If you'd like to move to Australia in the future, studying there might be the perfect first step. MARA-registered agent, Sam Hopwood, and study abroad adviser, Amy Karabus, give tips and advice on how to use studying in Australia as a path to settling permanently in the land Down Under.

Move to Australia: The student visa pathway

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Episode transcript

This transcript has been edited down to the highlights. The full webinar can be watched at the link above.

Sam Hopwood: My name is Sam, I'm a registered migration agent and I'm also the managing director of Sable International Australia, coming to you from Melbourne.

Amy Karabus: My name is Amy, I work for the Study Abroad department. We place students at international universities. We're partnered with over 250 universities worldwide, but obviously for today, we'll be focusing on Australia. Essentially, what we do is we assist in choosing the best country and university that is suited to your field of study. We assist with university applications. If you do get an offer, we assist with your student visa application, and we assist with on-campus accommodation. So we pretty much help you with everything to ensure that you're at your desired destination safe and sound.

Sam: As a Registered Migration Agent, I'm always focused on the end game, and that is how people might go from a student visa – a temporary visa – to a permanent visa. So, you want to study in Australia and then stay permanently in Australia. How do we do this?

Choosing an occupation

Sam: My advice to people who are looking to study in Australia and who want to remain here in Australia is to have a strategy, to have a think about what it is they're trying to achieve and then how they're going to achieve it. So, choose the right industry, choose the right occupation to study. Not all occupations are equal on the road to permanent residence. And that is based purely on the fact that some occupations in Australia are in very high demand and therefore rate very highly on our points-based skilled visa system.

For example, if you graduate from a university in Australia as a registered nurse, the chances are that you're going to find employment very quickly. And chances are that you're going to find yourself a pathway to permanent residency, compared with if you were to graduate with a master's in marketing.

Look, that’s going to be a very good qualification. And you might find employment opportunities. But finding a pathway to permanent residency probably is not going to be as easy. And that's because those occupations are on different skilled lists.

Not all occupations are equal on the road to permanent residence.

So have a think about what you're studying, have a think about the industry that you're looking to pursue a career in.

I guess, though, at the end of the day, you have to study something that you've got some affinity with, and that you can see yourself working in a career in for a reasonable period of time. It's no good spending a lot of money on a qualification that you hate. Like, it’s no good studying nursing if you can't stand the sight of blood, right?

Amy: Yeah. And I think it's also important to play to your strengths. If science subjects weren't necessarily your strengths, maybe nursing is not for you. You also, as Sam said, need to enjoy what you do. Those are the main two things when choosing a programme: play to your strengths and enjoy what you do.

Those are the main two things when choosing a programme: play to your strengths and enjoy what you do.

Sam: Yeah, that's really good advice too. Another thing is that the skilled occupation lists do change all the time. And look, as I said, I've been in the industry for a long time. Ten or so years ago, every accountant who studied in Australia became a permanent resident very quickly, because accountants were in high demand. And then a strange thing happened. It turned out we had too many accountants. And suddenly it wasn’t so easy to obtain permanent residency as an accountant.

So while you might choose an occupation and an industry because it is in high demand, that doesn't mean that it always will be in the future. It's wise to choose something that you do have an affinity with. Play to your strengths.

Deciding where to study

Sam: Choose the university which offers you the best post-study visa options. So, if there's different universities in Australia that offer courses which are similar, then maybe have a look at universities outside of the large capital cities, which might offer you more benefits when you're looking to apply for other visas in the future.

I'm talking specifically about regional universities and some regional areas.

What are regional areas?

Amy: Can we have a chat about regional areas? Maybe you can shed some light on what they are?

Sam: That’s a really good question. Often, when I talk to my clients about what a regional area is, and when I advise them to consider studying or living and working in a regional area, they say to me, “Sam, we don't want to live in the Outback. We don't like spiders, and we don't like snakes. And we're scared of the crocodiles and the Outback is not for us.” And I have to explain to people that there's a big difference between the Outback and regional areas. Because, yes, the Outback is a regional area. But so is the Sunshine Coast. And so are a lot of other really highly populated areas of Australia, which are just outside the capital cities.

So, basically, you can think of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, our three largest cities, as metropolitan areas. And then, essentially, everything outside of those three metropolitan areas is considered a regional area. So, from where I'm sitting right now, basically in the middle of Melbourne, you could travel as little as, say, 80 kilometers in any direction and you would be considered to be in a regional area and you could still be studying at a really good university.

Everything outside of those three metropolitan areas is considered a regional area.

Sam: Areas like the whole of Tasmania, the whole of South Australia, the whole of Western Australia, are considered to be regional. So you could be studying in Hobart. You could be studying in Adelaide. You could be studying in Perth. These are the capital cities of those particular states. These are big cities with really good universities. They're certainly not the Outback, they're not the great sandy desert.

See also: Western Australia – your perfect emigration destination

The good thing about studying in a regional area is that the cost of living is often a lot lower than in Sydney and Melbourne. The universities themselves are more affordable. The universities are sometimes a little bit smaller, which I think is sometimes an advantage. They're easier to navigate, easier to find your faculty and find your way around your faculty and sort of become familiar with the university. It's easy to find yourself short-term accommodation. So, I think there's a lot of advantages in studying in a regional area.

Amy, do you get questions about regional Australia, and do people ask you whether or not studying in Adelaide is like being in the Outback?

Amy: I mean, as you said, I think there's a misconception that regional is just the Outback. And I think people are starting to realise that you actually have a variety of choices between universities. And, as an international student, it can be very costly. In regional areas, you are offered programmes that are more cost-effective and living expenses are lower. So, as an international student, this is something of an opportunity that you should jump at, because there are so many benefits. And not only to do with studying – it also has to do with your visas later on.

Trying to decide which course and university to choose? We can help.

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Study your post-grad in Australia

Sam: For those of you who are straight out of school, or for those of you who are considering perhaps studying in your home country and then coming to Australia to do a master's degree, I think that's a really good strategy to consider.

So, stay in your home country, do a bachelor's degree in an industry that you have an affinity with, play to your strengths, as Amy says, and after you qualify, then maybe get some work experience at home, and then come to Australia and study a master's degree.

It's going to be more affordable to study at a master's level.

And the reason that this is a good strategy is, first of all, a master's degree is going to take you perhaps two years, whereas your undergraduate degree could take you three or four years, depending on what you're studying. So, it's going to be more affordable to study at a master's level. And you still get the post-study work options and benefits that you ordinarily would when studying an undergraduate degree. The chances are, you're a little bit older, a little bit more mature, with a little bit more work experience, and probably are more likely, then, to find that next job, which is going to boost your visa prospects.

Amy, do your clients talk to you about master's degrees? Or are most of them looking at doing undergraduate degrees?

Amy: We have a lot of students who come and ask, “Do I pursue an undergrad in my country of origin? Or do I pursue an undergrad overseas and kind of finish my entire studying time overseas?” And a lot of students would rather opt to complete the undergrad back at home and then pursue an international post-grad. Purely because of cost. It's a lot more cost effective.

Most of our students are post-grad students

Amy: I think there's a bit of a misconception that a lot of international universities don't recognise undergrads from other countries. They do. We have a lot of students– Actually, most of our students are post-grad students. And, as you say, it's two years compared to three to four years. So it definitely is something to consider and something we do recommend.

Sam: Yeah, for sure. I've seen a lot of my clientele who perhaps have studied a law degree overseas, and then come to Australia and do their master's degree in law here in Australia.

Obviously, when you're doing subjects like law, law can be quite specific to the country that you're studying in. In order to qualify as a solicitor or a lawyer here in Australia, you need to have studied certain qualifications or certain courses in Australia. So even, for example, if you've done your undergraduate overseas, and you've done your master's degree overseas, and you're a qualified solicitor overseas, you would still need to come to Australia and study in Australia to complete certain subjects in Australia, in order to then qualify as a lawyer in Australia.

So it makes way more sense to do undergraduate in law, then come to Australia and do a master's in law and then go into a post-study work visa option after that.

Teaching is another good example of people doing an undergraduate degree in their home country, in basically anything, and then coming to Australia and studying a teaching master’s course and then going straight into teaching.

Work experience is key

Sam: Getting some work experience before you come to Australia is a really good piece of advice. If you do come to Australia and study your first tertiary qualification, and you walk out of that tertiary qualification and expect to walk straight into a highly skilled graduate position, then the competition for that position is going to be very high. Whereas, if you come to Australia with some work experience already, the likelihood is that you will find a job more easily in your industry and in your occupation.

If you come to Australia with some work experience already, the likelihood is that you will find a job more easily in your industry and in your occupation.

Sam: Then start working in your industry as soon as you arrive in Australia. Get some Australian work experience. Get your foot in the door. You might take a step backwards, you might have to work in a job that you think, “I’m more highly skilled than this. I was doing this a couple of years ago in my home country,” but honestly, work experience in Australia will often open other doors for you. And find employment in your industry in your occupation. Don't waste your time driving an Uber!

Amy: Yeah, and the student visa allows you to work part time. So, you can intern at a company that's within your field of study, start building your CV, because that puts you above other job applicants.

Sam: It's worth noting that, ordinarily, student visa holders here in Australia are allowed to work part time, which is 20 hours a week or 40 hours a fortnight. At the moment, those rules have been relaxed because, post-Covid, we don't have enough people here in Australia to do what needs to be done. So all student visa holders at the moment are allowed to work full time here in Australia.

You need to be academically qualified in your industry in your occupation before that work experience will count towards skilled migration.

Sam: A common question we get is what work experience will count towards skilled work experience for the points tested visas and for employer sponsored visas? The short answer is, “anything which is post qualified”.

So if you did, let's say, a Civil Engineering bachelor's degree in your home country, and then you came to Australia and you were studying a master's degree, and whilst you were studying, you also worked in a part-time capacity in civil engineering, that work experience is post qualified because of your qualification from home and, therefore, does count towards your skilled work experience here in Australia – both for the points tested visas, and for any employer sponsored visas.

However, if you were in Australia, studying your undergraduate degree, so your first qualification in civil engineering, and you were working part time as a civil engineer, or a trainee civil engineer, unfortunately, that work experience would not count towards general skilled visas, or employer sponsored visas because the work experience is not post qualified. So you need to be academically qualified in your industry in your occupation before that work experience will count towards skilled migration.

Bringing dependants with you to Australia

Sam: We've got a question here: My wife wants to study her master’s in Australia. Can I and the children come with her? Yes, you can. Absolutely. And you can work full time, if you choose to, as the dependent family member of someone studying a master’s degree.

Someone's asked: If my husband is studying a bachelor’s degree in Australia, can myself and the kids still join? Absolutely, absolutely. You can still join the main visa applicant who is studying at bachelor's degree level.

The Temporary Graduate visa

Sam: The Post-Study work (subclass 485) visa is what I refer to as the stepping stone. So this visa can be granted for anywhere between two to four years, course dependent, and is the logical next step once you've finished your studies.

The majority of people who come to study in Australia should be aiming to go from the study visa to the Temporary Graduate visa. The criteria is fairly brief:

  • Be under 50 years old
  • Have finished a CRICOS degree course in Australia, with a minimum of two years of study (92 weeks)
  • Apply within six months of course completion
  • Have suitable health, character, insurance, and English language skills

It's an important concept that you need to understand that whilst you can transfer credits from your overseas qualification into your Australian studies, you don't want to transfer too many credits and therefore fall underneath the two years of study.

We have had examples of people who have come to Australia and studied, finished their qualification, then gone on to apply for the post-study work visa. And, unfortunately, the study component was less than two years and therefore they were refused the visa. So, ensure that your study is at least two years.

What I find most commonly is that people need the 485 visa in order to gain more work experience.

You need to apply for the post-study work visa within six months of completing the course. So don't leave it too long, otherwise, you will not be eligible.

You need to have suitable health, character, insurance and English language skills. So that means that you will need to attend a medical examination, you will need to provide police checks, you will need to have evidence of your health insurance, and also evidence of your English language skills.

It’s worth noting that you do not necessarily have to use this stepping stone. If you’re lucky enough to be invited to apply for another visa type while you’re still on your student visa, you could go straight to a points tested or employer sponsored visa. However, what I find most commonly is that people need the 485 visa in order to gain more work experience in order to achieve those other visa types.

How do I become a permanent resident?

Sam: This is the million dollar question. And I don't have a silver bullet. Everyone's circumstances are unique, and everyone needs bespoke advice based on their particular set of circumstances. So no piece of advice which I give to one person should be used in a generalistic application.

These are some examples of how people will achieve permanent residency in Australia. There are so many different visa options to talk about. There are so many different pathways, and there're so many different sorts of stepping stones from one visa to another that people might take in order to achieve permanent residency.

General skilled migration

Sam: These are what are referred to as the points tested visas. So subclass 189, subclass 190, subclass 491. Points-tested visas mean that you need to score a certain amount of points in order to qualify. You score points in accordance with your age, your qualifications and your work experience, with your English language skills. So, if you do score enough points and you work in the right occupation, then it might be possible for you to achieve one of those general skilled visas.

Employer sponsored visas

Sam: There're many different types of employer sponsored visas, such as the subclass 407, subclass 482, subclass 186. Now, these all require that you have some work experience in the occupation – anywhere between one to three years, at the skill level that’s required in order to become sponsored by an employer in Australia.

So the key to success is to find work experience in your occupation in Australia. This will lead to more visa options.

Now, I try to keep these webinars under 40 minutes, so I'm going to wrap up now. If anyone's got any questions, please feel free to email us. We're always happy to answer your questions.

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 migration@sableinternational.com or call +27 (0) 21 657 1526 to discuss your options in more detail.

Get in touch with Amy and the Study Abroad team at study@sableinternational.com or call us on +27 (0)21 657 1543 to discuss your options for studying in Australia.

Catch up on the previous webinars in this series

  1. Top skilled Australian visa routes for South Africans and how to apply

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