A Guide to Working Visas and Migration Visas for Australia

Article in Partnership with 5ways Group

One of the topics that Walker Hamill’s Melbourne team is most frequently asked to comment on is visas and the various pathways to working in Australia. While we understand the subject pretty well, we decided to defer to an expert for definitive guidance and hence asked our good friend and Registered Migration Agent, Melanie Meissner, to explain the five most popular options:

“If numbers like 417, 400, 462, 457, 482, 186, 187, 189, 190 and 309 are coming up in regular conversation then you must be planning a working holiday or even permanent migration to Australia.

It doesn’t take long to feel overwhelmed by Australia’s insistence on referring to the various work visa subclasses instead of their actual title, but with long titles like ‘Temporary Skills Shortage visa’ or ‘Temporary Work (Short Stay Specialist) visa’ then you will start to understand why we just refer to them by number.

Let’s look at the five most popular pathways, starting with the quickest and easiest option.

417 and 462 (Working holidays)

One of the most popular options is to take a working holiday in Australia. There is a long list of nationalities that can qualify for the 417 and 462 visas, which have previously been restricted to people aged 18-30. However, recent changes to immigration have increased the age limit to 35 for Irish and Canadian passport holders, with the expectation that the maximum age limit will soon be increased for other nationalities too.

This is initially a 12-month visa with the option to extend and is a great way to test out the Australian market before committing to long-term migration. The cost is minimal with (current) government fees of only AUD $450. Often a working holiday is a common solution allowing you to arrive in Australia and commence working while you await the outcome of a more permanent visa solution. The visa allows 6 months work with the one employer, but most skilled travellers will find that this is all it takes for an employer to decide to move to the next stage, which is employer-sponsored 482 visa.

The application is straightforward and generally processed in less than one month.

482 (the old 457 Employer sponsored visas)

In April 2018 the popular 457 visa was abolished and replaced with the almost identical 482 visa. This is the employer-sponsored pathway and once the employer has tested the local Australian market (i.e. advertised the role for a month) they can sponsor skilled workers for positions.

Employers must be approved to sponsor staff. Once approved as a sponsor the application consists of two stages. The first stage is the employer nominating the position, and the final stage is the visa applicant applying for the visa.

There are two lists of occupations that can qualify for this visa. Occupations on the short-term list (STSOL) can obtain a two-year visa with an opportunity to extend, and occupations on the medium-long term list (MLTSSL) can obtain a four-year visa with a pathway to permanent residency.

Major changes to this visa earlier in 2018 include a requirement that applicants must have at least two years of relevant work experience on top of their relevant qualifications prior to applying.

The costs for this visa varies depending on the length of visa and the occupation and are the responsibility of the employer.

These applications will generally take two to five months to process.

186 and 187 (Employer-sponsored permanent residency)

Similar to the 482 visa there is also an option for Australian employers to sponsor staff to remain in Australia permanently. This option is available to applicants whose occupation appears on the medium-long term list, though there are exceptions to this rule including the applicant’s current visa status, or positions in regional areas of Australia.

This option is most commonly used after an employee has worked for an Australian employer on a 457/482 visa for a few years. However, there are options to apply for this visa with the support of an Australian employer under the direct entry stream in cases where the employee has little or no prior work history with the employer.

These applications take about one year to process.

189 and 190 (Skilled Migration)

Still one of the most popular pathways is independent skilled migration (does not require an employer to sponsor the application). This is points based migration with the current pass mark set at 65 points. Points are awarded under a number of categories including age, qualifications, work experience and English language ability.

The 189 visa is an independent option which allows the visa holder to live anywhere in Australia, whereas the 190 option requires State/Territory sponsorship and an expectation that the visa holder will initially live in the State/Territory that provided the sponsorship. The various States and Territories throughout Australia will also sponsor certain occupations for faster processing and higher points.

These applications will take around six to twelve months to process.

309/100 and 820/801 (Partners)

If you’ve fallen in love with an Australian (and it’s hard not to) then partner visas are a great option. It is also worth noting that other than the working holiday options mentioned above you can also include a partner on any of the other visa options discussed.

Partners fall under two main categories – married or de facto. De facto partners are generally considered to have lived together for at least twelve months prior to application.

Two years after applying for the partner visa the applicant will then be considered for the permanent visa. The subclasses 309/100, 820/801 just refer to whether the application was submitted out of Australia or within Australia.

Partner visa applications can take one to two years to process, but there could be a way to get to Australia and start working before the application is finalised

Other than working holiday options, migration to Australia takes time to process. It is important to start making enquiries about these options at least one to two years before intended migration.”

Every situation and every combination of age, nationality, qualifications and work experience is unique. To understand the most suitable pathway available you are invited to contact Registered Migration Agent Melanie Meissner, MARN0850388, at 5ways Migration directly for a free assessment. Melanie is based in Melbourne and has been assisting skilled, sponsored and family migrants for over 15 years and is available on LinkedIn5waysgroup, and melanie@5waysgroup.com.au.