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Immigration initiatives to attract IT experts.

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Joint Media Release with Senator Richard Alston Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts

Immigration Initiatives to Attract IT Experts MPS 005a/2001

Australia has placed itself at the forefront of international competition to attract migrants with important information and communications technology (ICT) skills following the announcement today of initiatives by the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Philip Ruddock, and the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator Richard Alston.

The package of measures, aimed at attracting more highly-skilled ICT workers to Australia and retaining Australian-educated overseas ICT students, ensures that Australia can build on its competitive skilled migration system and retain its leading position in the crucial global ICT skills marketplace.

The package builds upon recent policy changes which have successfully brought a growing number of overseas students to Australia, many of whom have been studying ICT and have been able to apply to become permanent residents on the basis of their Australian ICT skills and qualifications. Two key changes in this regard will be to:

use at least 2,500 places in the existing Skill Stream contingency reserve to accommodate the rising demand for permanent migration from overseas students with Australian qualifications in ICT; and


from 1 July 2001, allow these overseas students to apply for and be ■

granted their permanent residence visas without leaving Australia.

The immigration initiatives are an important part in the Government's Innovation Action Plan, entitled "Backing Australia's Ability", announced by the Prime Minister on 29 January 2001.

Recognising the global shortage of workers with ICT skills, the Ministers detailed a number of immigration initiatives designed to enhance Australia's permanent and temporary entry arrangements. These include:

recognising all ICT occupations as 'key' positions for long-term temporary entry; ■

requiring immigration decision makers to give immediate processing priority to ICT professionals; and ■

exploring the possibility of electronic lodgement of visa applications over the Internet. ■

The full list of specific new measures is attached.

These measures complement other immigration-related efforts to assist Australian employers through the creation of specialised Business Centres in DIMA offices around Australia, the development of a Skills Matching Internet Database to assist employers locate skilled workers from overseas, and streamlined health and character assessments that facilitate the quick entry of temporary business visa applicants.

"Australia already offers a temporary entry visa system that compares exceptionally well against its international competitors," Mr Ruddock said.

"Australia has fast and streamlined visa processing arrangements compared with those of other countries and unlike countries such as the US, there is no cap or limit placed on the number of skilled temporary entry visas."

Similarly, unlike the US, spouses of temporary visa holders have unrestricted work rights.

"An essential element of Australia's transition to a new economy is its high skills base and highly-educated workforce," Senator Alston said.

"Availability of ICT skills rates as an important element of Australia's ICT investment attraction. ICT skills are also a major underpinning of Australia's continued success as a leader in Internet usage and e-commerce adoption by industry and business.

"These skills cover not just specialised, technical ICT skills, although these are crucially important. They also encompass the ICT skills required for participation at all levels throughout the workforce and the community. The acquisition of ICT skills for the information economy is the currency of this new century."

Mr Ruddock highlighted the close relationship that his Department (DIMA) had developed with the National Office for the Information Economy (NOIE) and

with the peak industry body - the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) - and the joint steps that DIMA, NOIE and the AIIA had taken to inform employers of the options available to them to bring skilled workers into the country.

Mr Ruddock said he was encouraged by the success of information sessions for Human Resource managers of ICT firms, held by DIMA Business Centres in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, which build on the strong relationship that has developed between Government and industry. These information sessions will continue to ensure that ICT firms are well-positioned to take advantage of Australia's streamlined immigration arrangements.

"As a result of additional efforts to streamline processing, a quarter of skilled migrants and a quarter of Temporary Business (Long Stay) visa holders entering Australia are ICT specialists," Mr Ruddock said.

"While these measures go a long way to meeting the immediate needs of the ICT industry, the Government's focus in the long term is to expand training and education opportunities for young Australians," Senator Alston said. The Ministers also noted that the Opposition's recent statement outlining future priorities failed to appreciate the positive contribution that immigration plays in meeting the short-term needs of Australian industry.

Accordingly, the new immigration initiatives will complement the important measures introduced by Dr Kemp, Minister for Employment, Training and Youth Affairs to expand Australia's local skills and expertise.

Also see attachment, Specific Initiatives To Attract Highly Skilled ICT Workers To Australia

29 January 2001 Mr Ruddock's office: Steve Ingram (02) 6277 7860 Senator Alston's office: Sasha Grebe 0409 445 246

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