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Australia Visa Changes

By Jennideep Hayre

Posted: 7th November 2012 10:10

So you want to work in Australia?  Well frankly, why wouldn’t you?  Sun, sea and surf – the main attractions that make this country an appealing place to live and work.  But before you book your flight and pack your suitcase you need to ensure you have the right visa to work there. 

An Australian work visa is the most sought after in the world – it can be confusing and time-consuming to understand all the different types of visas available but it need not be so complicated.  We’re on hand to give you the run-down on Australian working visas and outline some of the recent changes made. 

There are two main types of Australian working visas: General Skilled Migration and Working Holiday. 

General Skilled Migration Visa

Under the Australian General Skilled Migration Program,the Independent Skilled Migration Visa provides work to individuals with skills and qualifications that fill Australia’s skill shortage and contribute to their economy.   

This visa allows permanent residency in the country with the option of applying for citizenship after a four-year stay.  The applicant must have an occupation or skill on the list of approved occupations for skilled migration (Skilled Occupation List – refer to table)and is initially assessed using a points system.  Points are awarded in different categories like age, English language ability and work experience.  Simply put, applicants should be over 18 years old but not younger than 45, have good English language skills and have relevant the work experience and skills required for the occupation. 

It is then your responsibility to contact the relevant assessing authority for your nominated occupation to obtain a skills assessment.  Each assessing authority has its own procedures, timeframes and fees so you are strongly advised to contact the relevant assessing authority well before you intend to lodge your application to arrange your skills assessment.

Once you have had your skills assessed and the visa has been granted it does not necessarily mean you can be employed in your occupation in a particular state or territory of Australia - some states have particular licensing or registration requirements for a number of occupations.

If you don’t meet the criteria for an Independent Skilled Working Visa don’t worry there are other means of obtaining a working visa.  One of which is through employer sponsorship – the Employer Sponsored Visa.  This visa lasts the duration of the employment contract anything from one year to a maximum stay of four years.  To be eligible applicants must have already received an employment opportunity from an Australian business.

There are three mandatory requirements to get this specific visa:

1.  Sponsorship - the employer must be approved by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) for a specific number of temporary skilled overseas workers.  In order for a sponsoring employer to be approved as a sponsor they need to satisfy a number of DIAC's requirements including the financial capacity to meet the sponsorship undertakings.


2.  Nomination - the employer needs to nominate the positions they want to fill with a temporary resident and they must relate to an occupation, which meets a minimum skills threshold including managerial, professional, associate professional and tradesman.  The applicant must also be paid a minimum salary in accordance with the most recent average salary for Australian employees calculated by the Australian Bureau of statistics.

3.  Visa Application - The Applicant needs to demonstrate that they have the skills to match the nominated vacancy and satisfy certain health and character requirements and since 2007 certain visa applicants now need to meet the English language requirements.

Alternatively, you can be sponsored by a relative living in Australia or obtain a nomination from a participating state or territory government agency.  Any partner and/or dependent children of the successful visa applicant are entitled to live and work in Australia but they are also required to satisfy certain health and character requirements.

You must have sufficient English language ability to be able to work in Australia.  This is known as 'vocational' English.  Generally, you will be required to sit the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) test to assess your English language ability.  A higher level of English may be required for certain occupations.  You can find out if your occupation requires a higher level of English by contacting the assessing authority for your nominated occupation.

Skilled Occupation List

The Skilled Occupation List (SOL) below lists all the current eligible occupations/professions which are accepted for permanent and temporary immigration to Australia and the points awarded for each one.  Applicants must meet the range of criteria and pass the assessments set by an authorised agency before being eligible.

Australian immigration regularly updates the SOL list to reflect changes in Australian Labour Market and latest demand for occupations in the country. 

You must provide evidence that your skills have been assessed by the relevant assessing authority for your nominated occupation before your visa can be granted. 

From 1 July 1012, four occupations were added to the SOL and four others were removed.  It spells good news for Production Managers (Mining), Metallurgists, Optometrists and Computer Network and Systems Engineers but means bad news for chemists, audiologists, bricklayers and wall and floor tilers as they have been removed from the list. 

Skilled Migrant Selection Register

Australia recently introduced a new skilled worker program called the Skilled Migrant Selection Register – also known as SkillSelect – which enables skilled workers interested in migrating to Australia to record their details for a skilled visa by submitting an Expression of Interest (EOI). 

This system was brought in following the decision to decommission the Skill Matching Database on 1 July 2012.  Intending migrants can register their interest in being selected for independent (non-sponsored) migrating or seek nomination for a skilled visa from Australian employers or state and territory governments. 

Working Holiday Visa

The Working Holiday Visa (WHV) permits anyone over the age of 18 yet below the age of 31 to live, work and travel in Australia for twelve months with an opportunity to extend it for an additional twelve months (second year WHV) by completing three months of seasonal work.  You may leave and re-enter Australia as many times as you wish during this time.  Gap-year students usually apply for this visa. 

You must be a passport holder from one of the following countries: United Kingdom, USA, Belgium, Argentina, Bangladesh, Canada, Chile, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Papua New Guinea, Sweden, Taiwan, Thailand and Turkey to be able to apply for the Working Holiday visa.  You cannot work for the same employer for more than six months and cannot engage in study or training for more than four months. 

Traditionally, in order to get a second year Working Holiday Visa you would have to complete three months of specified work in regional Australia whilst on your first working holiday in either one of these industries: plant and animal cultivations, fishing and pearling, tree framing and felling, mining or construction. 

But these requirements have now been changed.  Instead these rules will apply to jobs in areas such as residential and non-residential building construction, provided the work is conducted in regional areas of Australia and completed during the first 12 months of their WHV.