Australian visa options

Australian Immigration Regulations at a Glance

  • Do I qualify for immigration to Australia?
  • Which class should I apply under?
  • What conditions do I need to satisfy?
  • How long does it take to process a visa? (See our FAQs)

To help answer some of these questions here is a brief introduction to the Australian immigration system. Essentially, Australia grants Permanent Residence visas under four main streams:

Under each stream, there is a range of visa classes for immigration to Australia and the key is to select the right class according to your personal situation. The fifth option is to apply for a TEMPORARY RESIDENCE VISA.


Australian off-shore General Skilled Migration (GSM) comprises different subclasses that may offer visa options for different potential immigrants:

  • unsponsored and sponsored
  • national (federal) and “local” (state/regional)
  • permanent and temporary

For most GSM subclasses, the Australian (Federal) Government – through its Department of Immigration & Citizenship (DIAC) – uses a points test to select “visa applicants with characteristics needed in the Australian labour market”. It also provides set lists of those occupations it wishes selected applicants to have, both for national and local immigration.

Points Tests
Points are granted for qualifications, work experience, age, English language ability, occupation targeting and spouse’s skills. Additional points may be available if you have studied or worked in a skilled occupation in Australia previously or are fluent and qualified in one of the languages of the country’s major trading partners or ethnic groups. You or your partner’s occupation is often the make or break of an application; if it features on the Government’s main occupations list. Qualifications relevant to your occupation are also important with most degrees and higher trade certifications from recognised tertiary institutes meeting the requirements provided they involve at least 3 years post-secondary school study. An exception is made for certain tradespersons, IT professionals and Senior Managers, who do not possess formal qualifications, but who have relevant work experience to obtain industry certification in Australia. Applicants in occupations requiring professional registration (for example Dentists, Nurses and Physiotherapists) may need to apply for registration or meet specific requirements prior to submitting a residence application.

Occupations Lists
• The “Skilled Occupation List (SOL)” – the principal one. The current version (published by DIAC on 1st July 2011) has 192 occupations. Click here.
• “State and Territory SOL” – also published by DIAC to outline the list of occupations from which Australian States & Territories can produce their own State Migration Plans. Click here.
• “Employer-Nominated SOL” – which outlines those occupations under which an Australian employer can sponsor a potential immigrant to fill a position in their company. Click here.

Employer Sponsored Skilled Migration
These visa classes, along with those related to an actual job offer, are currently given the highest priority by the Australian Government.
There are permanent or temporary versions of this, the main ones being:

Employer Nomination Scheme ENS (subclass 121/856) – Permanent
This enables employers to sponsor highly skilled workers to fill skilled vacancies in their business. Skilled workers can be recruited either from overseas, or from people temporarily in Australia. Employers must be lawfully operating in Australia, and the position must provide full time employment in Australia for at least three years and meet the Minimum Salary Level.

Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme RSMS (subclass 119/857) – Permanent
This enables employers in regional and low population growth areas of Australia to sponsor highly skilled workers either from overseas, or from people temporarily in Australia to fill skilled vacancies in their business. Employers must be lawfully operating in Australia, and the position must provide full time employment in Australia for two years. Conditions of employment and wages must comply with Australian legislation and awards.

Subclass 457 – Business (Long Stay) visa – Standard Business Sponsorship
A program for employers to sponsor approved skilled workers to work in Australia on a temporary visa. Employers can nominate a number of positions for different occupations under the same sponsorship application.

Main Skilled Migration Subclasses

Skilled Independent (Migrant) Visa (Subclass 175)
A permanent visa for people with skills in demand in the Australian labour market. Applicants are not sponsored, must pass a points test and their occupation must be on the SOL.

Skilled Sponsored (Migrant) Visa (Subclass 176) – Family or State/Territory
A permanent visa for people unable to meet the Skilled Independent pass mark. Applicants must be either sponsored by an eligible relative living in Australia or nominated by a participating State or Territory government. Applicants must pass a points test (lower than that for the Skilled Independent visa) and their occupation must be on the State & Territory SOL or the main SOL (for Family-sponsored migration).

Skilled Regional Sponsored (Provisional) Visa (Subclass 475) – Family or State/Territory
A three (3) year provisional visa for people who can meet the lower pass mark for this visa. Applicants must be either sponsored by an eligible relative living in a designated area of Australia or nominated by a participating state/territory government. After living for two (2) years and working for at least one (1) year in a Specified Regional Area, applicants can apply for a permanent visa. Their occupation must be on the State & Territory SOL or the main SOL (for Family-sponsored migration).


Family-Sponsored? – You must have a qualifying family sponsor (parent, non-dependent child, brother, sister, aunt or uncle, niece or nephew). First cousins and grandparents can also provide sponsorship under the Regional Sponsored subclass. Also – your occupation MUST be on Schedule 1 of the Skilled Occupations List

What’s “Regional”? – DIAC outlines the “Specified Regional Areas” of Australia that are permitted for Regional migration, though if being sponsored by a State/Territory the definition of these areas may differ. These areas are usually non-metropolitan, or they may be metropolitan areas with low population growth.


All applicants under the above GSM categories must have their skills assessed by the relevant assessing authority in order to ensure that they do match the criteria of the occupations listed on the SOL, State & Territory SOL or ENSOL. For the current list of Assessing Authorities, click here.
Click for a FREE initial assessment of your eligibility for our services and a more detailed assessment completed by our MARA Registered Migration Agents.


This category is for persons who can be “sponsored” by a relative or partner who is an Australian citizen, or permanent resident, or an eligible New Zealand citizen aged over 18 (resident in Australia before 2001 with Australian tax rights etc).
If your partner is an Australian, you must be married OR in a de-facto relationship for at least 12 months to qualify for residence. You can be sponsored if you are a spouse, fiancée, child/adopted child, parent, orphan relative, special need relative, aged dependant relative or last remaining relative of a qualifying sponsor who is resident in Australia. Contributory Parent options are available for those parents with sufficient capital to contribute to their future health costs in Australia. These visas subclasses are designed to overcome the otherwise lengthy waiting period currently facing parents wishing to migrate to Australia, subject to places being available.


There are three main categories for business people who wish to move to Australia by establishing a business in Australia, manage a new or existing business, or invest in Australia:

  • Business Owner
  • Senior Executive
  • Investor

Each of these have subclasses and normally all business migrants must obtain one of these temporary (or provisional) visas, before later applying for a permanent visa.
Also – under each of the 3 categories – there is normally the choice between applying under for a State-Sponsored visa, or one without State Sponsorship. State-sponsored visa subclasses usually have lower eligibility criteria (especially regarding financial matters) than non-State-sponsored ones.

Business Owners
To qualify for a provisional visa, applicants must show that they have “a genuine and realistic commitment to be involved as an owner in a new or existing business in Australia”.
To do this, they must possess net business & personal assets worth AU$800,000 (non-State-sponsored), or AU$500,000 (State-sponsored) in a qualifying business with a turnover of at least AU$500 000 in at least two of the four fiscal years immediately before you apply.
Business Owner applicants must also own a substantial or controlling interest in a business, in other words the minimum business ownership percentage must be:
51% where business turnover is less than AU$400,000; 30% where business turnover is AU$400,000 or more; or 10 % where the business is a publicly-listed company.
Applicants must be under 45 years of age, prepare a viable Australian business plan, have relevant management experience and an overall successful career.

Senior Executives
Applicants must show that they “have significant net assets and a genuine and realistic commitment to participate in the management of a new or existing business in Australia”. Such a visa will allow business migrants to establish a new or existing business in Australia, travel in and out of Australia any number of times as long as the visa is valid, and have their family accompany them to Australia. They will have access to work and study rights.
Again, there is a choice between State-sponsorship, or not – and all migrants usually apply for a provisional visa, as the first stage towards a permanent visa. There are various eligibility criteria, the main financial ones being that applicants must have total assets of at least AU$800 000 (AU$500,000 for State-sponsored), which are legally acquired and capable of being transferred to Australia within two years of being granted this visa, and applicants must have sufficient assets (additional to those above) of at least AU$100 000 to settle in Australia.

This visa class is for investors/business people from overseas who are willing to invest funds in a designated investment in Australia for 4 years, and are less than 45 years of age. Applicants must possess personal assets with a net value of at least AU$2,250,000 for the 2 fiscal years immediately before applying.
Applicants must also have made a government-approved Designated Investment of AUD1,500,000 in Australia, which must be available for transfer to Australia within a reasonable period when requested.
The Investor Class enables the granting of a 4-year provisional visa, followed by a permanent visa once investment criteria have been met. Applicants aged 45 to 55 years or those not meeting the above financial thresholds can apply under the Investor Class (State Sponsored), but they must have sponsorship from a participating state or territory. Most notably, the financial requirements are reduced under this class. If you are proposing to establish a business in Australia that your sponsoring State or Territory Government has determined is of exceptional economic benefit, then you can consider an application under the Business Talent class, providing the set financial criteria are met. All applicants are required to satisfy health, character, police and credibility checks, and a range of other criteria.
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Permanent protection visas are available under the humanitarian stream for eligible applicants. For details, please contact your Registered Migration Agent at Migration Bureau.


A number of temporary visas are also available:

Investor Retirement visa
If you are aged 55 plus, of good health and meet the necessary financial thresholds, you can consider an application under the Regional Investor class. Applicants apply for sponsorship to the State or territory in which they intend to settle and need to have sufficient resources to provide for their settlement, an annual income accessible in Australia, and must be prepared to make a designated investment. The financial requirements are lessened for applicants who intend to settle in regional Australia. The initial visa and subsequent visas are issued for 4 years.

Work Visa
Business (Long Stay) Visa: If you are offered a job that cannot be filled by an Australian and the Australian employer is willing to provide “sponsorship”, you may be able to apply for a work visa. This visa is issued for the duration of the employment contract or 4 years, whichever comes first.

Working Holiday Visa
Citizens of certain countries who are under the age of 30 years may consider obtaining a Young Persons Working Holiday Visa. This visa enables you to work and travel for 1 year, and allows the holder to work for 6 months with each employer or study a course of no more than 4 months duration.

Student Visa
If you are enrolled into a qualifying course at an Australian tertiary institution, you can apply for a student visa. This visa allows you to study and to work 20 hours per week.

Caution: Immigration Regulations can change without advance notice. You are strongly advised to seek the advice of an Australian Registered Migration Agent before applying.

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