New scheme opens on a trial basis as Australia's 457 visa ends

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Office workers and shoppers walk through Sydney's central business district in Australia, September 7, 2016.
Office workers and shoppers walk through Sydney's central business district in Australia, September 7, 2016. Reuters/Jason Reed

A new visa scheme is expected to benefit the Australian tech industry as it is designed to give migrant workers permanent residency in the country after only three years. The scheme was opened on a trial basis after the 457 visa program ended on Sunday.

The new visa has been issued through the Global Talent Scheme, which comes in two tranches for established businesses and tech start-ups. It will be trialled starting July 1.

Through the four-year “temporary skills shortage” visa on offer, visa holders will be given a pathway to permanent residency after three years, with the government planning to pilot the new visa for 12 months. Businesses with over $4 million in annual turnover will reportedly be allowed to sponsor a "highly skilled and experienced" person for a role paying more than $180,000 into Australia. The government said employers have to show that their existing Aussie workers will benefit via "skills transfer."

Another requirement for the sponsoring organisations is to prove they have a track record of hiring and training locally. Additionally, technology and STEM-based start-ups can sponsor "experienced" international individuals with "specialised technology skills" as long as they are acknowledged by a start-up authority. They also need to show that they prioritise Australians when hiring.

Ai Group Chief Executive Innes Willox said the Global Talent Scheme visa trial puts Australia in a more competitive position to appeal to the world's best talent. He said that its focus on STEM skills and higher-end talent will be welcomed by a number of businesses and startups struggling to fill such positions.

Willox said it also recognises the global nature of businesses, and that the focus of the new pilot on attracting talent is a positive for both business and the economy. "The promised simpler and faster application process is also an attractive aspect of the visa pilot, especially as there have been increasingly long delays with approvals for the former 457 visa," he said in a statement.

He explained that there have been a number of teething issues during the transition to the TSS visa. These include the removal of certain occupations from skills lists as well as the restrictions on permanent residency. Many of these problems have been reportedly addressed.

Willox added that the new visa deserves bipartisan support. He believes it would help deliver continuity for a visa scheme “that has faced extensive scrutiny and disruptive change.”