Australian visa categories

Work visas

Most people migrating to work in Australia will either be sponsored by an employer, or will apply independently for permanent residency through the General Skilled Migration Program.

Employer sponsored visas

The ‘457’

The most commonly used employer sponsored visa is the “457”. Named after its subclass number, this temporary visa is used by Australian employers to fill positions when they can’t find anyone locally.

To be granted this visa you first need to secure a job with an Australian employer. The employer will handle the application process with Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) where they’ll need to prove that your skills can’t be filled by an Australian permanent resident.

There are a number of other requirements worth bearing in mind, including: that your skills, qualifications, experience and employment history match those required for the position; that you have English language ability; you are eligible for any relevant licences or registration required for the role; and that you have private health insurance.

You can work in Australia for a period of between one day and four years on this visa and you can bring any eligible secondary applicants, such as a spouse and children, with you to Australia (secondary applicants can work and study).

Your right to stay and work in Australia depends on your employer continuing to sponsor you. If you want to change jobs, your new employer must apply to DIBP and be accepted to sponsor you.

There are plenty of ways to find an employer to sponsor you. Many employers will proactively seek candidates at overseas migration expos, like the Working Abroad show or from within Australia at events like the Skilled Migrant expo. It is worth finding out what employers from your industry will be attending these events and going to meet them in person as this will increase your chance of being offered a job.

Employers will also advertise on job search websites and through recruiters. Finally, a lot of jobs in Australia are not advertised, but are filled through personal and professional contacts. To increase your chances of finding these jobs you should directly contact employers you would like to work for. You could also join professional industry associations. If you’ve got mates or family in Australia, get them to let employers know you are looking for opportunities too.

Find out more here

Employer nomination scheme

The Employer Nomination Scheme visa (subclass 186) is for skilled workers from outside Australia or skilled temporary residents who currently live and work in Australia. The Employer Nomination Scheme (ENS) is part of the permanent Employer Sponsored visa program.

To apply for the ENS visa, you need to: be nominated by an approved employer; be younger than 50 years of age; meet the skills and qualifications requirements; and meet English language requirements.

Depending on your occupation, salary and past work experience, you may be eligible for exemptions relating to age, skills and English language ability. .

If you do not have an employer who will nominate you, you can lodge an Expression of Interest through SkillSelect. Employers and state and territory governments can then view your details and decide whether to nominate you for skilled migration.

Find our more information here

Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (RSMS)

The Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (RSMS), subclass 187 visa, is designed to encourage migration to regional areas within Australia. This visa enables employers in regional areas to nominate highly skilled workers to fill skilled vacancies in their business. This is also a permanent resident visa and has the same criteria as the Employer Nomination Scheme visa.

Find our more information here

Skilled independent visas

General skilled migration visa (Independent and State/Territory nominated)

There is a range of independent visa options under the General Skilled Migration (GSM) program for skilled workers who want to live in Australia and who don’t have an employer to sponsor them. These include options for skilled people applying as an independent migrant as well as those nominated by a state or territory government.

From 1 January 2013, if you are interested in GSM you will need to submit an Expression of Interest (EOI) with DIBP and receive an invitation from them to lodge a visa application through SkillSelect.

SkillSelect is an online tool that allows skilled workers looking to migrate to Australia to enter their details and be considered for a skilled visa through an Expression of Interest (EOI). For the Australian government, it’s there to make sure the skilled migration program is meeting the country’s economic needs. For you, it’s there for you to be found and nominated for skilled visas by Australian employers or state and territory governments. See more at

The general requirements for a Skilled Independent Visa are that:

  • You must be invited to apply (see SkillSelect above)
  • You must be younger than 50 years old when you’re invited to apply
  • You must nominate an occupation that matches your skills and qualifications, and is on the relevant skilled occupation list
  • You must have your skills assessed by the relevant assessing authority for your nominated occupation
  • You must be competent in English
  • And you must meet the health and character requirements.

Skilled occupation lists

The Skilled Occupation List (SOL) is used as part of the Australian points system for immigration. To qualify for skilled migration to Australia, you must nominate an occupation from the SOL. However, if you are applying for skilled migration through nomination by a State or Territory Government, you can also nominate an occupation from the Consolidated Sponsored Occupation List (CSOL).

To speed up the visa application process many candidates do apply for state or territory nomination. That’s where you apply to a state or territory where your skill is in demand (you should visit all state and territory websites to find out if your occupation is in demand) before submitting an expression of interest. If you are successful, you will be invited to apply for a Skilled Nominated (subclass 190) visa through the SkillSelect system outlined above. DIBP give priority to these visas and assess them more quickly than Skilled Independent (subclass 189) visas.

The main point to keep in mind with the Skilled Nominated visa is that you are making a commitment to live and work in your nominated state or territory for the first two years of your new life in Australia. After that, you can move somewhere else if you want to.

A key advantage to securing a skilled independent visa is that you immediately receive permanent residency and all of the rights associated with it, such as free access to Medicare and other social services.

Find out more here

Other visas

Skilled - nominated or sponsored

The Skilled - Nominated or Sponsored (Provisional) (subclass 489) visa is a points-based visa is for skilled workers nominated by a State or Territory, or sponsored by an eligible relative living in a designated area in Australia. The visa is valid for four years, and a visa holder must live and work in a specified regional area. 

Applications for this visa are by invitation only. To be invited to apply, you need to:

  • submit a Skill Select Expression of Interest and be nominated or sponsored
  • have an occupation that is on the relevant skilled occupation list
  • have a suitable skills assessment for that occupation
  • be less than 50 years of age when the invitation is issued
  • meet English language requirements
  • be able to score at least 60 on the points test.

Find out more here

Working Holiday Visa

If you are aged 18–30 it might be worth considering an Australian Working Holiday Visa (subclass 417). It’s a great visa for young people to check Australia out and get an idea of whether you would like to move back more permanently in the future. With this visa you can work in Australia for up to 12 months (you can only work for up to six months with one employer).

If you hold a second Working Holiday visa, which you can get by working in a designated regional or rural area, you may return to work for a further six months for an employer with whom you worked on your first Working Holiday visa.

Find out more here

Business visas

Australia is always on the lookout for business people with a successful track record to establish new or existing businesses. To facilitate this, they have a range of visa options available from business talent through to business owners and investors.

Find out more about these options here