Australia does a spectacularly bad job of welcoming software developers who come here from overseas. This is something I have witnessed on a daily basis since arriving here from the UK in 2012.

In fact, I am sure this applies to a vast section of the IT industry and probably even accountancy, the medical profession and engineering. For simplicity, however, and purely because this has been annoying me for such a long time, I am going to focus on my experience with software developers.

I speak to Software Developers every day. I’d say 80% of the people I speak to are from overseas. I speak to people from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, China, Japan, Russia, South Korea, Philippines, Hong Kong, Malaysia, South America etc. These men and women come from all over the world. Most of them are seasoned professionals with years of experience developing in software like Java, C#, .Net, C++, Python, Javascript etc.

Most of these people have dreamt of coming to Australia for many years. They have saved up every penny they had to be able to afford the (VERY EXPENSIVE) Visa that would allow them to come to here with their families in the hope of giving them a better life. This is not a quick process. From start to finish, saving up to submitting their Visa application to receiving confirmation can be two to three years at least.

Imagine then, the dismay when you arrive and you can’t find a job for 6 months.

You have just spent your life savings on a Visa, and shipped your entire family over here because you were told  by the Australian government that your skills were ‘in demand’, only to find that when you arrive here you can’t even get an interview. It must be devastating.

Why So Many Overseas Software Developers Struggle When They Arrive In Australia

Here are some of the most frustrating things I hear companies say about overseas software developers:

How To Make Life Difficult For Overseas Software Developers No.1 – “We need someone with local experience”

Are you serious?! Why? Is Java software development different in India to what it is here? Erm… NO! Are Australian software developers taught some secret formula that overseas software developers are not? Erm… NO! Then why do you need someone with local experience?

I completely understand this if the company needs someone who understands the Superannuation industry for example. I get that. But using this as a way of simply discriminating against a certain group of people is just plain wrong.

Not only is it wrong, however, it is also very short sighted. Some of the best software developers I know are from overseas. They would be such a great asset to any team if they were just given a chance.

What is the answer to this? So many times, I have seen software developers volunteering to work for free for a few weeks just to get some local Australian experience on their CV. They will literally work for free. This is actually a very smart thing to do in this situation because the thing you have in abundance when you are trying to find a new job is time.

How To Make Life Difficult For Overseas Software Developers No.2 – “We’ll take them but we are not paying them market rates”

In certain markets such as Java, the market is saturated with candidates. There simply aren’t enough jobs to go around. This is something that the Australian government needs to look at from an immigration perspective. Some technologies are much more in demand than others and they should make this clear to anyone looking to come to Australia from overseas. It is simply not good enough to grant someone permanent residency purely because they are a ‘Software Developer’. The criteria needs to be more specific than that.

Last week, I had a conversation with a Java Developer who had arrived from India 6 months ago. He has 15 years’ experience, has really solid technical skills and has worked for some great companies. The only job he could find was a 6 week fixed term contract paying $50k per annum pro rata. That is exploitation of the highest order in my book. His Australian counterpart would be paid at least three times that. Australian companies know that certain groups of software developers are desperate and they are exploiting people because of that.

In many cutting edge technologies, Australia is facing a shortage of software developers. However, if we do not do more to look after the software developers we already have, if we do not make it easier for overseas software developers when they arrive here in Australia, then the supply of talented software developers will only continue to decrease.

And that will be bad news for everyone.

Do you know anyone who has been affected by this? Do you know anyone who is a software developer? Please share this with them.