The federal government’s new Global Talent Scheme, designed to attract skilled workers to startups in Australia, launched yesterday for a one-year trial period.
The scheme allows technology-based and STEM-related startups to sponsor overseas employees with specialised skills, although the startups will still have to demonstrate they prioritise the employment of Australian citizens.
Announced in March, the scheme came as a response to concerns around the government’s tightening of the 457 visa requirements for skilled workers, which reduced the number of eligible occupations for visas, and introduced stricter English language tests.
The move drew criticism from the startup community, with high-profile figures such as Atlassian co-founders Mike Cannon Brookes and Scott Farquhar suggesting the changes could stunt growth in the local technology scene and make Australia less attractive for international talent.
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Early drafts of the new Global Talent Scheme suggested startups would have to be endorsed by a ‘startup authority’ in order to make use of it, however the final iteration says an independent startup advisory panel will assess the startup, and endorse it as “viable and genuine”.
To qualify for the scheme, startups must have either been granted an accelerating commercialisation grant, or have received at least $50,000 from an investment fund registered as an Early Stage Venture Capital Limited Partnership.
They must also be in good standing with the relevant regulatory agencies, and in compliance with workplace and immigration law.
There are similar restrictions on the applicants themselves. Prospective employees must have relevant qualifications and at least three years’ professional experience directly related to the position, plus the capacity to pass on skills to Australians.
They must also pass health, character and security requirements, and must not be related to any directors or shareholders within the company.
Startups can employ up to five overseas applicants per year through the scheme, which offers a four-year temporary skills shortage visa, with the opportunity to apply for permanent residency after three years.
The scheme for startups is running alongside another for more established companies with annual turnovers of at least $4 million for the last two years. These companies can hire up to 20 people through the scheme each year.
In a statement today, StartupAus chief operating officer Alex Gruszka said the organisation has been working with the Department for Home Affairs to finalise the scheme. He said startups that grow will be able to transition to the ‘established’ stream, as their business requirements increase.
“This is great news for startups, who regularly tell us that talent is the single biggest factor limiting their growth. But this is also the first time anything like this has been tried in Australia, and as such it’s up to us to make sure that the scheme is a success and the pilot leads to a permanent program,” Gruszka said in a statement.