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Whether you're looking to make Australia home or wish to gain work experience in another country, a work visa is a great way to experience Australia.
There are multiple work visas you may be eligible for. This guide will outline which visas might suit you, explain the rules about working in Australia and outline pathways to permanent residency.
What visa options do I have?
A work visa naturally lets you work in Australia. There are four main types of Australian work visas you can apply for. Two of them are temporary and only let you stay in Australia for a limited time, while the other two are for permanent residency, and many of the benefits of citizenship.
- Temporary work visa (subclass 457). Currently in the process of being phased out, to be replaced by the TSS visa in March 2018. This visa is designed to temporarily bring in skilled workers to Australia, in order to perform needed jobs.
- Working holiday (subclass 462 and 417). Designed to let younger people work while taking extended vacations in Australia. A limited number of these visa types are awarded each year. The limits, and which working holiday visa you can apply for depends on your country of origin.
- Employer sponsored work visas (subclass 186 and 187). An Australian business can sponsor non-residents to let them get permanent residency. A business might sponsor an employee who's already in Australia on a 457, TSS or working holiday visa, or might sponsor someone who's still overseas.
- Skilled independent visas (subclass 189). A visa for overseas residents who want to apply for permanent residency without being sponsored by an Australian business. Applicants register an expression of interest, and are selected based on their occupation and how they rank on a points test compared to other applicants.
Note that many visa types work differently for New Zealand citizens, and that there may be other differences depending on your country of origin.
- Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) Visa and 457 temporary work visa
Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) Visa will completely replace the 457 visa program in 2018. The TSS visa allows workers to work in Australia for either two or four years, depending on the worker’s occupation. An Australian employer needs to sponsor you before you can apply for this visa.
It is known as the 457 visa until March 2018, after which it will be called the TSS visa.
As of April 2017, the eligible occupations for applicants were divided into two categories, known as the Short Term Skilled Occupations List (STSOL) and the Medium and Long Term Strategic Skills List (MLTSSL). Visa conditions vary depending on the occupation being applied for.
- Find a list of the current skilled occupations here. This list is updated regularly.
- Conditions apply for certain occupations. You can find a list of caveats here.
If your occupation is not on the list, or is excluded by a caveat, then you might not be able to get a 457 or TSS visa.
If it is on the list, then the visa terms are different depending on whether it's an STSOL occupation, or an MLTSSL occupation.
|Visa is valid for up to 2 years||Visa is valid for up to 4 years|
|Visa can only be renewed in Australia once||Visa can be renewed in Australia an unlimited number of times|
|No pathway to permanent residency. Visa will only ever be temporary.||Pathways to permanent residency available. Visitors on this visa may become permanent residents.|
|Less strict English language requirements||More strict English language requirements|
To apply for a 457 or TSS visa, you will need an approved employer to sponsor you, and you will need to prove that you have the skills needed to do the job. You’ll also need to prove that you can speak, write and understand a certain level of English.
- Work and holiday, and working holiday visas (subclass 462 and 417)
There are two types visa for working while holidaying in Australia. Both are temporary visas that allow young people to work while taking a holiday in Australia for up to one year. You can apply for a 417 "work and holiday" and 462 "working holiday" visa if you are 18-30 years old, have a passport from an eligible country and will not have a dependent child with you during your stay in Australia. Both visa types let you:
- Stay in Australia for up to 12 months
- Work in Australia for up to six months with each employer, or longer with special permission
- Study in Australia for up to four months.
Both 417 and 462 visa holders can apply for a second visa in order to extend their stay, as long as you:
- are under the age of 31
- have only held one previous working holiday visa
462 "work and holiday" visa holders have additional requirements. In order to apply for a second 462 visa they must have done three months of specified work in Australia.
You can apply for a second working holiday visa while outside of Australia, or can extend your first by applying for a second before the first expires.
- Applying for your second 417 visa. This can be done inside or outside of Australia, with similar requirements to the first application.
- Applying for your second 462 visa. In order to apply for a second 462 visa you must have completed at least three months of specified work in northern Australia during your first 462 visa. "Specified work" includes certain jobs in the plant and animal cultivation, fishing and pearling, tree farming and felling, and tourism and hospitality industries.
- Employer sponsored visas (subclass 186 and 187)
The 187 and 186 visa streams are for applicants who are sponsored by an Australian employer. These are permanent residency visas, and you might apply for them while outside of Australia, or while in Australia on another type of visa. There are strict requirements that businesses need to meet before they can nominate people for these visas.
- 186 visa stream: For non-regional areas of Australia
- 187 visa stream: For regional areas of Australia
There are differences in the accepted occupations and skills required depending on whether you'll be working in metropolitan (186 visa) or country (187 visa) part of Australia.
In both cases, your nominating employer will need to choose one of three streams, which your application needs to match: the temporary residence transition stream, the direct entry stream, and the agreement stream.
|Stream||Who is eligible?|
|Temporary residence transition stream||For subclass 457 visa and TSS visa holders.|
|Direct entry stream||For people who have never, or only briefly, worked in Australia, do not qualify for the Temporary Residence Transition Stream, or have been nominated by their employer for this stream. Nominees need to be under the age of 45.|
|Agreement stream||A special one-off agreement between nominating employers and the government, to bring in overseas workers through a negotiated formal labour agreement.|
As of July 2017, the nominating employer must demonstrate a genuine need for overseas workers, and that they are having difficulties filling the position with Australian workers.
In cases where you don’t already have an employer to nominate you, you can submit an expression of interest through SkillSelect. This makes your details available to employers and state or territory governments, and they might choose to nominate you.
If an employer nominates you, you might be invited to apply for a 186 or 187 Visa.
Even if an employer does not nominate you, you might be invited to apply for a 189 Skilled Independent Visa.
- Skilled Independent visa (subclass 189)
When you send an expression of interest (EOI) through SkillSelect, you're letting the government know you're interested in moving to Australia. Even if no business nominates you for a 168 or 187 visa, the government might still invite you to apply for a 189 visa if you are under the age of 45, and have not been sponsored or nominated by an employer, or state or territory government.
In order to send an EOI, your occupation must be on the skilled occupations list. After your EOI is received, you will be ranked against other applicants with a points test. In addition to competing against other applicants, you need to score at least 60 points to receive an invitation.
If you qualify, and there is room for your occupation, you will be invited to apply for a 189 Skilled Independent visa. This Skilled Independent visa, as well as the 186 and 187 visa streams are all permanent residency visas.
How do I apply for a work visa?
You can lodge a visa application through the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection website, or you can hire a migration agent to advise you about the process and lodge the application for you.
If you want to work in Australia as a skilled migrant, you can also lodge an expression of interest through SkillSelect. An expression of interest isn’t the same as a visa application, and it doesn’t cost anything, but it will enable Australian employers and governments to find out about your skills through the database. An employer could then invite you to apply for a visa. You can also use a migration agent to submit an expression of interest.
If any further information or documents are requested after application, you’ll need to provide these within the time given. Remember to let the Department of Immigration know if your circumstances change, such as changes to your home address, your marital status or your employment status.
Working in Australia: tax and superannuation
Tax and work visas
You will need to pay tax at a rate based on how much you earn while working in Australia. You’ll also need to lodge an Australian tax return.
You should also have a tax file number (TFN), which is your personal reference number in the Australian tax system. Tax file numbers are free, and you can apply for one online as soon as you have arrived in Australia after receiving your work visa. Try to get a tax file number before, or soon after, you start working. While you aren’t legally required to have a tax file number, if you don’t have one, you will pay more tax.
You will need to fill out a tax file number declaration form for your employer within 28 days of starting work, otherwise a higher rate of tax will be deducted from your pay.
You can apply for a tax file number online if you meet the following criteria:
- you have a foreign passport or are a permanent migrant or temporary visitor.
- you are already in Australia.
- you have one of the following visas: permanent migrant visa, a visa with working rights, an overseas student visa or a visa that allows you to stay in Australia indefinitely.
Superannuation and work visas
As you work in Australia, you will also earn superannuation, or “super”, which is the retirement savings system in Australia. Super is a portion of your salary that your employer pays into a superannuation fund for you. Your employer must pay your super contributions even if you aren’t a permanent resident.
As long as you are paid $450 or more in a month, are over 18 years of age or are under 18 and work more than 30 hours a week, then your employer has to pay into your superannuation fund. Your employer will not be required to pay superannuation if your work is private or domestic, such as a nanny, or if you work less than 30 hours a week.
Your superannuation will be paid to you after you have left Australia and your visa has expired or been cancelled.
Can I get permanent residency through a work visa?
Some visas allow you to stay in Australia permanently such as the Employer Nomination Scheme (subclass 186), the Skilled Independent visa (subclass 189) and the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (subclass 187). Permanent residents have the same rights as citizens, except that they cannot vote and if they want to travel out of Australia, they will need to have a permanent visa with a valid travel authority.
Getting citizenship following permanent residency
Permanent residents can later apply for citizenship if they meet the requirements. To qualify you must:
- Have been a permanent resident in Australia for at least four years prior to your application.
- Have competent English language skills.
- Have integrated into the Australian community.
- Be aware of Australian values as well as the privileges and responsibilities of citizenship.
Australia allows people to have dual citizenship, so if you become an Australian citizen you will be able to keep your citizenship of your home country as long as that country allows it.
What occupations are eligible for work visas?
Different visa types have different occupation requirements. For example, 186 and 187 skilled visas have different eligible occupations, and you will need to qualify as a skilled worker in order to get a 457 visa, but do not necessarily need to be skilled in order to qualify for a working holiday visa.
Within the skilled occupations list, there are two different categories. The category your occupation is in will determine your visa conditions.
Some of the occupations on the skilled occupations list include:
- ICT workers
- registered nurses
- medical laboratory technicians
- mechanical engineers
Find the full list of eligible skilled occupations and their categories here. If you are applying for the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme visa (subclass 187), which will enable you to work in regional Australia, the list of eligible occupations is different.
Among visa applicants in 2015-16, the largest group of applicants was professionals, followed by technicians and trade workers, and then managers. The top five occupations of successful visa applicants in the skill stream for 2015-16 were accountants, software engineers, cooks, registered nurses and auditors.
How long do work visas take to process?
The time it takes to process your visa application can range from weeks to over a year, and varies depending on the visa type and situation. For example, 90% of Employer Nominated Scheme (subclass 186) visas are processed within 9 months for the Temporary Resident Transition Stream, but typically take longer for Direct Entry and Agreement Streams.
Processing times can also vary due to factors such as the number of applications, incomplete applications, how long it takes to check the supplied information or receive information from external agencies, the time of the year, and the complexity of the case.
If possible, lodge your visa application online as this streamlines the processing of your application.
Should I hire a migration agent?
A migration agent will help you lodge a visa application, give you advice about the process, prepare documents for your application, and liaise with the Department of Immigration on your behalf. You are free to lodge a visa application yourself, but if you don’t feel confident about the process, or your application is complex, you can choose to use a migration agent.
If you decide to use a migration agent, you should use an agent who is registered through the Office of the Migration Agents Registration Authority as they will be aware of current laws and procedures. For a list of migration agents in your city, head here.
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