October 24, 2019

Global Talent Scheme's Startup Stream

Early Implementation
Description of the core change(s) brought by this policy instrument

The Global Talent Scheme (GTS) has a special carve-out specifically for startups trying to recruit overseas talent.  This stream has softened requirements across the board, reducing, for example, the salary threshold to a package of $80,000, and recognizing equity as a legitimate salary component for international recruits. It is limited only to startups.

Please list the implementing agencies

The Department of Home Affairs. 

Lifecycle of target firms for this policy instrument
Start-up firms
If you marked "start-up" and/or "scale-up" firms, please provide the specific definitions used

Companies will have to apply for a one-off assessment to qualify as 'startups'.

Support offered
Non-financial Support
Level of intervention
Barrier(s) addressed with this policy tool
Regulatory/policy: startup-tailored measures
Skills & training: access to talent pool
Abstract summary of this Policy resource

The overall Global Talent Scheme (GTS) allows established-businesses 20 visas per year that are much more flexible than anything offered by the existing Temporary Skill Shortage Visa (TSS). Hires under the GTS visas do not have to match an established occupation list, and there is a permanent residency path for them to take.

As part of the GTS scheme, the Department of Home Affairs made a unique stream of the GTS specifically for startups where:

  • Companies will have to apply for a one-off assessment to qualify as 'startups'.
  • Initial candidates for the scheme will be funded scale-ups, with the definition of a startup broadening as the pilot progresses.
  • Startups will then have access to 5 high priority visas per year which don't need to match up to existing skills shortage lists.
  • These visas will last 4 years, and will include a path to permanent residency for visa holders.
  • Startup visas will be fast-tracked, with processing to take between 17 and 30 days.
  • Startups will need to show they've tried to hire for particular roles in Australia first.
  • Pilot set to last 1 year initially, with a view towards making the scheme permanent in 2019 if successful.
Policy timeline

After a long campaign from business, the Australian federal government agreed to create a new scheme to allow businesses some additional flexibility in recruiting key roles from overseas. Advocates for the startup sector, including StartupAUS, made the case that startups were characteristically different - it was impossible for them to qualify as established businesses because they tended to be young, and they would struggle to meet the minimum income threshold for visa applicants ($145,400) - in part because startups typically use equity as a significant part of their remuneration packages. The Department of Home Affairs listened, and has made a unique stream of the GTS specifically for startups, which was launched on July 1, 2018.

In August 2019, Immigration Minister David Coleman announced that Australia's global talent pilot scheme will become a permanent feature of the country's migration framework, a decision supported by the Startup Advisory Panel.

Stated goal/metrics of the policy instrument

The startup stream is limited to 5 visas per year, but startups that are able to grow and scale will be able to transition to the established-business stream as their staffing requirements increase. Startups will still be able to apply for regular Temporary Skill Shortage Visa (TSS), so the 5 extra GTS visas are specifically there to plug gaps and recruit people who are tricky to hire under the current system. 

Challenges, criticisms and lessons

The news that the pilot GTS went from pilot to permanent came to the surprise of some ecosystem stakeholders who saw mixed results in the pilot: of the total of 23 businesses that signed up in the first year, the majority were established businesses, and just five were startups. Optimistic stakeholders, however, argue this measure is a positive step for young technology startups. Policy tweaks can unlock the scheme's full potential, they argue, such as reducing the application fees which can reach $10,000 and can be prohibitive for startups.

Read more, here

Geographic scope