Australia’s tech industry has spawned its fair share of tech unicorns and global success stories. In order to continue Australia’s enviable economic growth, it’s imperative that our immigration policy is flexible enough to seize the significant economic and social opportunities that digital technologies bring. We believe that the adoption of new technologies is bringing well-paying jobs for people of all qualifications, improvements in quality of life, increased connectedness and benefits for consumers. As a country of just under 25 million, it makes strategic and economic sense that the industry needs to bring in global talent to build an innovative and diverse work place.
Unsurprisingly, a recent industry.gov.au report on Australia’s Tech Future noted that: “Australia is in a global contest for talent and has shortages in some digital skills. Skilled migration offers an important way of attracting highly-skilled people who can help grow new opportunities and address short-term gaps. Our visa system needs to support Australia compete for global talent in fields where suitably skilled Australians are not available. This will assist with our economic transition and help transfer skills to Australian workers.”
With that in mind, and our years of experience working with companies in the tech industry (from boot strapped start ups to multinational giants), here’s a brief guide to how to utilise the TSS visa to retain global talent in Australia.
What occupations are considered relevant in the tech sector?
For most skilled visa applications, the described work and the visa applicant must both align to a specific occupation on Australia’s skilled occupation lists. For TSS visas the occupation is listed here: https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/F2019C00265
A few of the relevant occupations include:
Analyses user needs, produces requirements documentation and system plans, and encodes, tests, debugs, maintains and documents programs and applications
Chief Information Officer
Plans, organises, directs, controls and coordinates the ICT strategies, plans and operations of an organisation to ensure the ICT infrastructure supports the organisation’s overall operations and priorities.
Computer Network and Systems Engineer
Plans, develops, deploys, tests and optimises network and system services, taking responsibility for configuration management and overall operational readiness of network systems, especially environments with multiple operating systems and configurations, and provides troubleshooting and fault-finding services for network problems.
Plans, develops, configures, maintains and supports an organisation’s database management system in accordance with user requirements ensuring optimal database integrity, security, backup, reliability and performance.
Interprets specifications, technical designs and flow charts, builds, maintains and modifies the code for software applications, constructs technical specifications from a business functional model, and tests and writes technical documentation.
Supports and maintains computer systems and peripherals by installing, configuring, testing, troubleshooting, and repairing hardware.
ICT Account Manager
Manages sale of computer hardware, software and services to existing account clients and identifies further sales opportunities within these accounts, builds new account clients, manages customer satisfaction and retention, and coordinates the preparation and presentation of ICT sales proposals and tenders.
ICT Business Analyst
Identifies and communicates with users to formulate and produce a requirements specification to create system and software solutions.
ICT Business Development Manager
Identifies and generates new ICT business opportunities to further improve market share and awareness by gaining an understanding of customers’ ICT needs and promoting goods and services to these customers. May manage some key customer accounts.
ICT Customer Support Officer
Provides support, education and guidance in the deployment and maintenance of computer infrastructure and the diagnosis and resolution of technical problems and issues. May work in a call centre.
ICT Project Manager
Plans, organises, directs, controls and coordinates quality accredited ICT projects. Accountable for day-to-day operations of resourcing, scheduling, prioritisation and task coordination, and meeting project milestones, objectives and deliverables within agreed timeframes and budgets.
ICT Sales Representative
Develops and converts sales opportunities into sales of computer hardware, software and ICT services.
ICT Security Specialist
Establishes, manages and administers an organisation’s ICT security policy and procedures to ensure preventive and recovery strategies are in place, and minimise the risk of internal and external security threats.
ICT Support Engineer
Develops support procedures and strategies for systems, networks, operating systems and applications development, solves problems and provides technical expertise and direction in support of system infrastructure and process improvements, and diagnoses and resolves complex system problems.
ICT Quality Assurance Engineer
Creates, maintains and manages technical quality assurance processes and procedures to assess efficiency, validity, value and functional performance of computer systems and environments, and audits systems to ensure compliance with, and adherence to, accredited internal and external industry quality standards and regulations. May supervise the work of ICT quality assurance teams.
ICT Systems Test Engineer
Specifies, develops and writes test plans and test scripts, produces test cases, carries out regression testing, and uses automated test software applications to test the behaviour, functionality and integrity of systems, and documents the results of tests in defect reports and related documentation.
Analyses and evaluates information-based system training needs and objectives, and develops, schedules and conducts ICT-based system training programs and courses.
Creates and manipulates computer animation, audio, video and graphic image files into multimedia programs to produce data and content for CD-ROMs, information kiosks, multimedia presentations, websites, mobile telephone resources, electronic gaming environments, e-commerce and e-security solutions, and entertainment and education products.
Installs and maintains hardware and software, documents diagnosis and resolution of faults, manages user passwords, security and inventory documentation, ensures the efficient performance of servers, printers and personal computers, and attends to other operational tasks. May also perform tasks such as help desk support and user training.
Researches and analyses network architecture, and recommends policies and strategies for designing, planning and coordinating an organisation’s network such as the total system environment and architecture. May also perform operational tasks such as monitoring system performance, software and hardware upgrades, backups, support and network maintenance.
Specifies, develops and writes test plans and test scripts, produces test cases, carries out regression testing, and uses automated test software applications to test the behaviour, functionality and integrity of computer software, and documents the results of tests in defect reports and related documentation.
Designs, develops, modifies, documents, tests, implements, installs and supports software applications and systems.
Plans, develops, installs, troubleshoots, maintains and supports an operating system and associated server hardware, software and databases ensuring optimum system integrity, security, backup and performance.
Evaluates processes and methods used in existing ICT systems, proposes modifications, additional system components or new systems to meet user needs as expressed in specifications and other documentation.
Designs, builds and maintains websites, and provides web technology solutions and services.
Plans, designs, develops and prepares information for Internet publication with particular emphasis on the user interface, ease of navigation and location of information using text, pictures, animation, sound, colours, layout and data sources to deliver information tailored to an intended audience and purpose.
Plans, produces and maintains websites using web programming languages, software applications, technologies and databases together with specifications of user needs, often in conjunction with other ICT Professionals such as Business Analysts, Web Designers and network and usability specialists.
It’s clear that the above doesn’t capture all occupations which are in demand in Australia. That’s why the Department have a few occupations which are Not Elsewhere Classified (or NEC). These can be used (within reason) to capture otherwise not described occupation. In the ICT space this can include for example Software and Applications Engineers (NEC), ICT Managers (NEC), Information and Organisation Professionals (NEC), ICT Support and Test Engineers (NEC). As experienced immigration lawyers working closely with organisations in the tech sector, we can assist you in finding the appropriate occupation for your needs.
How is the TSS visa used in the tech sector?
The usual pathway for companies to bring in foreign skilled works is through the TSS visa. The TSS visa is a temporary visa (valid for up to 4 years depending on the occupation) for skilled foreign workers in certain occupations. It also has pathways to permanent residence, though this is dependent on a number of factors including the occupation, age, or salary. If permanent residence is an applicant’s eventual goal (for example for business continuity) it is crucial that the appropriate occupation and pathway is selected early. Some occupations may only lead to short term visas.
From a business perspective, it might also be worthwhile considering some alternative visas:
- The 400 visa is a temporary visa which permits highly skilled individuals to obtain short term visas for up to 3 months (in some cases, 6 months) (see here: https://www.hannantew.com.au/australian-immigration-services/temporary-work-400/
- Global Talent Scheme which permits streamlined pathways to permanent residence, and can often side steps conventional requirements (e.g. age or occupations). See here: https://www.hannantew.com.au/australian-immigration-services/global-talent-scheme/
Can the TSS visa be used by start-ups?
One of the key challenges for the TSS visa is that a case officer must be satisfied that the position is genuine. In our experience, case officers apply this criterion more onerously to smaller companies (<10 employees). This can make it difficult for early stage / bootstrapped start ups who have a brilliant concept but need to secure global talent to scale.
Despite the challenges for start-ups, applications may still be possible with as much supporting evidence as possible including:
- a breakdown of the organisational structure (organisation chart) to indicate how the position fits into the business activity
- an outline of the goods or services produced by the business and how the position and its associated duties contributes to maintaining or enhancing the volume and/or quality of these outputs (this may include detailed and quantifiable plans for future expansion)
- evidence that the position has existed and been previously occupied, but has become vacant through attrition or is currently occupied by a temporary resident
- increase in business activity over previous months or years (for example, new contracts won, increased demand) requiring persons in the nominated occupation
- hours of operation and/or growth in customer numbers which explain why additional staffing may be required – that is, to meet increased demand and ensure coverage across the working week
- evidence as to what percentage of the sponsor’s workforce are Australian citizens or permanent residents, and
- overtime work, or increases in overtime work, for employees currently in the nominated occupation.
How can we help?
Hannan Tew Lawyers have significant experience advising the tech and start-up industries in Australia, and have the dynamism and know-how when it comes to visas for companies within this space. We’ve been at the forefront of advocating for streamlined immigration pathways for the tech and innovation space. We have penned numerous articles in this space regarding:
- our initial thoughts regarding the Global Talent Independent (GTI) program before it was announced, and a deep dive on how to apply for it now that further details were released;
- the positive immigration polices implemented by the South Australia government to encourage technology and innovation there;
- the Global Talent (Employer Sponsored) Scheme when it was first announced, and subsequently why in our view the “start-up” stream is unlikely to gain traction; and
- the problems with the ANZSCO occupation classification system – specifically with respect of how it affects Data Scientists;
We have also been interviewed by various mainstream and technology media outlets on our views.
If you work in tech or run a company involved in the tech industry and would like to discuss immigration strategies for you, your business or your staff, please feel free to contact us by email at [email protected] or phone +61 3 9016 0484.