A government scheme to fast-track visa applications to fill temporary skills shortages will be expanded, after businesses complained the system is no longer fit for purpose.
Australian companies that have invested $50 million into their business in the past five years will now be eligible to secure a Temporary Skills Shortage (TSS) visa for a worker within five business days.
That's less than an eighth of the average time it takes for other TSS applicants.
Immigration Minister David Coleman said expanding the scheme would give businesses more certainty and confidence that they can get the workers they need, when they need them.
“Extending the scheme to reputable businesses that have invested $50 million in Australia will ensure those businesses can access the skilled workers they need, and they can continue to contribute to the economy through further investment, job creation and innovation,” Mr Coleman said.
The expansion will almost triple the number of eligible businesses from 900 to 2500 by the end of the year.
Australian workers given priority
It comes after the Australian Chamber of Commerce complained to a Senate inquiry this week that changes made to the temporary skilled visa system last year were "misguided".
“We urge the Government to return the skilled migration system to one which is accessible and responsive, while maintaining robust compliance and integrity,” chamber CEO James Pearson said.
Mr Coleman said a key criteria was that the $50 million investment made by the business helped create Australian jobs or generate more exports.
The department will set up a new team to identify and invite eligible employers to join the scheme.
Businesses must also have an unblemished track record of compliance with Australian migration and employment law.
Labour market testing will also be required to ensure employment opportunities are first offered to Australians prior to filling a vacancy.
“Our first priority must always be to fill available jobs with Australian workers,” Mr Coleman said.
“This has been and remains our key focus, which is reflected in the unemployment rate falling to 5 per cent and record job creation across Australia.
"However, where skills are unavailable in Australia, we must ensure businesses can access the global pool of skilled workers so they can continue to thrive and generate the best economic contribution for Australia.”