An employer sponsored visa is a great way to make a permanent move to Australia. To be eligible you will need to find an Australian-based employer to support your application. In this blog, we share the highlights from our recent webinar on the subject.
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Recorded on 18 October 2022.
- What is an Australian employer sponsored visa?
- Subclass 482 – Temporary Skill Shortage visa
- Subclass 186 – Employer Nomination Scheme (Direct Entry Stream)
- Subclass 494 – Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional
- How to apply for an Australian work visa
- How to find a sponsor for your Australian work visa
Sam Hopwood: Hi, my name is Sam. I'm a registered migration agent. I have worked for this particular business for close to 17 years now. I'm located in our Melbourne office, I manage this office. I've worked in the industry for a long time.
Jamie-Lee le Roux: Hi, I’m Jamie. I'm a migration consultant, based in our Cape Town offices, and I work with our team in Australia and our team here in South Africa. And predominantly, at the moment, I work across a lot of employer sponsored visa applications. So today's topic is definitely in my wheelhouse.
What is an Australian employer sponsored visa?
Sam: The Australian visa system allows businesses and other organisations in Australia to employ foreign citizens and obtain working visas for them. You cannot apply for an employer sponsored visa without first having an employer in Australia who has agreed to sponsor you.
The terms “sponsor” and “nominated” are used interchangeably when talking about these types of visas. Generally, it means that the employer is supporting your visa application. In some regards, the types of support that they will offer will differ based on the type of visa that you're applying for.
Australian visas are referred to as “subclasses”. Every subclass has a numerical value attached to it. So the 482, the 186, the 494 – this is the language that we speak in the visa and immigration system in Australia.
We will go through some of the subclasses in more detail. These are not all of the subclasses of employer sponsored visas. It's just an example of a number of different employer sponsored visas, that you might be offered.
Subclass 482 – Temporary Skill Shortage visa
Sam: Without a doubt, the 482 is the most common subclass of visa that employers here in Australia used to bring in citizens from overseas to fill gaps in our labour market.
It has the word “temporary” in the name because you are a temporary resident when you come into Australia on this particular visa. The visa can be granted for anywhere between one to four years, and requires that you only work for the employer who has nominated you. So you can't switch employers whilst you're here in Australia unless your new employer has applied and been approved to take over your sponsorship from your old employer.
Temporary residents are not afforded all the benefits that Australian citizens are afforded. So for example, medical benefits are not afforded to people on temporary visas like the 482 visa. And in fact, you need to fund your own private health insurance. And it's really important that people understand these particular conditions. Jamie, what's a common question you get when, when you're talking to people about the 482 visas?
You can't switch employers whilst you're here in Australia unless your new employer has applied and been approved to take over your sponsorship from your old employer.
Jamie-Lee: A lot of people are a little bit nervous about being locked into an employer and really relying on this employer to keep them in the country. They worry about what if they get fired or retrenched and things like that? And yes, that's a valid concern. If that were to happen, you would have 60 days to find a new employer that can take over your sponsorship. And then you can go on to work with that new employer once that's all been approved. So I understand that can be a bit of a short timeframe, but you'd already be on shore and it is definitely possible.
Sam: A question I get a lot is whether or not my family members can come with me on the 482 visa? Yes, definitely, your family members can come. Your spouse, your partner and your children. Your partner has full and unrestricted work rights. So a spouse can go and work for whomever they choose. They don't have that limitation on their work rights like the main applicant does. Your children are entitled to come and to attend our state schools as well. Schooling is not necessarily free, it depends on which state of Australia you're in and you need to research those topics of schooling and costs of schooling before you commit to a 482 visa.
The temporary residence transition scheme – a route to permanent residency
Sam: This particular pathway to permanent residency is referred to as the 186 visa or the temporary residence transition scheme (TRT).
So the TRT scheme says that you need to:
- Be under the age of 45 when you apply to transition, unless you have an exemption as a high income earner
- Have worked in an occupation on the medium- to long- term list
- Pass medical, character and English language checks
- Be nominated by the employer that you currently work for in a continuous, full-time role
- Have worked for your sponsoring employer here in Australia for three years, whilst holding the 482
This is an important concept and it touches on what we spoke about earlier about switching employers. Yes, you can come to Australia on a 482 visa and you can switch employers at some point in time, but the clock starts again.
So, if you're two years into a visa and you're thinking about changing employers, you’d need to then do another three years with your new employer. You also need to be cognisant of your age. So, for example, if you're 42 years old and you're switching employers, will you have enough time to then work for three years for the new employer? Remember, you cannot be 45 or older when applying for TRT unless you have an exemption. So these are important considerations.
If you get sponsored on a short-term list to come into Australia for the 482 visa, generally speaking, you don't have a pathway to permanent residency through the TRT.
Jamie-Lee: While it’s very exciting to get a job offer and have an employer say, “We want you to come to Australia,” on a 482, for example, it’s important that you understand what your pathway to permanent residency is from the get go and that you make it clear to your employer that you want that option in the future.
Sam:Yeah, and we need to stress here that the 482 visa can be applied for in a number of different occupations. But the skilled occupation list has been split into two separate lists. That is the short-term list and the medium-to-long-term list.
Now, the short-term list is longer than the medium-to-long-term list. But, if you get sponsored on a short-term list to come into Australia for the 482 visa, generally speaking, you don't have a pathway to permanent residency through the TRT.
Subclass 186 – Employer Nomination Scheme (Direct Entry Stream)
Sam: This visa is probably what everyone is aiming for and trying to qualify for because it is a permanent visa.
This Direct Entry visa is the same subclass as the TRT visa, with the same costs. But there’s some fundamental differences between them.
- You still have to be under the age of 45 at the time you are making the application. There is an exemption for some occupations. Like, for example, university lecturer. But, generally speaking, most people have to be under the age of 45 at the time you submit your visa application for direct entry.
- You need to have a positive skills assessment in your nominated occupation. And that's an important concept that everyone needs to understand. Not everyone working in an occupation will be eligible to pass a skills assessment in that occupation.
- Again, you need to be on the medium-to-long-term list and you need to have at least three years of post-qualified work experience in your nominated occupation.
- You need to pass the medical, character, and the English language checks.
Jamie-Lee: Everyone wants the 186 DE because it’s permanent residence from day one. But I think it's important to understand that employers can be a little bit hesitant to offer this option. With 186 DE, once your visa is approved, and you're a permanent resident, you're not really tied to the employer. So you could technically walk away and that's a massive risk for the employer.
So, if I see somebody actually proceeding with 186 DE, it's normally because they work for a company that has an office in Australia, for example. Maybe they're working in the UK or South African office and the Aussie office wants them and they are looking to transfer them through. That’s when the 186 DE is a great option. They've built that trust and that the employee can stay with them.
With 186 DE, once your visa is approved, and you're a permanent resident, you're not really tied to the employer. So you could technically walk away and that's a massive risk for the employer.
Sam: Yeah, it's kind of reserved for employees who already work for the employer, or perhaps have worked for the employer previously and are returning to that employer, or highly skilled people whose skills are in really high demand and they can use those skills as a bargaining chip when they're negotiating their way into a work contract. And I've seen it happen whereby they've negotiated their way into a 186 Direct Entry application, without having previously worked with the employer, because their skills are so highly in demand and they've worked in some very reputable companies in some high level positions and the employer in Australia just really wants them.
gain, we have a shortage of skills here in Australia at the moment and some employers are willing to put a 186 DE offer on the table in order to secure those skills.
Subclass 494 – Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional
Sam: The 494 is a relatively new visa and it's been used to great effect by employers in regional areas to source skills from overseas that they can't find in Australia.
And the bonus of this particular visa is that the skills list that you have to choose from is a lot larger than what the 186 DE or TRT scheme have available. So you can be sponsored on a short-term occupation and still be able to qualify for the 494.
- Common to all these types of permanent visas is that you've got to be under the age of 45 at the time of application.
- You may work in a short-term occupation
- You need to have at least three years of post-qualified work experience.
- You need to pass medical, character, and English language checks.
- Your employer must be located in regional Australia.
It's a big, big misconception that every regional area is in the Outback. The truth is that just about everywhere outside of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane is considered to be regional. The whole State of South Australia is considered to be regional the whole state of Western Australia is considered to be regional. So you could be living in Perth or Adelaide and still be nominated on a 494 visa.
So, yes, don't think when you hear “regional” that you're going to be attacked by spiders and snakes in the Outback. When living in Australia on a 494 visa, you could still be in a fairly metropolitan area. There's some beautiful, lovely regional areas in Australia that offer a really good lifestyle and way of life and a really good balance between work life and home life. You don't have to put up with the commuting in the city and such. So consider this to be a really good option.
Basically, the visa has been designed so that as long as you live and work in the regional area for your sponsoring employer for a minimum period of three years, then you can apply for your permanent residency independently of your employer.
The 494 is a temporary visa. It's actually referred to as a “provisional visa”, not a temporary visa and they use the word provisional because you have a definite pathway to permanent residency, through subclass 191. Basically, the visa has been designed so that as long as you live and work in the regional area for your sponsoring employer for a minimum period of three years, then you can apply for your permanent residency independently of your employer, through subclass 191.
So, unlike the 186 TRT and unlike the 186 DE, whereby those applications are dependent on your employer nominating you, you have this definite pathway to permanent residency. So it gives people some confidence that they can come to Australia, live and work here for three years, do your time and you will get permanent residency.
Jamie-Lee: I think when you're moving to a new country, you want some level of certainty that you'll be able to make a permanent relocation. So the 494 gives you that security. And, while you have to apply when you're under 45, you don't have to be under 45 when you apply for your 191, which is great. So it opens up an opportunity for people in their early 40s to come to Australia and get their permanent residency, which is great.
How to apply for an Australian work visa
Sam: Most applications for employer sponsored visas follow a process of:
- Sponsorship licence
- Visa application
It needs to be done in that order.
A sponsorship licence is granted to an Australian employer. The employer needs to demonstrate that they are lawfully operating a business here in Australia. The sponsor is typically granted a licence for a period of five years. So they apply once for the licence and, as long as they adhere to the rules, then the licence is granted for five years and they can continue to sponsor people under that licence.
Once you have a licence, you can then nominate an occupation that you wish to sponsor within your business. So the nomination is all about the position. It's about the job description. It's about the particular occupation that you're choosing to nominate. The business needs to demonstrate that there's a genuine need in their business to employ that particular person. There is no use for example, for a physiotherapist to try and employ a plumber in their office. It's got to be genuine and in line with the type of business that they're operating here in Australia.
You need to demonstrate that you've got suitable skills, the qualifications and experience to carry out the job.
Once the nomination’s been submitted, the visa applicant can then submit a visa application. You need to demonstrate that you've got suitable skills, the qualifications and experience to carry out the job. Now, depending on the type of visa you're applying for, you might need a skills assessment. You might need qualifications, employment references, and you'll probably need medical checks, police checks. You definitely need passports and other ID documents. Jamie does this process and we’ve talked about how confused people get.
Jamie-Lee: They get overwhelmed because, I mean, it's three different applications and, depending on the visa, the requirements can change. So it can all feel a little bit daunting, not just to the visa applicant, but to the employer as well. So you might get a job offer and the employer is telling you to sort out a visa because they've got no idea where to start.
Sam: It's important that the employer understand the process, because often the employer hasn't done it before and they're confused, a little bit scared, perhaps, by the process itself.
We're happy to speak to employers here in Australia about the process and how we can assist them in the application process.
How to find a sponsor for your Australian work visa
Sam: So how do you find a sponsor? Contact employers here in Australia, contact recruiters. Use your family and friends, use associates, use people you've worked for previously. Work your contacts is our best advice.
People who we see being successful in finding sponsors to employ them here in Australia have usually worked every contact that they have. And, commonly, they found that employer through someone they know.
That said, depending on your occupation, you might find that it's not so difficult for you. Be prepared is my next piece of advice, which I would like everyone to consider. You need to understand the process, you need to have your documents ready. If you need the skills assessed for that particular occupation, then you need to have it approved already, by the time you find that sponsor.
A skills assessment could take six months to process. So it's no good finding the employer who has an immediate skills shortage, and them being really eager on you, but you not being able to fulfill the skill requirement at that time because your documents are not in order.
I'll give you an example. For a welder in South Africa to be sponsored on a 482 visa, it's mandatory for you to have a positive skills assessment at the time that you make your visa application. So, if you are a welder in South Africa, and you find an employer here in Australia, and they are willing to sponsor you, then my suggestion would be that you have that skills assessment in hand at the time that you go and find the employer, because a skills assessment could take six months to process. So it's no good finding the employer who has an immediate skills shortage, and them being really eager on you, but you not being able to fulfill the skill requirement at that time because your documents are not in order.
So get educated on what the requirements are from you, the individual person, in order to satisfy the skills criteria for your particular occupation in that particular visa type. Like I said, some occupations will find sponsors more easily than others. This is because some skills are in very short supply here in Australia.
Currently we have employers who are clients of ours looking for:
- Construction Project Managers
- Civil Engineering Technicians
- Diesel Mechanics
- Mechanical Fitters
- Airconditioning Mechanics
- Motor Mechanics
Other occupations that are commonly sponsored: There's a lot of IT occupations. If you work in cybersecurity, if you're a data analyst, or subscription and ICT business analyst, there's a lot of IT occupations, which are in very high demand here in Australia at the moment.
There's a lot of healthcare occupations in very high demand. Nurses, doctors, other health professionals.
It's a good time to be looking for an employer to sponsor you here in Australia at the moment because the pandemic has left us with a really big shortage in the skills and labour that we need to do what needs to be done. Our borders were closed for a long time. A lot of temporary residents left Australia.
What we find typically is then you get to Australia, you're onshore, you have work rights, you find employer, you work for them for a period of time, you prove yourself and then they don't want to let you go and then they're willing to go through the sponsorship process for you.
Be flexible, be prepared to work in a regional area. Some of the largest employers happen to be in the metropolitan and city areas. However, some of the employers who have the greatest skill shortages happen to be in the regional areas. So don't cut yourself off just because you know someone in Sydney and you've been there and you liked the harbour. Doesn't mean that that's where you're gonna find your job, or that's where you're gonna find your employer.
And then, finally, my next piece of advice would be to have a strategy. Perhaps, for some, it might be possible to come to Australia on a temporary visa and find employment. And we see this commonly with people who come to Australia on student visas, or even on working holiday visas.
So if you have an eligible passport, like a British passport or an Irish passport, it's possible for you to come here on a working holiday visa. And what we find typically is then you get to Australia, you're onshore, you have work rights, you find employer, you work for them for a period of time, you prove yourself and then they don't want to let you go and then they're willing to go through the sponsorship process for you.
And then if you find an employer who is interested, but they're confused and they don't understand the process and they want some further information, please get in touch with us. I'm happy to call the employer here in Australia and talk them through it, answer all their questions. And then hopefully, after I have that conversation with a prospective employer, I can demystify the process, I can make it more simple for them. And in doing so, they're more open to the idea of going through this process of sponsorship.
If you’d like assistance applying for your Australian visa, Sam and his team are ready to make the whole process easier. Get in touch via email on firstname.lastname@example.org or call +27 (0) 21 657 1526 to discuss your options in more detail.
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