Startup founders just got a big break when it comes to importing talent

- August 9, 2019 2 MIN READ
If you’re a founder concerned about finding the right talent for your startup and needing to search overseas, the Australian government had some good news for you this week, making a 12-month trial of the global talent visa scheme permanent.

Immigration minister David Coleman announced visa scheme, now rebranded as the “global talent – employer sponsored program” (GTES) visa, will become a permanent program, allowing companies to sponsor highly-skilled overseas workers when you can’t find the right hire domestically.

The scheme operates at two levels. Bigger businesses with an annual turnover above $4 million can get up to 20 people annually, but they’re on salaries above $180,000.

Atlassian and Canva are among 23 corporates (along with Coles, Rio Tinto and Cochlear) who signed up to a five-year agreement under the scheme.

The online graphics business was part of the pilot and Canva CEO Melanie Perkins is a big fan.

“Our ability to bring in top talent from overseas will help us to continue to deliver on our huge product roadmap, which is essential to the success and growth of Canva,” she said.

“As a result of skills training and knowledge transfer, we’ve been able to strengthen our people’s skills in technology and innovation, which in the long-run will help create more employment and economic opportunities in Australia.”

If you’re a smaller tech startup, you can get up to five people a year under GTES, but to do that, you need to be approved by the Startup Advisory Panel, which assesses applications from founders seeking talent.

The good news is that while it took several months to get the first visas granted under GTES, Minister Coleman says Home Affairs will aim to finalise all GTES agreements within two weeks of a complete application being submitted.

Alex McCauley, CEO of advocacy group StartupAUS, said the decision to continue the scheme was a sign the government was listening to the sector. His organisation was directly involved in the GTES visa development.

“This program provides a really valuable path to high quality visas for startups all over the country. Now that the pilot is over we’d like to see more companies signing up to take advantage of it,” he said.

“In the immediate term, ready access to high quality visas is critical to unlocking growth potential of startups. Many of these in-demand roles are at the cutting edge of technology, and are in low supply globally.”
McCauley’s quick to point out it’s not a case of foreigners stealing jobs, but creating more work for Australians
“These visas not only unlock financial success for startups, but open up a myriad of other jobs and roles for Australians,” he said.
“The ability to place the right highly-skilled person in an Australian startup allows that business to grow and add many more local jobs, including in more traditional roles such as sales, marketing and finance.”

Industry, science and technology minister Karen Andrews said making the program permanent would give the technology sector certainty.

“This program will provide our tech companies with the skilled workers they need to be able to do business here in Australia and grow, which will in turn contribute to our economy and create more jobs for Australians,” she said.

“We obviously want Australians employed wherever possible but this program will help tech companies to fill the gaps, while we continue to develop the skilled workforce we need. These highly skilled workers will not only help Australian businesses to grow but will also share knowledge with our local workforce and help to upskill their colleagues.”