Immigrating to Australia – Australian Citizenship, Visa, Permanent Residence
Australia and its long list of coastal cities is consistently ranked as a country offering the highest standards of living anywhere in the world. Clean and modern urban spaces, great schools and universities, strong healthcare and stable government all make Australia a very attractive place for those looking for a new life.
The country does, however, have a reputation for extremely strict rules governing its border. This applies to travellers, visiting family members, business visitors and those who seek to stay in Australia longer. Both visas and the contents of your suitcase are both heavily monitored and controlled to protect the integrity of Australia’s attractive commonwealth.
In today’s post, we will be sharing key information on how to apply for various kinds of long-stay visas in Australia, including the process through which you can gain permanent residence in Australia. Read on to learn more.
How to Apply for a Work Visa / Work Permit
Australia’s strong economy and pleasant living conditions make it a great place to work. A huge number of people every year apply for work visas and permits. In this section, we’ll cover the application requirements and procedures.
Australia has four main kinds of work permits that it issues, they are:
- Visas for innovation (part of the Global Talent Program)
- Short stay work visas
- Temporary work visas
- Permanent work visas
Visas for Innovation (Global Talent Program)
What Is It?
This is an efficient and streamlined “fast track” to work and live permanently in Australia that is open to “highly skilled professionals.” It’s based on the idea that attracting global talent brings skills and innovations to Australia that ultimately benefit the country in the long term, creating jobs and opportunities for existing Australian citizens.
It’s a very limited program, and in the 2021-2022 cycle there are just 15,000 spots available to applicants. The program runs Global Talent Officers who promote the program in Australia, the UK, Singapore and the US.
To qualify for this program, you have to demonstrate a high level of professional skill in any one of the following 10 target sectors:
- Agri-food and AgTech
- Health industries
- Defence, advanced manufacturing, and space
- Circular economy
- Infrastructure and Tourism
- Financial services and FinTech
To show these skills and this kind of high value, applicants must demonstrate international recognition of their achievements and be recognized as prominent in their field. Additions like senior roles, patents and publications all help. You also have to prove you can normally attract a salary exceeding Australia’s “high-income threshold” which in 2021 stands at AUD 158,500.
Finally, you must also be nominated by an Australian citizen or permanent resident, or by an Australian organisation in order to qualify.
How to Apply
There are several steps to completing the process
Step 1: You first have to express your interest by filling out the Global Talent contact form and supply that along with your passport. This submission is known as Expression of Interest (EOI). In addition, there needs to be paper evidence of your current employment status, income, qualifications and also details of your nomination using Form 1000 – “Nomination for Global Talent.”
Step 2: If successful, you receive an invitation email with a unique reference code, which you can then use to apply for a visa online using ImmiAccount. The type of visa you need to apply for is the Global Talent (Subclass 858) Visa.
Step 3: Await the results. If your initial enquiry of interest (EOI) was successful, then the visa application should also be successful pending any new or disrupting information of circumstances.
It costs AUD 4,180 for the base application charge, and an additional AUD 2,095 for any additional applicant of 18+ years of age, AUD 1,045 for an additional applicant under the age of 18. Processing times varies depending on the target sector, the nominator and various other factors.
Short Stay Work Visas
Short stay work visas have quite a few subclasses in the Australian visa system, but the most common four are:
Work and Holiday Visas and Working Holiday Visas
These visas target people 18-30 years of age from eligible countries to allow them to enjoy an extended holiday and work simultaneously to help pay for their costs. Each of these types can be applied for up to 3 times in total, with each visa allowing for a 12-month stay.
To qualify for the first visa, you must:
- Be aged 18-30 years; or 18 to 35 if you are Canadian, French or Irish
- Have a valid passport from an eligible country
- Pay AUD 495
- Allow for a processing time of 3 to 7 months, possibly longer
To get the second and third visas, you have to have completed at least 3 months of specified work within each subclass. For subclass 462, examples are tourism and hospitality in remote regions of Australia, plant and animal cultivation in northern Australia, construction, bushfire recovery work, fishing and pearling, COVID-19 work and others. Subclass 417 includes many of these, but also mining.
Pacific and Season Work Visas
These visas grant special visas within the Pacific Labour Scheme and the Seasonal Worker Program. The former grants visas that can last up to 3 years, and the latter for visas up to 9 months.
The Pacific Labour scheme allows residents of Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu to apply for temporary low-skilled work in Australia to fill gaps where local labour can’t be found. It costs AUD 315 to apply, with processing times usually of 8 days maximum. Workers will be invited by an Australian employer endorsed by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).
The Seasonal Worker Scheme involves being invited by Australian employers endorsed by DESE (Department of Education, Skills and Employment). It costs AUD 315 to apply and takes up to 17 days to process each application. Despite the differing program names, this program is also only open to residents of the above-mentioned Pacific countries.
One important difference is that the Pacific Labour Scheme doesn’t require applicants to be able to pay all their costs while in Australia, but instead relies on sponsors. The Seasonal Worker Program requires applicants to be able to support themselves.
Temporary Activity and Specialist Visas
Temporary activity visas let in foreigners to attend special events endorsed by the Australian government. They can be valid for up to 4 years. They cost AUD 315 and can take up to 7 months to process — planning ahead required!
Activities include youth exchange, cultural exchange, gap year volunteering, community programs, religious work, research, sporting activities, entertainment work, domestic work for executives and more. More information can be found here.
Short stay specialist visas are valid up to 6 months and welcome those coming to work temporarily in highly skilled jobs. It costs AUD 315 and takes up to 34 days to process. This visa can only be applied for outside of Australia, and requires the applicant to have specialised knowledge or skills that are of a benefit to Australian business. More information can be found here
For both of these visa types, one important thing is to be able to prove your financial stability and ability to provide for yourself with no assistance from the Australian government.
Temporary Work Visas
As the name suggests, these work visas are in place to help you get a temporary work placement in Australia. They include the following visa subclasses:
- Temporary Skill Shortage Visa (subclass 482 – sponsorship needed)
- Temporary Graduate visa (subclass 485)
- Skilled – Recognized Graduate Visa (subclass 476)
- Business Innovation and Investment (Provisional) visa (subclass 188 – sponsorship needed)
Temporary Skill Shortage Visa
This visa helps Australian employers find skilled workers when there is a local shortage of Australian talent to fill a position. It costs from AUD 1,290 to 2,690 and takes up to 12 months to process. The visa stay period is typically 2-4 years, but 5 years for Hong Kong residents (see below).
To be eligible, you have to be nominated to a skilled position by a sponsor within Australia. You also need to be able to demonstrate through credentials and proven work experience that you have the skills to do the job. This includes English language requirements for those whose native language is not English.
You can find details on applying for each of the 4 different streams here.
Temporary Graduate Visa
This visa type allows students to work after completing their studies in Australia. They have three streams:
- Graduate work stream – up to 18 months, AUD 1680, 7-month processing
- Post-study work stream – 2-4 years, AUD 1680, 8-10-month processing
- Second post-study work stream (extension of above 1-2 years), AUD 660
To qualify for this visa type, you have to be under 50 years of age, already hold an eligible study visa or have held one within 6 months. You also need a CRICOS-registered course qualification and can only apply for one of the 3 streams. You can’t change stream once you’ve started down one.
A detailed step-by-step guide can be found here. It includes information on all required documents and channels for application.
Skilled – Recognized Graduate Visa
This is another pathway for skilled graduates of engineering to live, work and study in Australia. You must be under 31 years old to apply, and have completed an engineering degree within the past two years at one of these institutions.
The application can take anywhere from 14 to 17 months to process, and it costs AUD 410. Forward planning is definitely required for this one. More information here.
Business Innovation and Investment Visa
This is a pathway for entrepreneurs and investors to enter Australia to bring new business skills, and investment (at least AUD 2.5 million) into the country. Costs for the visa start at AUD 6,085 and grow depending on how long you wish to extend the visa. First visas last for up to 5 years.
Similar to the Global Talent program, this process requires an EOI form, and a nomination from a government agency in a state or territory, or alternatively by Austrade. It’s an invitation-only scheme. More information can be found here.
Permanent Work Visas
These visas are pathways to permanent residence status in Australia, and so we will cover them further below in the permanent residence section.
How To Apply for a Student Visa
Student visas are for those seeking to study for a period in Australia either within the primary/secondary system or in an institution of higher education. The visa subclass is 500.
Student Visa Requirements
To get a study permit for Australia, applicants must meet the following requirements:
- Be of the right age: at least 6 years old for primary school study and then the corresponding age of each grade level after that if applying for a primary/secondary school; higher education requires completion of compulsory education
- Proof of enrolment – “Certification of Enrolment” (CoE). The institution in which an applicant is enrolled must be part of CRICOS
- Proof that you meet English language requirements for your chosen school
- Have health insurance (Overseas Student Health Cover OSHC)
- A valid visa already (if applying to renew while in Australia)
- Proof of being a genuine temporary entrant
- Proof of sufficient funds to cover time while in Australia
- Signature on the “Australian Values Statement.”
Student Visa Procedures
Step 1: Give Yourself Enough Time
Applicants should give themselves at least 6 weeks before their course starts to ensure that their visa application can be processed on time. A longer period is better, however, because processing times can run up to 7-8 months depending on the exact institution and sector of education you are applying for. More on processing times can be found here.
Step 2: Prepare Documents
You can find a full list of documents required for the application here and match it to your country of origin to get the most accurate results. You need to start with your CoE and identity documents, along with your various proofs that we mentioned in the eligibility criteria further above.
Step 3: Apply
The visa has to be applied online using ImmiAccount. You need to create an account, attach all the relevant documents and then pay the charges. The fee is AUD 630, unless you are exempt.
Step 4: Await Outcome, Travel to Australia
Assuming your visa application is successful, you can make arrangements to travel to Australia. If you are refused, you will be told precisely why and whether or not you can appeal the decision. Read the conditions on the visa carefully.
How to Get Permanent Residence
There are a number of permanent work visa types that one can apply through and ultimately gain Australian permanent residence status. One of them, the Global Talent Program, we have already covered. The other three are listed below:
- Regional visas
- Skilled migration visas
- Business investment visas
These are open to those who wish to work in remote regions of Australia and are permanent versions of similar temporary visas mentioned further above. The only regional visa currently open is the Temporary Residence Transition Stream (subclass 187).
If you hold subclass 457 or 482 visas, have worked for your employer for at least 3 years, and have been nominated for this scheme by your employer, then you are eligible. It costs AUD 4,115 and can take up to 14 months to process. The result, however, is permanent residence.
To apply, you need:
- Identity documents
- Licencing, registration or membership
- Skills assessment
- English language requirement documents
- Health and character documents
- Additional documentation for spouse and/or dependents (if applicable)
Applications have to be made online via ImmiAccount.
Skilled Migration Visas
This visa category includes four subclasses of visa:
- Employer Nomination Scheme (AUD 4,115) – subclass 186 – more here
- Skilled Independent Visa (AUD 4,115) – subclass 189 – more here
- Skilled Nominated Visa (AUD 4,115) – subclass 190 – more here
- Skilled Regional Visa (AUD 425) – subclass 887 – more here
Besides subclass 887, these visas are for skilled workers who want to live anywhere in Australia. You need to have sponsors for both the Employer Nomination Scheme and the Skilled Nominated Visa. The longest processing time for these pathways is 28 months. The final two types also allow some with eligibility to apply to become Australian citizens.
Special Measures to Support Hong Kong Residents to Come to Australia
Australia announced in July 2020 that there would be special measures put in place to help Hong Kong residents who wish to come to Australia. The measures announced by the Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison included help for students, graduates and skilled workers who want to live, work or study in Australia.
- Temporary graduate and skilled workers can get the right to work in Australia for up to 5 years on top of any time they have already been in Australia. Conclusion of this period will also lead automatically to a path to permanent residence status.
- Hong Kong applicants for the Global Talent Program will receive priority consideration, and an officer is now also placed in Hong Kong as a point of contact for potential applicants.
- Hong Kong students in China will qualify for a 5-year graduate visa when they finish their studies. The end of the graduate visa period also leads to a PR path upon its conclusion.
- Future eligible applicants from Hong Kong looking for temporary skilled-worker visas will qualify for a 5-year visa. They must first meet the requirements on the skills list, part of the Labour Market Testing
- Those who are currently in Australia helping to fill skills gaps in regional areas will have their stay periods extended with a path to PR after 3 years.