Australia is a South Pacific hotspot for business; it’s the place to be to enjoy an open commercial environment, stable democratic institutions and competitive trading opportunities.

Demonstrating positive economic growth for over 2 decades, the country is well-renowned for its viability to foreign business and investment. Recently, the government made a number of changes to its immigration visas to further enable businesses operating locally bring in the foreign talent they need. These changes establish clearer pathways to permanent residency in Australia for migrant workers.

We explore recent and upcoming developments in Australia’s immigrant visa programs.

Temporary Skill Shortages visas

Visa immigration program Australia

Recently, the government made a number of changes to its immigration visas to further enable businesses operating locally bring in the foreign talent they need.

To help businesses fill job positions for which there are significant skill shortages in the country, the Australian government established the Temporary Skill Shortage visa (TSS), also known as subclass 482.

Under this visa, employees can stay in the country for various lengths of time, for a maximum of 4 years. Costs for these visas vary between AU$1265-2645.

As part of this visa, the Australian government has implemented the Global Talent Employer Sponsored program to further support business and skill development in the country.

Global Talent Employer-Sponsored program

Originally, called the Global Talent Scheme, the Global Talent Employer-Sponsored (GTES) program was a trial by the Australian government to test a new method of granting migrant worker visas. The intent with the Global Talent Scheme was to enable Australian companies – both start-up and large scale – to attract international talent that they couldn’t easily source locally.

This trial was deemed a success, and the scheme is now a permanent fixture in Australia’s visa regulations. GTES focuses on bringing in people with highly specialized skills. Though part of the general temporary employer-sponsored migration process, workers with GTES visas can eventually obtain permanent residency.

Under this newly established program, there are 2 ‘streams’ for obtaining visas for foreign talent.

Start-ups in science, tech, engineering, maths

The GTES program features a stream that specifically targets start-up businesses working in science, technology, engineering and/or mathematics (STEM) areas.

Companies looking to obtain a GTES visa under this stream for an overseas employee must fit certain criteria. The start-up must:

  • Either have been granted an Accelerating Commercialisation Grant, or received a minimum investment of AU$50,000 by an investment fund registered as an Early Stage Venture Capital Limited Partnership.
  • Be endorsed by an independent advisory panel
  • Show how being part of GTES will support job opportunities and upskilling for its Australian employees
  • Offer a minimum salary of AU$80,000 for its GTES-sponsored employee(s).

Additionally, the foreign employee the start-up is looking to hire must demonstrate a minimum of 3 years’ experience relevant to the field they’ll be working in. They must also meet the visa program’s character and health requirements.

The GTES program features a stream that specifically targets start-up businesses working in science, technology, engineering and/or mathematics (STEM) areas.

The GTES program features a stream that specifically targets start-up businesses working in science, technology, engineering and/or mathematics (STEM) areas.

Established businesses 

The second stream of the GTES program is for established businesses. These companies must be accredited sponsors of the TSS visa program, and looking to fill job positions for highly-specialized skills for which they’d pay a minimum salary of AU$148,700.

In addition to those requirements, the company must also:

  • Have a minimum turnover over the past 2 years of $AU4 million, or be listed publicly
  • Show how being part of GTES will support job opportunities and upskilling for its Australian employees.

Like the start-up stream, the foreign employee must have a background of 3 years’ or more experience relevant to their proposed work in Australia. They must also meet GTES character and health requirements.

New regional visas

From 16 November 2019, the government will offer 2 new skilled regional visas to support development and upskilling in areas outside of Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney.

These regional visas offer permanent residence opportunities to foreign employees after 3 years. Certain conditions apply to these visas to ensure the employee remains working in a regional area for the duration of their visa.

Skilled Employer-Sponsored Regional provisional visa 

Under the new Skilled Employer-Sponsored Regional visa (subclass 494), employers can submit nominations and applications under their existing business sponsorship. This visa has a 5-year lifespan, and the employee will have access to the country’s Medicare system.

The company must prove through Labour Market Testing that they are unable to fill the relevant job position with an Australian worker.

There are also certain requirements for the visa holder. Applicants for this visa must:

  • Complete a skills assessment
  • Hold a high level of proficiency in English
  • Be under 45 years old.

The government has identified 673 occupations that a foreign employee could work in under this visa.

Skilled Work Regional provisional visa

The Skilled Work Regional provisional visa is obtained via nomination by the State or relevant Australian Territory, or is family sponsored.

The Skilled Work Regional provisional visa is obtained via nomination by the State or relevant Australian Territory, or is family sponsored.

The Skilled Work Regional provisional visa is obtained via nomination by the State or relevant Australian Territory, or is family sponsored. This visa is granted for 5 years and identifies 504 eligible occupations for a foreign employee.

Most of Australia’s skilled visa applications are assessed via a points-based system. This visa identifies the following opportunities for applicants to score more points in their assessment:

  • State or family sponsorship (5 points)
  • Australian Master’s Degree (5 points)
  • Partner skills or English competency (5 points)
  • Single applicants (10 points).

Targeting localised labour demands (DAMAs)

Australia has begun the process of establishing Designated Area Migration Agreements, or DAMAs. This involves negotiating visa agreements between the national Department of Home Affairs and specific geographical areas in Australia.

This initiative aims to further boost business and job growth in certain areas in Australia. Details of these agreements include establishing

  • occupation lists and available placements
  • processes to verify the skill sets of applicants
  • opportunities for permanent residency
  • other conditions or criteria such as age and English proficiency.

Currently, only the Northern Territory and Great South Coast Region (Warrnambool) have implemented DAMAs to find skilled workers for their regions. However, the government expects to negotiate a number of additional DAMAs to empower other regions to find the right employees.

Other DAMAs that have been announced but are not yet in force include:

  • Goldfields (City of Kalgoorlie-Boulder), Western Australia
  • Adelaide Technology and Innovation Advancement Agreement
  • South Australian Regional Workforce Agreement
  • Orana Region (Dubbo), New South Wales.

Contact us for support

Businesses that are operating outside of Australia’s cities or who are in search of highly-specialized employees are now able to more easily find the skills they need through these new visa arrangements.

If you’re in need of support processing visas for your foreign workers, reach out to a trusted local partner to get it done. At Biz Latin Hub, our Australian team can ensure your applicant and their application ticks all the necessary boxes to be compliant with new visa regulations.

Reach out to us at [email protected] for expert guidance on your human resources and visa queries.

Learn more about our team and expert authors.