Sector welcomes visa changes

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The lifes sciences sector has welcomed the Turnbull government's changes to the working visa program.

Immigration minister Peter Dutton announced late last week the government had "updated" the list of eligible skilled occupations for a range of temporary and permanent skilled visas.

The update, which followed strong advocacy from the life sciences sector, has seen key occupations returned to the list.

The returned occupations include: Biochemist; Biotechnologist; Life Scientist (General); Life Scientist (Not elsewhere classified); Nurse researcher; Production Manager (Manufacturing); and Research and Development Manager.

In a joint statement, six representative organisations of the life sciences sector, welcomed restoration of key occupations for the medical technology, biotechnology, research and pharmaceutical sector to the skilled migration visa list.

The six peak bodies are AusBiotech, Medicines Australia, BioMelbourne Network, Research Australia, the Association of Australian Medical Research Institutes and Medical Technology Association of Australia.

"Having participated in submissions and consultations, the combined peak body group is pleased the Government has addressed concerns that were widely shared across the medical technologies, biotechnologies and pharmaceuticals industry sector and the health and medical research sector," they said in a joint statement.

According to AusBiotech CEO, Glenn Cross, “The return of numerous occupations to the skilled lists is an important and welcome step that demonstrates support for Australia’s competitive advantage in life sciences innovation.

“We understand the need for the Government to ensure that the visa program benefits Australia and the scheme must be viewed as a tool to fill the skills gaps that exists in Australia. In this instance the gaps are in research and industries that create highly-attractive highly skilled jobs, attracts clinical research, upskills the local talent pool and grows the local economy.

“The reversal of decisions taken in April to limit the occupations eligible for the scheme has provided assurance that Australia’s hard-won momentum in the pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical technology sector can continue – consistent with the Australian National Innovation and Science Agenda," he said.

There remains some concern across the sector due to limitations on the Temporary Skills Shortage (TSS) visas, which will replace the 457 visa in March next year. 

The TSS visa will be comprised of a Short-Term stream of up to two years and a Medium-Term stream of up to four years, but it provides no pathway to permanent residency, making it unattractive for many skilled workers.

Production Manager (Manufacturing), Laboratory Manager, Patents Examiner and Research and development manager, will only qualify for the short term two-year stream.

“Australia needs a visa system that encourages utilisation and professional development of local employees but that also allows Australian companies access to international talent where it assists the transfer of skills and knowledge and supports Australian businesses operate at a world-class standard,” added Mr Cross.