The government’s much anticipated Global Talent Scheme visa pilot has so far delivered Australian start-ups a grand total of zero skilled migrant workers, it has been revealed.

A freedom of information request found that in the seven months since the pilot began on 1 July there have been zero visa applications lodged under the subclass 482 'GTS – Start-up business' scheme.

The subclass 482 'GTS – Established business' has delivered eight visas from eight lodgments, while under the subclass 188 Entrepreneur stream there had been 25 requests lodged and eight visas granted.

And while turmoil in Canberra last year is believed to have been the source of some delay in deploying the scheme, partner at Hannan Tew Lawyers Jordan Tew – who lodged the freedom of information request – attributed the lack of interest in the program to the fact that most roles can be filled via existing, less complex, visa programs.

“Practically, most emerging sector positions are highly technical and skilled roles that can still be “loosely” be matched to an occupation on the MLTSSL [Medium and Long-term Strategic Skills Lists],” said Tew.

“While obviously the ‘fitting a square peg into a round hole’ option is less than desirable, the Department appears to accept this.

“It’s a common practice that already occurs due to the limitations of the ANZSCO occupations and the practical reality is that most savvy companies and immigration lawyers continue to take this approach (successfully).”

He also cited the arduous process – which includes start-ups being endorsed by an independent advisory panel – and increased costs as potential roadblocks.

“One of the biggest issues since the 457 visa was replaced by the TSS visa was the significant increase in cost, both in terms of the government lodgement fees and due to the introduction of the Skilling Australia Fund (SAF) levy,” Tew said.

This levy is $1,200 per year for a business with less than $10 million in turnover or $1,800 for a business with turnover greater than $10 million, a cumulative cost which Tew points out is significant to start-ups just getting off the ground.

How about big businesses?

In December last year, Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews and Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs Matt Canavan put out a joint media release highlighting the interest in the GTS scheme from corporates.

Cochlear, SFDC Australia, Rio Tinto, and SafetyCulture were listed as companies to have signed on.

The freedom of information request released by the Department of Home Affairs does note that the granted visas include primary and secondary applicants (that is, skilled migrants and family members), meaning it is feasible that these four corporates could account for all eight of the approved visas.

The media release also states that quantum computing start-up Q-CTRL had been approved for the scheme, however it is yet to be issued with a visa.