Why the Australian government’s tech visa startup scheme won’t work  

- September 18, 2019 2 MIN READ
The Australian Government recently announced it will continue its fast track visa scheme for technology workers despite only five startups taking up the offer in the past 13 months.

Known as the Global Talent – Employer Sponsored program (GTES), organisations can apply for five year visas for highly skilled foreign workers. Whilst this scheme might help a few larger technology firms, it really isn’t going to help Australian startups.

At Affix, we help startups and fast growth tech companies find talent. It is a very competitive market and for startups, hiring that talent from overseas is both complex and expensive.  One of the requirements for these new tech visas is that companies must have a turnover of $4 million over the past two years, which automatically rules out most startups.

Startups don’t have deep pockets and can’t compete on remuneration alone to retain talent. One of the biggest challenges an early stage start-up faces is how to secure the people they need to grow, when no-one even knows they exist yet.

We all know that the first hires can make or break your success, but in the war for talent, how can they really compete? The fast track visa scheme insists startup positions must be above $53,900 and companies must pay visa fees, in some cases an additional $10,000 over four years.

Affix’s Jarrad Skeen

For startups with a turnover of less than $10 million, they also need to pay $1,200 per year into the Skilling Australia Fund.

For startups that take part in the visa scheme, they run the risk of bringing skilled individuals into Australia, who may well move for a more lucrative role a few months in.

One of the biggest recruitment pitfalls is trying to hire for 100% of the skills you need and thinking if the talent isn’t here in Australia, you can attract it internationally easily and at an affordable cost.

In Australia, it is estimated the real cost of recruitment can be upwards of 50% of a person’s salary, so only hire when you need to.

Think about investing in training for those team members who could be right for the role you want to fill. If you do decide to hire, think about the candidate’s future suitability for a role and how equipped they are to adapt and learn in a rapidly evolving environment.

Consider hiring an experienced partner to help you hire the right people, as a false move can be very costly for a startup.

Whilst the Australian Government has clearly listened to the challenges startups and fast growth companies are experiencing in attracting talent from overseas, this fast track visa scheme does little to address the fundamental issue of why skilled professionals, in the fields of AI or data science for example should leave the UK or the U.S and move to Australia.

It’s unrealistic for them to want to step off their career trajectory to potentially earn less money, and work on the other side of the world.

For this fast track tech visa scheme to work, it has to be supported with marketing investment from the government to sell the message about why skilled tech professionals should want to come to Australia and work here.


  • Jarrad Skeen is the founder of Affix
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