Visa Requirements to work and live in Australia

As Australia is a very popular country, this guide give you on the most important aspects of preparing your move to Australia, such as popular expat destinations and visa requirements.

A traditional immigration country, Australia offers a variety of visa types. While it would be impossible to deal with all of them here, we will provide a short overview of the three main categories relevant to expats and people planning to work in Australia.

To begin with, there is a list of basic requirements which all applicants, no matter the category, should meet. These conditions include:

English language proficiency: everyone whose native language is not English must achieve a certain score specified for their visa category and/or sign up for English classes in Australia before arrival.

Skills, qualifications and/or work experience relevant either to an occupation nominated on Australia’s Skilled Occupations List, or to the employer who sponsors you.

Health: all permanent visa applicants and some temporary visa applicants (depending on their profession) must meet certain health requirements. These will be specified in your visa application form. If you are asked to attend a health examination before coming to Australia, consult the nearest Australian Embassy or Consulate for a list of government-approved doctors.

Character: visa applicants are assessed according to the character requirement and may have to provide a penal clearance certificate.

Australian Values Statement: by signing the Australian Values Statement, you signal that you are willing to accept the Australian way of life and obey the local laws.

Visas for People with Job Offers

If you already have a job offer in Australia, you will apply for an Employer Sponsored Migration visa your prospective employer will apply for this visa on your behalf. Types in this category include temporary and permanent visas.

The most common temporary visa is the Temporary Work (skilled) visa; employers use it to sponsor an overseas skilled worker for a maximum period of four years. This visa is tied to the employer who acts as a sponsor and to your general occupation, but not to one particular position within the company.

One type of permanent visa in this category is the Employer Nominated Scheme Visa. This type of visa allows employers to sponsor qualified expats to fill vacancies within their company that cannot be filled by Australian applicants.

Visas without a Job Offer

The SkillSelect program is for people who want to move to Australia in order to seek employment. They do not need a sponsor, but they have to prove that they have the skills and qualifications necessary to work in an occupation on the Australian Skilled Occupations List.

If you possess skills that are currently in demand on the Australian labor market, you will also need to pass a test by scoring a minimum number of points. The points are awarded based on the level of English language skills, specific work experience, or other skills that your partner might bring to the country.

It used to be the case that a good point score automatically qualified you to apply for a permanent immigrant visa on a national or regional level. However, this is no longer the case. For information on the new application scheme, please read the paragraph below carefully.

The New Skilled Migration Program

If you are interested in a Skilled Migration Visa, you should know that the Australian government has changed its General Skilled Migration program to the Skill Select scheme mentioned above. As of 1 July 2012, every potential immigrant must follow these steps:

  • They need to have their professional qualifications recognized.
  • They must pass an English test.
  • Their data has to be entered into the SkillSelect immigration database.

According to immigration quota for various occupations, the Australian government then invites the candidates with the highest number of points to lodge a visa application. If you are not selected immediately, your entry will remain in the database for two years, and you may receive an invitation at a later point. The SkillSelect database is also accessible to state governments and individual employers, who can support you as a potential visa candidate as well.

Working with a student visa

International students receive permission to work with their visa grant. Student visa holders have combined visa and work permit, which entitles them to work up to 40 hours per fortnight while their course is in session and unlimited hours during semester breaks. Students completing masters by research and doctoral degrees have unlimited work rights.

Before starting work, you must apply for an Australian Tax File Number (TFN). Application information is available on the Australian Taxation Office website.

For more information about working in Australia, see the Working While Studying section of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection website.

The benefits of working as an international student in Australia

  • Course-related work is an advantage in the graduate labour market.
  • Casual and part-time work provides a useful income for students.
  • Working in Australia provides opportunities to practise your English language skills, meet new people and develop useful contacts.

Your rights while working as an international student in Australia

Before commencing paid work in Australia, you should be aware of your rights and responsibilities as an employee. Here are some things to watch out for when working in Australia:

  • Make sure you are being paid at or above the minimum rate of pay and that you are subject to the appropriate working conditions set for your area of employment or ‘award’ by the Fair Work Commision. It is against the law to be paid ‘cash in hand’.
  • Think carefully about doing unpaid ‘trial’ work. You should be paid for all work you undertake (unless you are volunteering or undertaking work experience arranged through your education provider).
  • Take time to carefully read through your employment contract before you sign it.

The following list of websites can help you with any questions or offer assistance if you have been treated unfairly:

  • Fair Work Ombudsman
  • Fair Work Commision
  • Australian Human Rights Commission

Taxation and Benefits

Before you start your job in Australia, you should apply for a tax file number (TFN). This can be done online via the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) website. Every citizen, permanent migrant, or a short-term resident (including overseas students) who wants to start working in Australia needs this unique number for tax reasons and other administrative purposes.

Pensions and Superannuation

While you are living and working in Australia, you will become entitled to some form of retirement pension. The state pension is a means-tested payment called the Age Pension, and you must meet the age and residency requirements to be eligible. Generally speaking, only permanent residents who have worked in Australia for at least ten years will receive eligibility for the Age Pension once they reach retirement age.

In addition to their Age Pension, those working in Australia also have a retirement savings account called Superannuation Fund. The ‘Super’ has been hailed by experts and has resulted in Australia being praised for having the most adequate pension system in the world in a survey conducted by Melbourne Mercer Global in 2015. Every Australian employer is required to pay a minimum of 9.5% of your income into their Super. Temporary residents can claim their Departing Australia Super at any time using the online form on the ATO website, provided they have already left the country.

Bank Accounts

Needless to say, if you earn your salary from a local employer while working in Australia, you will need an Australian bank account. Opening a current account with an Australian bank is easy and best done within 30 days of arrival, or even before immigration. Your passport, confirmation of your arrival in Australia within the last six weeks, plus your valid visa and another form of ID, should suffice by way of documentation. People who wait longer than one month before opening an account will encounter stricter requirements. You will be asked to provide, among other things, proof of address and your tax file number.

Working Holidays

The young and adventurous might want to consider the popular Working Holiday (or Work and Holiday) visa. This is for people aged between 18 and 30 who would like to support themselves while traveling in Australia by taking on temporary jobs. The visa is valid for a maximum period of twelve months, but you cannot work for the same employer for more than six months. If your primary reason for going to Australia is to take up employment, this might not be the best option.