The federal government will make it easier for highly-skilled migrants and those working for STEM start-ups to come to Australia.
The Turnbull government will create a new visa to compete with other countries for “high-tech skills and talent”, with companies allowed to sponsor migrants for jobs paid more than $180,000.
There will also be a new visa for start-up companies seeking talent in STEM fields like biomedicine and agricultural technology.
Both visas will require the migrant to have three years of relevant experience, while the sponsor companies will need to demonstrate they tried to hire Australians first.
“The Government recognises there is fierce competition globally for high-tech skills and talent, and that attracting these people helps to transfer skills to Australian workers and grow Australian-based businesses,” a Turnbull government media release reads.
There will not be a cap on the overall number of visas, but individual companies will have a limit on how many migrants they can employ.
Businesses will be able to take up to 20 skilled migrants under the new stream per year, while start-ups will be able to take up to five.
The visas for jobs paid more than $180,000 will only be available to businesses with a turnover of more than $4 million. The start-up visas will be available to any that is authorised by an industry body, yet to be chosen by the government.
The migrants will have the option of a "transitional pathway" to permanent residence after three years in the country.
The details of the scheme will be ironed out over the next few months before a 12-month pilot begins on July 1.
Start-ups hail win after 457 changes left industry reeling
The need for visa changes to attract high-value employees from overseas has been the “number one priority” in the emerging startup sector, according to an industry group.
StartupAUS chief executive Alex McCauley said the government’s changes to 457 temporary work visas last year, which restricted the list of occupations and cut off the path to permanent residency for many jobs, had made it harder for start-ups to compete.
“The single biggest challenge for Australian start-ups is getting access to the best talent in the world,” Mr McCauley told SBS News.
“It got more difficult when the 457 visa announcements were made last year and start-ups in this country are really crying out for a way to get access to talent.”
“Everybody’s looking to hire product managers, software engineers, digital growth specialists, data scientists.”
Mr McCauley said the jobs in question were highly specialised and the visa workers were unlikely to take jobs away from Australians.
“They’re hiring people at a very high skill level in a space where there aren’t a huge number of Australians competing for those jobs,” he said.
“And the Australians that are competing for those jobs are getting jobs.”
Alan Tudge, Minister for Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs, said the visas required companies to seek Australian workers first.
"We want to ensure that Australian businesses can access the best talent in the world because this will underpin business growth, skills transfer and job creation," Mr Tudge said.
“At all stages, Australians are prioritised for the jobs, but where the skills and experience are not available here, we want to be able to attract talent from overseas."
Labor claims policy inspired by opposition
Labor released a statement accusing the government of “playing catch up” on special visas for skilled migrants.
The opposition proposed a four-year “SMART visa” for workers in “science, medicine, academia, research and technology” last year.
“Turnbull and his conservatives are playing catch up and following Labor’s lead,” the press release reads.
“Turnbull’s scheme is only a pilot and, by the Government’s own admission, they haven’t finalised the details of the pilot including the number of visas set to be made available or which specific jobs they’ll be available for.”