Introduced on 8 June 2023 as part of the Australia-United Kingdom Free Trade Agreement (A-UKFTA), the Innovation and Early Careers Skills Exchange Pilot (IECSEP) provides new visa pathways for UK citizens to build their skills and careers by working in Australia. It is a pilot program that is being implemented from June 2023 to June 2025.
The IECSEP recognises the value of mobility between the UK and Australia for individuals in the early stages of their careers, as well as skilled and experienced individuals with demonstrated track records of innovation. The program offers an opportunity for UK organisations to develop staff and build networks through temporary staff placements in Australia and is an opportunity for Australian organisations to access qualified and innovative talent from the UK.
There are two streams available under the IECSEP:
- Early Careers stream – which offers the opportunity for tertiary qualified professionals who are early in their career and who are UK citizens to live and work in Australia for up to 12 months; and
- Innovation stream – enables highly skilled and experienced UK citizens, with a demonstrated contribution to innovation, to live and work in Australia for up to three years.
Employment options under the program include graduate rotations, short-term placements, secondments, intra-corporate transfers, or a role with a new employer in Australia.
What Are The Eligibility Requirements To Qualify For The Pilot Program?
To qualify under both streams, you must meet the following eligibility criteria:
- be able to demonstrate that you are a UK citizen;
- have employment in Australia for the duration of your planned stay, and can provide DFAT with a letter of employment offer or a contract for employment from an Australia employer (in accordance with IECSEP requirements);
- the occupation to be performed in Australia under the IECSEP must be defined at the specified Australia New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO) Skill Level (between Skill Levels 1 to 3 for the Early Careers stream, or Skill Level 1 for the Innovation stream); and
- demonstrate that you have adequate financial means to support yourself for the duration of your stay in Australia ($5,000 plus the cost of the fare to your destination after you depart Australia).
Early Careers Stream
To qualify under the Early Careers stream, you must meet the following additional eligibility criteria:
- be aged between 21 to 45 (inclusive) at the time of application;
- be tertiary qualified (from UK higher or further educational institutions but can also include qualifications from non-UK institutions);
- have worked for at least three months in your current role (must provide a supporting letter from your current employer describing your current role and how long you have been employed in that role);
- your prospective employment in Australia must be relevant to your field of work in your current role; and
- have prospective employment in Australia in an occupation defined at ANZSCO Skill Level 1, 2 or 3.
To qualify under the Innovation stream, you must meet the following additional eligibility criteria:
- have made a demonstrated contribution to innovation;
- be highly skilled;
- be highly experienced; and
- have prospective employment in Australia in an occupation defined at ANZSCO Skill Level 1.
There is no age limit to qualify under the Innovation stream.
Applications made under the Innovation stream are also assessed on merit criteria (which are reviewed and scored by DFAT). These scores are then used to rank Innovation stream applications.
The tables below describe the test applied and the total potential score for each of the merit criteria.
The merit criteria for the Innovation stream are as follows:
|Your contribution to innovation||Demonstrate your contribution to innovation||50 points|
|Highly experienced||Demonstrate that you are highly experienced||25 points|
|Highly skilled||Demonstrate that you are highly skilled||25 points|
IECSEP Innovation Panel
The IECSEP Innovation Panel oversees the selection of Innovation stream applicants, based on recommendations from the assessment team at DFAT.
IECSEP participants cannot perform an occupation, or undertake the duties associated with an occupation that is regulated in Australia unless they are fully qualified to undertake the occupation or duties, including holding the full and unconditional Australian licencing, registration or certification necessary to undertake the occupation or duties in the relevant state or territory in Australia. Provisional licences, registrations or certifications do not meet this requirement.
What Is The Application Process To Participate In The Pilot Program?
Eligible applicants can apply for the IECSEP if they are already in Australia on a valid visa, except for individuals who either currently hold, or have held as their last substantive temporary visa:
- a Subclass 403 Temporary Work (International Relations) visa (under the Domestic Worker (Diplomatic or Consular) stream);
- a Subclass 771 Transit visa; or
- a Special Purpose visa.
Apply To The Department Of Foreign Affairs And Trade (DFAT)
The application process for the pilot program is managed by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). IECSEP applications are to be submitted online through the IECSEP online application portal, which can be accessed via the DFAT website (there is a separate application to be completed for the Early Careers stream and the Innovation stream).
DFAT Application Rounds
Applications can only be submitted when an application round is open. The current round will close at 11.59pm (GMT) on Monday 20 November 2023. DFAT may close this application round for one or both IECSEP streams on an earlier date. Additional application rounds may also be opened in 2023-24. It is expected that application round timings for 2024-25 will be advised from June 2024.
All IECSEP applications will be assessed against the eligibility criteria that apply to the relevant stream.
Applications for the Innovation stream will also be assessed and ranked against specified merit criteria. The IECSEP Innovation Panel will review the ranking completed for the Innovation stream by DFAT.
Successful IECSEP applicants will receive a letter of support from DFAT. Unsuccessful applicants will receive a letter of outcome. These notifications will be sent by DFAT via email.
If an IECSEP application is unsuccessful, the application will not be subject to further consideration by DFAT. Applicants may submit a new application for the same stream or a different stream in any subsequent IECSEP application round.
Apply To The Department Of Home Affairs
Approved IECSEP applicants must then apply for a Subclass 403 Temporary Work (International Relations) visa (under the Government Agreement stream) to the Department of Home Affairs. Note that IECSEP applications and visa applications are separate processes.
When applying for the subclass 403 visa, you must submit your letter of support issued by DFAT as part of the visa application. Immigration will assess the visa application against other applicable criteria for the grant of the visa (note that the visa application is not assessed by DFAT).
To be eligible for a subclass 403 visa under the Government Agreement stream, some of the key eligibility criteria that you are required to meet include that you must:
- meet a genuine temporary stay requirement (you must intend to have a genuine intention to stay temporarily in Australia and do the work or activity as specified in the visa application);
- have adequate health insurance;
- have a good immigration record; and
- meet health and character criteria.
Upon grant of the visa, you will be able to travel to Australia (or remain in Australia, if you are already onshore as the holder of a different visa) and commence working for the Australian employer identified in your IECSEP application and specified in the letter of support from DFAT. You must also ensure that you comply with all relevant visa conditions whilst you hold the subclass 403 visa.
Can Family Members Apply?
The pilot program is not available to members of your family unit. However, if eligible, family members can apply separately for another visa to travel to Australia.
When Can Applicants Commence Working For Their Australian Employer?
IECSEP participants can only begin working for their Australian employer once the subclass 403 visa has been granted (if they are already onshore as the holder of another visa), or from the date when they arrive in Australia. The employment commencement date cannot be more than 12 months after the date on which the IECSEP application was submitted to DFAT.
What Visa Conditions Apply To IECSEP Participants?
IECSEP participants must abide by all conditions of the Subclass 403 visa. They are only permitted to work for the employer identified in the DFAT letter of support. It is a condition of the visa that IECSEP participants remain employed by the Australian employer identified to DFAT and to Immigration.
Pilot program participants must also not work in a position or in an occupation that is inconsistent with the position or occupation in relation to which the visa is granted, and they must not engage in work for another person, or work on their own account.
IECSEP participants must notify Immigration in the event that they cease to work for their Australian employer. In this case, the pilot program participant may be required to leave Australia, or apply for a new visa if they wish to remain onshore.
How Many Places Are Available Under The Pilot Program?
A total of 1000 visas will be available under IECSEP in the first year (to 7 June 2024).
A total of 2000 visas will be available under IECSEP in the second year (8 June 2024 to 7 June 2025).
The allocation of places between the Early Careers and Innovation streams will depend on the demand (among other considerations).
What Is The Cost To Apply Under The Pilot Program?
No fee is payable to lodge an application with DFAT to participate in the IECSEP.
The Visa Application Charge (VAC) payable to Immigration to apply for a subclass 403 visa is $355.00 (a payment surcharge also applies).
What To Learn More?
For further information and advice about the Innovation and Early Careers Skills Exchange Pilot (IECSEP) program and to assess your eligibility for this initiative, please contact us at PAX Migration and book your initial consultation today.
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Australia’s migration laws are complex, and each case is different. We recommend that you seek professional advice if you are interested in applying for a visa under the Innovation and Early Careers Skills Exchange Pilot (IECSEP) program, as being fully informed will give you the best chance of achieving a successful outcome on your case. A migration professional can help you to do this. There are several terms that are defined in the migration law. Detailed advice about these is beyond the scope of this article and we would therefore recommend that you seek further information in this regard.
For up-to-date advice on the Innovation and Early Careers Skills Exchange Pilot (IECSEP) program, contact PAX Migration Australia, a leading immigration service providing advice on a range of visas. Contact us for a no-obligation discussion on how we may be able to assist you to achieve your migration goals in Australia.
Australian Government – Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade – Trade and investment – Australia’s free trade agreements (FTAs) – Free trade agreements in force – Australia-United Kingdom Free Trade Agreement – Australia-UK FTA outcomes documents – Benefits for Tech Entrepreneurs and Innovators – Innovation and Early Careers Skills Exchange Pilot
Australia-United Kingdom Free Trade Agreement – Innovation and Early Careers Skills Exchange Pilot (IECSEP) – Guidebook – Free Trade Agreements and Stakeholder Engagement Division (FSD) – Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade – 1.0 (20 September 2023)