of the target sectors. With a higher upper age limit of 55 (with concessions) than other skilled visa programs, the priority processing arrangements under this GTI program mean that permanent residence can often be granted within weeks.

The Global Talent Employer Sponsored (GTES) program provides a Labour Agreement pathway to help organisations fill highly skilled, innovative and cutting-edge positions that cannot be filled from the domestic labour market. This includes new and emerging occupations not currently in the ANZSCO dictionary. In all cases, organisations seeking to access the GTES must demonstrate how the positions will either pass on skills to or create new employment for Australians.

As the only immigration provider in the Department of Home Affairs’ GTES Industry Advisory Group, Fragomen has worked closely to help design and review this exciting new program which is comprised of two streams:

  • Established Business Stream: for Accredited sponsors who are publicly listed or have a turnover greater than $4million over the past two years; and
  • Startup Stream: for startup businesses in the technology space or STEM fields endorsed by a GTES start-up panel.

Some of the benefits of the GTES include:

  • Priority processing of GTES agreement and Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visas
  • Occupations can be on Short-Term occupation list, ‘off list’ or not even in ANZSCO
  • Flexible labour market testing requirements
  • Can cover multiple occupations (up to 20 nominations per year for established businesses, 5 for start-ups)
  • TSS visas granted are valid for 4 years, with permanent residence generally available after 3 years and with standard higher age limit of 55.
  • Other negotiable concessions including lower salary threshold and age concessions for those aged over 55.

Priority processing arrangements also apply to the Business Innovation and Investment program, which caters for individuals who are business owners, venture capitalists or persons with substantial business or investment background (with some exceptions) who are willing to invest in prescribed investments in Australia (of either A$1.5million or A$5million), or establish/invest in an Australian business. In most cases, this is a two-stage visa process where applicants are initially granted a four-year, three-month temporary visa and may then apply for the permanent visa once they have satisfied relevant business/investment and residence requirements.

Under changes announced in the Federal Budget, from July 2020 the prescribed investments under this program will be recalibrated to focus on Australian venture capitals and emerging small and medium size businesses to support the economic recovery.

To explore how these Global Talent programs can assist to address workforce gaps and secure key expertise within your organization, or for advice on the Business Innovation and Investment program, please contact Chris Spentzaris and Cherie Wright of Fragomen at cspentzaris@fragomen.com and cwright@fragomen.com.