A Temporary Graduate subclass 485 visa can be a great option for recent international graduates who have completed a course of study in Australia. The graduate visa is a temporary visa consisting of 2 streams, a Graduate Workstream and a Post-Study Workstream. The term of a graduate visa can range from between 18 months to 4 years, depending on which stream you apply under, and your qualification.

As a graduate visa holder, you will be permitted to work, study and travel in and out of Australia on an unrestricted basis for the duration of the visa term. The work rights in particular can prove to be very beneficial for applicants intending to apply for a skilled visa at some stage in the future. Post-qualification work experience can form a key component of a skilled visa application and for skill assessment purposes (which can be a requirement to qualify for certain skilled visas). For points-tested skilled visas, you will receive more points for skilled work experience in Australia than for overseas experience, thereby helping you to accumulate the required points score to be eligible to apply, or to improve your chances of a successful result.

To qualify for a graduate visa, you will need to meet eligibility requirements that apply to either the Graduate Work or Post-Study Work stream (different criteria apply to each). It is also important to be aware that you have a limited period in which to apply for a graduate visa, which is related to your Student Visa validity and when you completed your qualification. Failing to apply within this timeframe will result in either an invalid application, or a visa refusal. This can give rise to more serious consequences which may affect your ability to re-apply for a graduate or other visa onshore.

Some of the key aspects which apply to a graduate visa include the date when you applied for and were granted your first student visa, which is relevant to the Post-Study Work stream. If you are applying under the Graduate Work stream, a Skilled Occupation List applies, and you will also be required to have a positive skills assessment. These are some examples of the specific requirements that apply to each stream and which you will need to address in your application to demonstrate your eligibility.

In this article, we provide an overview of the graduate visa and the key differences between the Graduate Work and Post-Study Work streams. We also discuss the specific eligibility requirements that apply to each stream, including relevant dates relating to your student visa for the Post-Study Work stream, as well as the Skilled Occupation List and its application to the Graduate Work stream.

What is the graduate visa?

The graduate visa is designed for international students graduates who have completed an eligible qualification in the last 6 months. The course must be registeredfor a period of at least 92 weeks, and you must have been physically located in Australia for at least 16 months whilst completing your qualification. These two criteria form a part of the Australian Study requirement, which are common criteria applicable to both the Graduate Work and Post-Study Work streams.

To qualify for a graduate visa, you must also meet English language, health and character requirements, and make appropriate arrangements for adequate health insurance for the duration of your intended stay in Australia. Your Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) will not be sufficient for a graduate visa to be granted (but you can applyfor the visa with your OSHC in certain cases).

To meet the English language requirement, you will need to complete a specified English language test and achieve a prescribed minimum result, unless you hold a passport from one of the following countries:

  • United Kingdom;
  • Canada;
  • USA;
  • New Zealand; and
  • Ireland

You must also be aged under 50 years to lodge a valid application for a graduate visa.

What are the Graduate visa streams and what is the difference between them?

As noted in the introduction to this article, you must select from either the Graduate Work or Post-Study Work stream when applying for a graduate visa. To do so, you will need to meet several common criteria that apply to each stream (such as the English language, health and character requirements noted above), as well as specific requirements as they apply to each stream.

Therefore, a key difference between the two streams is the individual requirements that apply to each one. These are discussed in more detail below. To summarise, the main differences between the two streams are set out below:

  • You can qualify under the Graduate Work stream with a wider range of qualifications than for the Post-Study Work stream. You may be eligible for the Graduate Work stream if you have completed a trade qualification, diploma or degree in Australia. The Post-Study Work stream is only available to applicants who have completed a bachelor degree or higher qualification
  • The Graduate Work stream also requires that you nominate a skilled occupation on the relevant skilled occupation list which is closely related to your Australian qualifications, and that you have a positive skills assessment for your nominated occupation. These requirements do not apply to the Post-Study Work stream
  • To qualify for the Post-Study Work stream, you must have applied for, and been granted, your first Student Visa to Australia on or after 5 November 2011. This requirement does not apply to the Graduate Work stream

Another important difference is the visa validity period. A graduate visa granted under the Graduate Work stream will be valid for a shorter period (18 months) that that which applies to the Post-Study Work stream (between 2 and 4 years). Other than these aspects, the graduate visa is identical in all other respects. Being granted a visa under either stream will entitle you to the same rights and conditions (e.g. unrestricted work rights, etc).

What is the Graduate Work stream and how do you qualify?

To qualify for the Graduate Work stream, you must have completed a trade qualification, diploma or degree in Australia. Your skills and qualifications must also be closely related to an occupation on the Medium and Long-term Strategic Skills List (MLTSSL).

Key criteria for visa grant under the Graduate Work stream are set out following:

  • Your nominated occupation must be listed on the MLTSSL;
  • You must have your skilled assessed by a specified skill assessing authority for your occupation, and the result must be positive, thus confirming that your skills are suitable for your nominated occupation;
  • Within the period of 6 months immediately before you lodge your visa application, you must satisfy the Australian Study Requirement; and
  • Your qualification/s and nominated occupation must be closely related. The critical factor in determining whether a qualification is closely related to your nominated skilled occupation is whether the skills underpinning the qualification are directly transferable to your nominated occupation. This will involve an assessment of both the subject matter and the qualification level.

The visa validity period for a graduate visa granted under the Graduate Work stream is 18 months.

What is the Post-Study Work stream and how do you qualify?

To meet eligibility requirements for the Post-Study Work stream, you must have completed a higher education degree in Australia in a study area of your choice. You must also have applied for, and been granted, your first Student visa after a prescribed date. You are not required to select a nominated occupation under this stream.

Key criteria for visa grant under the Post-Study Work stream are set out below:

  • You must have applied for, and been granted, your first Student Visa to Australia on or after 5 November 2011;
  • Your course/s of study must have led to completion of one of the following eligible qualification/s:
  • Bachelor degree
  • Bachelor (honours) degree
  • Masters by coursework degree
  • Masters (extended) degree
  • Masters by research degree
  • Doctoral degree
  • Your qualification/s must have been awarded by a registered Australian university, or an education provider offering courses at a minimum degree level; and
  • Within the period of 6 months immediately before you lodge your visa application, you must satisfy the Australian Study Requirement.

The visa validity period for a Graduate visa granted under the Post-Study Work stream will depend on your highest qualification, as noted below:

  • Bachelor Degree, Bachelor Degree with Honours, Masters by Coursework Degree or Masters (extended) Degree – your visa will be valid for two years;
  • Masters by Research Degree– your visa will be valid for three years; and
  • Doctoral Degree – your visa will be valid for four years.

If you applied for a student visa prior to 5 November 2011, can you qualify for the Post Study Work Stream by applying for a new student visa?

You will not be eligible for a graduate visa if you applied for your first student visa to Australia before 5 November 2011. Even if your student visa was granted on or after this date, you will be ineligible.

If you applied for a student visa before 5 November 2011 but your application was refused or withdrawn, you can still meet eligibility requirements for the Post-Study Work stream. Only cases were the student visa is granted are relevant for the purposes of calculating the 5 November 2011 date requirement.

You cannot ‘reset’ this date by applying for a new student visa. If you find yourself in this situation, your only option for a graduate visa is to apply under the Graduate Work stream (provided you meet the eligibility requirements).