If you are considering applying for a visa to Australia based on your skills, there are several options which you may be able to consider. Each one has its own specific and distinct requirements, and each imposes different obligations on relevant parties to the application.

However, there are some set requirements that are always part of the selection process for Australian skilled migration.

The Key Points Related To Skilled Migration

  • Requirements relating to age, occupation, employment experience and English language;
  • Whether you apply independently, are nominated by a State or Territory Government, or are sponsored or nominated by an employer;
  • A prescribed skilled migration list applies to each skilled visa subclass. You will need to demonstrate that you meet the minimum skill level requirement in relation to your selected occupation on the relevant skilled visa list to qualify;
  • A points test may apply which requires you to achieve a specified minimum score;
  • You may be required to live and/or work in a prescribed part of Australia for a minimum specified period;
  • Some visa options are temporary and others are permanent. A third type, called a provisional visa provides a pathway to permanent residence provided that certain requirements are met;
  • Some skilled visas require that you first submit an application for an invitation to apply for the visa and only upon receipt of an invitation can you then proceed to apply for the visa itself;
  • Labour market testing may be required in the employer-sponsored visa class to evidence that your nominated position cannot be filled in the local labour market.

In this article, we outline the main visa categories which comprise the skilled visa class and explain some of the key requirements that apply to each. It is also important to note that before you apply for any visa, it is vital that you are fully informed about all requirements for visa grant and what evidence you need to provide. This will give you the best chance of a successful outcome. Otherwise, you risk a visa refusal and/or unnecessary processing delays.

It is also important to be aware of the obligations which you must abide by if your application is successful, as some visas will impose quite stringent conditions on what you can and cannot do whilst you hold the visa (for example, you may be required to live in a certain part of Australia, or you might have to live and/or work for a specified employer for a certain period of time).

Skilled (Independent) Visa

The Subclass 189 Skilled (Independent) visa is a permanent residence visa with the following key requirements:

  • You must first submit an application for an invitation to apply for the visa. A set number of invitations are issued by the Department of Home Affairs (the Department) every month in what is called an ‘invitation round’;
  • Your skilled occupation must be listed on a specified skilled independent visa list and you must possess minimum qualifications and/or employment experience as specified for that occupation;
  • You must be under 45 years of age at the time the invitation is received;
  • A positive skills assessment is required;
  • Minimum points test score of 65 must be achieved in the Migration Points Test;
  • You must have Competent English (note this a defined term and is based on either your country of passport, or by achieving a minimum English test result in a prescribed English language test).

Skilled (Nominated) Visa

The Subclass 190 Skilled (Nominated) Visa is a permanent residence visa which has similar requirements to the Skilled (Independent) Visa discussed above, but with an added requirement that you must be nominated by a State or Territory Government. This option also grants you an additional 5 points towards the points test, on account of the nomination.

The following main requirements apply:

  • You must first apply to a State or Territory Government for nomination approval. You must meet specified requirements to be granted approval, which may be different to the criteria which you must satisfy when applying to the Department for the visa itself;
  • You must also submit an application for an invitation to apply for the visa (note this is normally required to be done at the same time as you lodge your nomination application);
  • Your skilled occupation must be listed on a prescribed Australian skilled immigration list, and you must possess minimum qualifications and/or employment experience as specified for your selected occupation;
  • You must be under 45 years of age at the time the invitation is received;
  • A positive skills assessment is required;
  • Minimum points test score of 65 must be achieved in the Migration Points Test;
  • You must have Competent English.

Skilled Work Regional (Provisional) visa

The Subclass 491 Skilled Work Regional (Provisional) visa is a provisional visa which provides a pathway to permanent residence with the Subclass 191 Permanent Residence (Skilled Regional) visa after three years if you meet certain criteria at that time. This visa requires you to live and work in a designated regional area of Australia and requires a nomination by a State or Territory Government. You may also be sponsored by an eligible family member who is usually resident in a designated regional area of Australia. This visa option grants you an additional 15 points towards the points test, for the nomination/sponsorship. It has a visa term of five years.

The key requirements for visa grant are listed below:

  • You must first apply to a State or Territory Government for nomination approval;
  • You must also apply for an invitation to apply for the visa (again, this is normally required to be done at the same time as you lodge your nomination application);
  • Your skilled occupation must be listed on a specified list of skilled occupations, and you must possess minimum qualifications and/or employment experience as specified for the occupation;
  • You must be under 45 years of age at the time the invitation is received;
  • A positive skills assessment is required;
  • Minimum points test score of 65 must be achieved;
  • You must have Competent English.

Note: The Subclass 491 visa replaced the Subclass 489 Skilled Regional (Provisional) visa on 16 November 2019.

Temporary Skill Shortage Visa

The Subclass 482 Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa, which requires you to be sponsored by an employer, is a temporary visa allowing you to live and work in Australia for up to either 2 or 4 years, depending on your occupation. In some cases, it may also provide a pathway to permanent residence after 3 years if you meet certain requirements at that time. Note that this option imposes specific obligations to remain employed in the nominated position for the term of the visa (with exemption periods in certain instances).

The key difference between the Subclass 482 visa and the Skilled (Independent) and State Sponsored visas discussed above is the requirement that an employer needs to sponsor you to fill a position in their business. This involves submitting multiple applications to the Department:

  • The employer must apply for, and be approved as, a Sponsor;
  • The employer must apply to nominate you for the position; and
  • You must separately apply for the visa.

Note that the above applications can all be lodged at the same time. It may also be the case that the sponsoring employer already has an existing approved sponsorship (as they last for 5 years generally) in which case you and your proposed employer may only need to submit a nomination and visa application.

TSS Visa Streams

The Subclass 482 visa comprises the following streams:

  • Short-term stream, if the nominated occupation is included in the Short-term Skilled Occupation list (STSOL);
  • Medium-term stream, if the nominated occupation is included in the Medium-term Skilled Occupation list (MTSOL); and
  • Labour Agreement stream, which requires the sponsoring employer to enter into a labour agreement with the Department (this is called a company specific labour agreement. There are also other types of labour agreements, including designated area migration agreements and industry labour agreements).

Some of the main requirements that apply include:

  • for the Sponsorship – the business must be lawfully operating in or outside Australia, and no adverse information must be known to Immigration about the business (or it is reasonable to disregard);
  • for the Nomination – the occupation must be listed on a specified Australian skilled migration list and in some cases, you will need to obtain a positive skills assessment. The position must be genuine and labour market testing may be required;
  • For the Visa – you must possess minimum qualifications and/or employment experience as specified for the occupation, in addition to 2 years minimum skilled employment experience. You must also meet specified English language requirements.

Note also that as part of the nomination application, the employer must pay a training levy.

Note: The Subclass 482 visa replaced the Subclass 457 Temporary Work (Skilled) visa on 18 March 2018. Special rules apply to visa applicants who held a Subclass 457 Temporary Work (Skilled) visa or a Bridging visa associated with a 457 visa on 18 April 2017. These transitional arrangements are designed to ensure that employer sponsored visa 457 holders who held this visa before the changes were announced will, in certain circumstances, remain eligible for an employer nominated visa under the TRT stream outlined below.

Employer Nomination Scheme (ENS)

The Subclass 186 ENS visa programme is an employer nominated visa class granting permanent residence and which comprises two streams:

  • Temporary Residence Transition (TRT) – this requires you to hold a Subclass 482 visa and to have worked for your nominated employer full-time for at least 3 years (note there are other specified requirements);
  • Direct entry – this applies if you do not qualify for the TRT stream.

This option requires two applications to be lodged in all cases: one for the nomination and one for the visa.

Some of the main requirements that apply include (note these vary depending on which stream you apply under):

  • Your skilled occupation must be listed on a specified skilled migration list, and you must possess minimum qualifications and/or employment experience as specified for the occupation;
  • You must be under 45 years of age at the time of application (note there are exemptions to this requirement);
  • A positive skills assessment may be required;
  • You must have Competent English (note there are exemptions to this requirement).

Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional (Provisional) visa

The Subclass 494 Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional (Provisional) visa is a provisional visa which provides a pathway to permanent residence with the Subclass 191 Permanent Residence (Skilled Regional) visa after three years if you meet certain criteria at that time. This visa requires you to live and work in a designated regional area of Australia and requires you to be sponsored by an employer. It has a visa term of five years.

The key requirements for visa grant are listed below:

  • Be aged under 45 at time of application;
  • Have a positive skills assessment for a skilled occupation on the relevant skilled visa list;
  • Have a minimum of three years employment experience in the nominated occupation (on a full-time basis and at the skill required for the occupation); and
  • Have a minimum level of Competent English (exceptions may apply).

Your sponsoring employer must also meet a number of requirements, including:

  • be an approved Standard Business Sponsor (SBS) and an Australian business;
  • Demonstrate that the nominated position is genuine, full-time and likely to exist for 5 years;
  • The nominee must be engaged as employee under a written contract of employment (unless an exemption applies)
  • The nominated position must be located in in a designated regional area;
  • The occupation must be on the relevant Australian skilled migration list and any applicable caveats must be met;
  • Labour Market Testing (LMT) must be undertaken;
  • Show that the Annual Market Salary Rate (AMSR) is at least equal to or greater than the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT) (which is currently set at $53,900);
  • The nominated annual earnings must not be less than the AMSR, and must be equal to or greater than the TSMIT;
  • An independent body must confirm that the nominee will be paid at least the AMSR;
  • A Skilling Australian Fund (SAF) levy will apply ($3,000 where business turnover is less than $10 million, and $5,000 payable for businesses with a turnover above this threshold); and
  • Terms and conditions of employment for nominated overseas workers must be no less favourable than for Australian employees.

There is also a Labour Agreement stream for employers in regional Australia who have a labour agreement with the Government to source skilled overseas workers to work in an occupation specified in the labour agreement for five years. As with the Employer Sponsored stream noted above, Subclass 494 visa holders under this stream are also eligible to apply for permanent residence after three years.

Note: The Subclass 494 visa replaced the Subclass 187 Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (RSMS) visa on 16 November 2019.

In conclusion, we note that the above provides an overview only of the skilled visa class. Given the highly complex nature of the migration laws, and the fact that every individual case is different, we recommend that you engage a registered migration agent as they will be able to provide you with detailed advice about skilled visa pathways that you may qualify for, and the most appropriate option/s for you. This will enable you to be fully informed before you lodge with the Department and avoid a potential visa refusal or unnecessary processing delays.

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