The new Global Talent Independent (GTI) visa provides a direct permanent residence for ‘highly skilled professionals in high growth sectors’. According to the Department of Home Affairs, processing times range between two days and two months with many being decided within a week or two.
But how can that be given most permanent residence applications take many, many months or even many years to decide?
The GTI targets the following ‘high growth’ areas:
- Agricultural Technology (AgTech)
- Financial Technology (FinTech
- Medical Technology (MedTech)
- Cyber Security
- Energy and Mining Technology
- Space and Advanced Manufacturing
- Quantum Information/Advance Digital/Data Science and ICT
Applicants must have the ‘ability to attract’ a salary at or above the Fair Work High Income Salary Threshold which is currently around $148,700 and be ‘endorsed’ by a nominator who has a national reputation in the same field as the potential applicant.
The GTI is starting to emerge as a ‘go to’ visa for major employers. Not surprising as the GTI includes no sponsorship obligations or cost for the nominating employer.
There is no legal requirement for the employer to actually pay the $148,700 salary. In fact the employer does not even have to employ the nominated migrant.
The employer also doesn’t need to have a demonstrated record of training Australians or to make any payment to the Skilling Australia Fund.
As there is no nominated ‘position’ to be filled, the nominating employer does not need to test the labour market.
There is no legal requirement for the applicant to undergo a formal skills assessment or undertake an English language test. The applicant can be of any age.
For GTI visa applications to be processed ‘within a week or two’, health and character checks for a permanent visa must be undertaken in record time. Health and character checks for permanent residence visas are generally more extensive than for temporary residence.
All of this is possible because the GTI program operates within the framework of the long-standing Distinguished Talent visa which provides decision-makers with extensive discretion.
By end January 2020, some 227 visas (including spouses and children) had been issued under the GTI program. Having posted seven very expensive staff around the world to drum up interest in the GTI program, the Government will view the 227 visas as a very poor return.
It is a long way short of the 5,000 places allocated for 2019-20 and questions would have to be asked about how many additional applicants the seven overseas posted staff generated compared to those generated by Australian employers?
To drum up more applications for the GTI program, experienced migration agents say the Department is encouraging employers intending to use an employer-sponsored visa to instead consider the GTI. This has four serious problems because it:
- reduces visa application revenue;
- reduces protections for overseas employees;
- risks immigration integrity; and
- doesn’t actually increase the overall number of skilled people being recruited – it becomes a political zero-sum game as it merely shifts migrants who would have entered under an employer-sponsored visa category to the GTI program purely to meet a presentational objective.
227 visas suggest decision-makers have to date been cautious in their approach to the GTI program. And encouraging employers to use GTI instead of employer-sponsored visas may still leave a substantial shortfall on the target of 5,000 visas per annum.
So how long before decision-makers are pressured to be more expansive in their approach and/or apply less diligence?
How long before the range of industry sectors covered by the GTI is expanded? Or the definition of existing sectors is expanded? Or the definition of employers with a ‘national reputation’ is expanded? Or the ability to earn the required salary is assessed more flexibly?
If the GTI program is to be filled at 5,000 per annum, measures such as the above would make GTI seriously high risk in terms of immigration integrity.
That is no way to build public confidence in the immigration system.
Time for the Government to go back to the drawing board on how best to run employer-sponsored temporary and permanent migration to balance protections for Australians and overseas workers; ensure immigration integrity and deliver in the national interest.
After all, even the Prime Minister has acknowledged the importance of employer-sponsored migration.