Race for global tech talent heats up

Australia, the UK and the US all have new visa initiatives to boost innovation and tech-sector hiring. David Sapsted reports.

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The global battle for overseas tech talent is heating up with Australia launching a fast-track visa designed to boost Australia’s innovation and IT economies.Australia's Global Talent visa mirrors the initiative with the same name launched by the UK and which last year saw a 48% increase in the number of tech sector visas being approved.Not to be outdone, President Joe Biden let the Trump administration ban on H-1B visas - the main route for tech workers to enter the US - to lapse at the beginning of April.Under the Australian scheme, there are no age limits or investment requirements. Applicants only have to possess internationally recognised skills, with places also available to holders of internationally recognised master’s degrees and PhD students demonstrating exceptional talent.

Peter Verwer, the nation's Special Envoy for Global Business and Talent Attraction, said, “Australia has managed the Covid-19 crisis extremely well, but its economy, like many others around the world, has taken a hit. This is precisely why Australia established the Global Business and Talent Attraction Taskforce."It serves to attract high-value businesses and exceptionally talented individuals such as top scientists, tech entrepreneurs, and investors, along with their ideas, networks, and capital, to work and live permanently in Australia. This will in turn create opportunities for Australians by transferring skills, promoting innovation, and creating jobs.”Tony Le Nevez, director of the Australia office of global mobility specialists Henley & Partners, commented, “Stimulating innovation — tech innovation in particular — is non-negotiable for any sovereign state in the current context."By attracting and harnessing the world’s cutting-edge talent, Australia’s Global Talent visa offering will ensure that the country stays well ahead of the game."Meanwhile, the UK is set to introduce a new Global Business Mobility visa and a fast-track process for tech visas.
Potential employees will no longer need to obtain a third-party endorsement or be backed by a sponsor organisation in a significant simplification of the rules.The moves follow a review of immigration rules by former Worldpay boss Ron Kalifa, which urged the government to make the immigration system more tech-friendly. Details of the new system are expected to be announced in July and are regarded as being particularly beneficial to the fintech sector.Economic Secretary to the Treasury John Glen told a fintech conference this week, “The scale-up visas suggested in the Ron Kalifa Review is something we’re taking forward. I meet with chief executives of fintech companies frequently and have met almost 60 now and, from those conversations, I get that challenge.“I think 42% of workers in fintechs are from overseas and 49% are one of the founders and that demonstrates the international connectivity that underpins this industry and will continue to do so."In the States, the lifting of the ban on H-1B visas is expected to have a significant impact on the immigration of tech specialists from India who, before President Trump imposed the ban last year, accounted for 70% of the 65,000 visa allocation made available annually to private sector applicants.Imposition of the ban prompted widespread protests from the bosses of world-leading Silicon Valley tech companies.

Read more news and views from David Sapsted.

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