The launch of a new fast-tracked visa marks a new era for skilled migration, with the federal government actively seeking tech talent from around the world to live and work in Australia, StartupAus chief executive Alex McCauley said.
The Global Talent – Independent Program was unveiled by the Coalition earlier this year as a “major new initiative in Australia’s immigration strategy”.
The program includes a component in which Australian officials actively seeking out highly skilled workers from overseas and attracting them to the country through the offer of fast-tracked permanent residency.
The scheme has now officially launched, with up to 5000 visas on offer for the current financial year.
Applicants must be likely to earn more than $148,700 annually in Australia and be highly skilled in the seven selected industries: AgTech, FinTech, MedTech, cybersecurity, energy and mining, space and advanced manufacturing and quantum information, as well as advanced digital, data science and ICT.
An influx of highly-skilled global tech talent would help the local sector to mature and grow, Mr McCauley said.
“The single biggest thing we can do to help Australian tech companies go global is providing access to the global talent pool,” Mr McCauley told InnovationAus.com.
“It’s really encouraging to see a new program put together by the Department of Home Affairs in which the language of the program is very clearly targeted at building a world-class domestic tech sector in Australia,” he said.
“It’s not a tech visa, it’s a talent visa targeted at tech because there’s a growing recognition within government and industry that Australia needs to become a world leader in technology if we want to keep up with the rest of the world as the industry moves on.
“If we can attract some of the kind of people that this visa is seeking to target then we’ll rapidly improve our ability to build new technology in Australia.”
As part of the program, the government would look to actively attract tech talent to Australia with the offer of the fast-tracked residency. Government officials have already been placed in Berlin, Washington DC, Singapore, Shanghai, Santiago and Dubai, with another officer starting this week in New Delhi.
This marks a significant “mindset shift” from government, Mr McCauley said.
“This is the first time Home Affairs has put a program together where they are going out into the world to hunt down the world’s best talent and provide a red carpet pathway to come to Australia to help build businesses here,” he said.
“It’s a really global focus from Home Affairs where they’re seeking to attract great talent, not just be the facilitator of people that have already decided to come here.
“This is a really exciting first step in Australia becoming more actively engaged with the best people in the world and getting them to come to Australia. This is a new era for Australian skilled migration.”
The arrival of potentially thousands of highly skilled tech workers would have a “snowball effect” for early-stage startups, he said.
The scheme is separate to the Global Talent Employer Sponsored initiative, which was made permanent earlier this year, and could have a “transformative impact on the Australian economy”, immigration minister David Coleman said
The seven targeted sectors were selected by the government through consultations with prominent members in academia and businesses.
While most early-stage startups won’t be able to offer a salary of $150,000, the Global Talent Independent Program is not an employer-sponsored visa, and applicants only need to be likely to be able to earn that much.
Australian immigration lawyer Glenn Pereira said he has many clients in Silicon Valley who would be interested in the new scheme and would fit the bill.
“The Global Talent scheme to attract distinguished talent under a fast-tracked process from the seven industry sectors is likely to attract the best global talent and drive growth in the Australian technology industry,” Mr Pereira told InnovationAus.com.
“A large number of the global talent that fits the narrative for skills, qualifications, experience and salary will be found in Silicon Valley.”