Talent visas making up for government mistakes: lawyers
Migration law experts have called out the government’s new global talent program visas as “policy by press release”, saying the government should not be praised for simply rectifying its earlier mistakes in scrapping 457 visas and bungling new skilled migration visas.
Last week the Coalition announced that it would introduce a fast-track program for 5000 visa applicants each year, named the Global Talent Independent Program (GTIP) and aimed at attracting the best and brightest to the country.
Jackson Taylor, a partner at migration law firm Hammond Taylor, said new global talent program visas would have similar problems to other failed initiatives. Arsineh Houspian
This followed an announcement the previous week that the government was making official the Global Talent Employer Sponsored visa (GTES), despite barely more than 20 people coming to the country under this visa scheme during its 12-month pilot.
The program was welcomed by some in the tech sector, but Hammond Taylor partner Jackson Taylor told The Australian Financial Review the new scheme was “policy by press release and nothing will come of it”, saying it would be as ineffective as the entrepreneur visa and the GTES, which had little uptake.
“None of this would be necessary if the 457 visa had not been abolished. It covered the field … whereas under the current system there are issues with getting people like data scientists to Australia because there is no code for data scientists, you have to put them under business management or research scientist,” he said.
The 457 Visa class was abolished in early 2018, by the Coalition government amid concerns it was being used to bring in cheaper labour from overseas, rather than supplementing local skills shortages.
“We used to have a classification of ‘business information professional not otherwise classified’, but the government got rid of it because they were concerned it was being rorted, rather than just scrutinising which applications were inappropriate,” Mr Taylor said.
“I’m also doubtful of the government’s ability to pick winners among start-ups and industries.”
Mr Taylor is one of the few lawyers who has successfully helped a company employ a person under the GTES scheme while it was in its pilot phase.
This, he said, took months to accomplish, despite the program having very few applicants in its 12 months of existence.
Rather than going through the current skilled migration visa categories, Mr Taylor and his pharmaceutical company client opted to use the GTES scheme because there was no job category suitable for the employee under the existing Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO) list.
This list is relied on by the Department of Home Affairs for its skilled visa applicant assessments, but under the GTES scheme and the GTIP an applicant does not need to fit into a category on this list.
Mr Taylor’s experience of the GTES is vastly different to that of Q-CTRL founder Dr Michael Biercuk’s, whose recent GTES application took just 24 hours to be approved.
“It took months even though this person was on $250,000 a year, had 30 years experience and a PhD,” Mr Taylor said.
“We couldn’t believe it, but we had to do it because his occupation did not fit into a typical classification, plus the applicant was 55 and not willing to relocate for a temporary visa without a clear pathway to permanent residency.”
Of the fast-tracked visas for the top 5000 talented applicants each year, Mr Jackson said the government was doubling up on resources and would have been better off utilising the existing start-up landing pads and the knowledge and networks of Austrade, rather than deploying new people to scout for talent
He also urged the tech sector to be realistic in their expectations of the scheme, given the lack of applicants the GTES had received so far and the small number of entrepreneurship visas granted.
“The government has already had a number of chances to get this right. But there’s been a great expulsion of talent since Michael Pezzullo [Home Affairs secretary] came in and they’ve lost a lot of people who understood how these programs worked and could be designed effectively,” Mr Taylor said.
“They have an inability to get their head around the inherently agile nature of start-ups and small business.”
Like Mr Taylor, Ethos Migration Lawyers director Peter Michalopoulos said the new visa schemes were only necessary because of the changes made since the scrapping of the 457 visas.
He said he had not tried bringing anyone in under the GTES scheme thus far because for most small companies he dealt with it was too expensive and there were too many hurdles.
“It’s a bit of a process because you need to demonstrate things like if the person has transferable skills to Australia and evidence that you’ve tried to find people here first. Established businesses also need $4 million in turnover for each of the past two years,” he said.
“The second biggest issue is cost. A client of ours would be looking at about $13,000 minimum to go through the process for one individual. Subsequently, it would be less, but $4800 of that is a government levy.
“That’s disincentivising people. But if the $13,000 figure came down to $8000, that would be more in reach. So if the government is serious about the scheme, they should look at removing the levy to make it accessible for a broader range of businesses.”
Make it easier
Mr Michalopoulos said he was supportive of the new visa schemes given the reintroduction of 457 visas was not on the table, and he admitted the 457 visas also had problems.
However, he said the government needed to rework the GTES visa to make it easier for smaller businesses to access and open to a greater range of applicants.
As well as making the scheme cheaper, Mr Michalopolous proposed removing a three-year work experience requirement, citing a case he’d experienced where a business had wanted to hire an expert in crypto-currencies who did not have the traditional work experience required to be considered.
He also suggested loosening the requirements for evidence of why businesses need to employ a worker from overseas.
“Scrapping 457s was an abrupt decision without thinking of the consequences,” he said.
“They did not consider how many industries in Australia were reliant on people from overseas in fields like IT and academia and scrapping it so quickly without much thought resulted in a lot of struggle where businesses couldn’t access people, so now they’ve tried to fill the gaps with these programs.”
This article was originally published in the Australian Financial Review here: https://www.afr.com/technology/talent-visas-making-up-for-government-mistakes-lawyers-20190815-p52hdu