How do the recent visa changes impact international Cyber Security professionals wanting to work in Australia?

How do the recent visa changes impact international Cyber Security professionals wanting to work in Australia? Image 1

On 18th April 2017 Malcolm Turnbull announced the abolition of 457 visas, a popular route to Australian employment in Cyber Security for overseas professionals. Instead, the category of “ICT Security Specialist” was placed onto the “Short Term Skilled Occupation List” (STSOL) meaning that businesses can only sponsor a Cyber professional for a maximum of 2 years with no progression option to nominate that professional for permanent employment. Commonly, the 457-visa lead to a nominated subclass 186 visa which offers a candidate permanent residency (PR) but with the new legislation, options for foreign candidates have changed.

The decisions involving visa changes in ICT Security were controversial given the constant discussion around skill shortages in Cyber and the increasing Cyber threats that countries are facing (The recent #wannacry a prime example).  Whilst the Government have outlined huge investment in Cyber Security centres and universities now collaborating with corporates to promote Cyber education (Such as Optus and Macquarie University’s recent announcement) the threat of Cybercrime is today’s issue on a global scale. To date, we have worked with a number of organisations offering 457 sponsorships to get the right talent in Australia, a marketplace still deemed an attractive home for overseas talent in technology.

The changes have made it harder for professionals in Cyber to enter the Australian market without having to personally invest and wait for an independent skill assessed visa (PR). It’s now somewhat less attractive for businesses to invest in overseas professionals given they can only guarantee a 2-year service period which can only be renewed once per applicant. Criteria has also tightened for businesses wanting to sponsor, for more information see here.

So, what visa options are currently available?

457 Visa Holder

If you currently have a 457-temporary visa, you can work out the duration of the existing visa. If you are eligible to apply for a nominated 186 subclass Permanent Residency Visa, you must do so before March 2018. You will need to have been employed by a company for 2 years by then and they must be willing to nominate you. If you missed the 457 being granted before the announcement, you are only eligible for the 2-year short term sponsorship option.

To work permanently in Australia on a visa, a professional must hold a Subclass 186, 189 or 190 Visa (PR) unless they have the option to be put onto another person’s visa (I.e. defacto with a partner or a spouse visa).

Subclass 186 Visa (PR) – Business Nomination Visa

The subclass 186 currently has 3 potential entry streams, all of which require the professional to have an Australian employer willing to nominate them for the visa. Once it’s granted, they have the rights to work for any business and are not tied to an industry.

  • Temporary Residence Transition - Often followed a 457 Visa where an Australian employer would nominate a candidate after 2 years of service in the specific field. The candidate completes several checks and would be granted the visa if they met the criteria. As the 457 Visa will no longer be in operation as of March 2018 – this option will no longer be available to candidates past that point.
  • The Direct Entry - Where a candidate completes various forms, a health and police check and has a business willing to nominate them for the visa. Instead of completing 2 years of service, the direct entry option has a skills assessment relevant to the field that the candidate has been nominated for. This option is still available and it is unclear as to how this may change post March 2018.
  • The Agreement Scheme - Not as relevant to the Cyber Security industry.

The government have tightened up the criteria around what the organisation that are nominating must meet. These changes include; spending on training, genuine need for the candidate vs local talent and support. Please see here for more info.

Subclass 189 Visa (Skilled PR)

 “ICT Security” was NOT kept on the skilled occupation list for the 189 Skilled Visa, a visa that was granted based on points. Points were obtained by completing the relevant industry tests, relevant education and years of experience. The visa could take up to 12 months for approval and skilled professionals would often apply to get this before entering Australia. As far as we know, this is no longer an option for professionals in the Security field; 189 Skilled Occupation Link.

Subclass 190 Visa (State Sponsored Skilled PR)

This visa is dependent on job skill shortages in specific states in Australia. Candidate’s must indicate interest online and then complete the relevant tests and obtain the level of points required based on education, skill test, language test and experience. This visa can be a faster process but limits the professional to a specific job role within a specific state. For more information click here or here. NSW does NOT permit 190 Subclass visas, other states vary.

Visa costs often vary from $3600 - $12000 depending on the visa and whether an immigration agent is involved.

Labour Hire Partners

If an organisation is willing to offer a candidate but not able to offer a sponsorship option, an alternative is to find a third party who have a labour hire agreement that can facilitate holding the short-term visa for a fee, enabling the candidate to be employed by an organisation. This incurs a management cost and the visa cost but is an option for candidates who have interest from companies that cannot offer short term sponsorships.

Current Potential Solutions:

As things stand, candidates have a short – term visa, a direct entry 186 subclass visa and a 190 subclass visa available to them without using a third party labour hire or joining another person’s visa. With the removal of “ICT Security” from the medium – long term visa list and the subclass 189 skilled visa occupation list, it should be a concern for the industry that the Government are not supporting international talent joining the local market. Certain sources have stated that Australia has been the hardest hit for finding Cyber Security professionals, with 88% of I.T. decision makers outlining a shortage in skills in the market.

Decipher Bureau work with multiple clients that support 457 employees who are now either not interested in sponsoring 2 year visas, or have stated they will have to be more stringent when considering overseas candidates.  We have now partnered with labour hire facilities to enable skilled Cyber Security professionals overseas to be granted the relevant visas for employment in Australia.

For our Australian client base, this facility is there as a secondary option should they not be able to offer direct sponsorship to bring on a candidate requiring one.

Statistics show that demand for experienced ICT Security professionals is still increasing and particularly with specific Cyber skills, the talent is often found overseas. As a specialist provider of niche talent in Cyber it’s important for us to be able to introduce the best available candidates to organisations whilst assisting professionals to identify the most effective way to secure long term employment in the Australia.

For more information on any of the above please contact me directly on Please note, I am not a qualified immigration agent so for more in depth information, it may be better to contact one of them.

Craig Whyte is a Principal Consultant at Decipher Bureau, focused on delivering Cyber talent to a diverse portfolio of clients across APAC. With experience in candidate short markets internationally, Craig’s experience in identifying specific skills at mid to senior level has enabled him to assist many businesses to build capabilities in a competitive marketplace.