The federal government will slash the intake under Australia’s permanent migration scheme for highly-skilled technologists by half next financial year, even as talent shortages continue to bite.
Migration planning levels, released alongside the budget on Tuesday night, reveal the number of ‘Global Talent (Independent)’ program visas will fall from 15,000 in 2021-22 to 8448 in 2022-23.
The significant reduction comes only a year after the government lifted places in the nascent scheme from 5000 to 15,000, partially in recognition of Covid-19 and the political upheaval in Hong Kong.
Global Talent, which launched in November 2019, aims to attract the best and brightest tech talent from around the world to maintain Australia’s global competitiveness by offering fast-tracked permanent residency.
It covers 10 “future-focused” sectors – up from an initial seven in 2019 – that include resources, energy, agri-food and agtech, health, education, defence, space, “digitech”, and financial services.
Following a slow start in 2019-20, almost 10,000 people secured a visa under Global Talent in the program's first full year in 2020-21, the majority of which were already in Australia.
Australia’s largest universities, including Monash University and UNSW, as well as Atlassian and the ACS were some of the biggest sponsors through the program in its first two years.
Budget documents offer little detail as to the reason for the cut, which also comes despite a redistribution that will see 10,000 places shift from the family stream to the skill stream that contains Global Talent.
Other skill stream categories appear to have benefited from this redistribution, including regional visas and state and territory nominated visas, which will both more than double in 2022-23.
The government said in the budget that it had made this change to “help maximise... economic benefits”.
Overall permanent migration will remain unchanged at 160,000 places, though the government has recently indicated that it will reassess the cap once migration returns to pre-pandemic levels.
Net overseas migration is expected to reach 235,000 people in 2024-25 and 2025-26, according to budget documents.
Despite the cut, immigration minister Alex Hawke said Global Talent would help ensure “Australia remains a favoured destination for the world’s best and brightest individuals and entrepreneurs”.