Commonwealth government agents on four continents will use the promise of Australian residency as a lure to attract some 5,000 workers to a range of high-growth industries.

The new Global Talent – Independent Program (GTIP) will see Home Affairs staff based overseas to recruit “very high value migrants”, Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs David Coleman explained in an address to the Sydney Institute.

Overseas agents

A GTIP officer began working in Berlin in July, and September will see others added in Washington DC, Singapore, Shanghai, Santiago, and Dubai.

Agents will attend trade shows and liaise with universities, professional associations and other institutions to promote GTIP to “exceptional candidates”, Coleman said, arguing that the initiative could have “a transformational impact” on Australia’s economy.

Eligible individuals will be able to apply for Distinguished Talent (subclass 124 and 858) visas, as well as for the points-tested stream of the Skilled Independent visa (subclass 189).

A key part of the GTIP program is the remit to “promote life in Australia”, which will see agents pushing Australia’s credentials as a desirable home for expatriate technical workers – who have become hot commodities amidst the scant global supply of many technical skills.

The latest IMD World Competitiveness Center World Talent Ranking named Australia as the 14th most desirable country for overseas workers.

However, Australia didn’t fare as well on the recent OECD Better Life Index, which evaluated 40 countries against 11 different factors and ranked Australia 31st – largely due to its relatively low income and work-life balance figures.

Australia’s GTIP workforce nonetheless has many positives to draw on, with Australia standing out on measures such as education, health, jobs, and life satisfaction.

“By attracting the very best,” Coleman said, “we will help to build enterprises that will employ large numbers of Australians in high skill, high wage jobs.”

Reviewing business-related visas

The program was announced just after the extension of the Global Talent – Employer Sponsored (GTES) program, which allows specific employers to sidestep normal Temporary Skills Shortage (TSS) visa restrictions to recruit highly-paid overseas specialists that they can’t find in Australia.

Actively identifying and pursuing candidates, however, makes GTIP “the first of its kind in our immigration programme”, Coleman said.

It’s also the latest stage in a broader review of a targeted visas focus that will evaluate the government’s ROI from investment-related visa programs which last year attracted around 7,000 people to Australia.

“These visas are premised on the idea that investment in the Australian economy is a positive thing, and that people who want to provide job-creating capital should be encouraged to do so,” Coleman said.

“It makes sense – but as with all ideas, we need to sharply focus on the practical execution to ensure that we are fully delivering on the goal.”

A series of departmental initiatives has this year expanded many program numbers and improved turnover times.

Earlier this year, expansion of the Accredited Sponsorship program – which streamlines the granting of 6-year visas for accredited Australian employers with “a significant, regular and ongoing need for visa sponsorship” – saw the number of participating companies jump from 1,400 in March to 2,300 today.

Coleman also cited administrative improvements such as shorter processing times for TSS applications – which dropped from 31 days last year to 7 days this year.

Processing of two-year skilled program visas had been sped from 46 days to 33 days, on average, while four-year visa applications were being processed in 28 days, down from 37.

“These are significant improvements which make a practical difference for Australian businesses,” Coleman said.