Skills shortages have re-emerged as a result of Australia’s COVID-19 border closures. As pandemic economic recovery progresses, government and industry have recognised the importance of skilled migration to alleviate the impacts of the labour crisis as employers are looking internationally for skilled workers.
The range of visas available can be difficult to understand and the complexity of each option can make it hard for employers negotiating with intending migrants to know how to proceed. We have explained the key visas and their purposes below.
Subclass 400 Visa
The Subclass 400 Short Stay Specialist visa is designed for highly skilled specialists to come to Australia for short-term, non-ongoing work. Generally this involves work for 3 months (and in some cases for a maximum of 6 months). The Subclass 400 visa is not an employer-sponsored visa and skilled workers can apply directly online as long as they provide a letter of invitation or other evidence of work to be undertaken in Australia from an Australian business.
Applicants must provide evidence of their skilled work experience and qualifications and be able to demonstrate how they will fund their stay in Australia. It is usually important for the Australian business to explain the skilled nature of the work required in Australia. Other requirements vary depending on the length of stay requested, the applicant’s individual circumstances as well as the type of work involved.
Applications are processed relatively quickly – usually within 2 to 4 weeks – and visa applicants must be outside of Australia to apply.
The Subclass 400 visa requires there is no promise of ongoing work at the time the visa application is made and for that reason, the Subclass 400 visa is not designed for entering Australia to apply for other longer-term visas such as the Subclass 482 visa, though legislation permits this.
Subclass 482 ‘Temporary Skilled Shortage’ (TSS) Visa
The Subclass 482 visa is an employer sponsored visa has two streams: Short-term and Medium-long term. The Short-term stream allows for a 2-year visa with one renewal possible while in Australia for a further two years. The Medium-Long term stream allows for up to a 4-year visa.
A different occupation list applies for each stream: the Short-term Skilled Occupation List (STSOL) for the short-term stream and the Medium and Long Term Strategic Skills List (MLTSSL) for the medium-term stream.
Visa applicants apply under the stream in which their occupation is aligned. For example, Geologists and Human Resource Managers are on the Short-term list and engineers and most health professionals are on the Medium-term list. Permanent residence options are very limited for short-term stream visa holders.
An employer must be a Standard Business Sponsor to nominate overseas workers for this visa. Businesses must provide evidence of the skilled position, remuneration and conditions, terms applicable to equivalent Australian employees, and labour market testing efforts with each nomination application.
Visa applicants must satisfy English and skill requirements and pass visa health and character tests. In some instances, skills assessments are required and visa applicants must obtain those assessments before lodging a visa application.
Applicants may be in or outside of Australia to apply for this visa and family members can be included.
Subclass 494 Regional Provisional Visa
The Subclass 494 visa was introduced in November 2019 and is designed to encourage skilled migrants to settle outside of Australia’s major metropolitan centres. It provides a direct pathway to permanent residence through the Subclass 191 visa.
Employers must be Standard Business Sponsors to nominate Subclass 494 visa applicants and the position must be located in a ‘designated regional area’ of Australia. Each nomination requires evidence of the nature and skill of the position, its remuneration, and other conditions as well as evidence about the business and its operations including financial documents.
Applicants must be under 45 years of age at the time of application and have competent English (unless exemptions apply). The visa is valid for a period of 5 years once approved and provides access to Medicare. Its conditions stipulate that the primary visa holder remain employed with the sponsoring employer unless sponsorship is transferred to another employer by way of a nomination application (similar to the Subclass 482 program).
The Subclass 494 is one of the few visas that provides Short-term Subclass 482 visa holders with a pathway to permanent residence. Short-term Subclass 482 visa holders were cut out of the standard employer sponsored permanent residence visa when the 482 was introduced, though some may be eligible for a Subclass 186 visa under a limited COVID-19 concession if they remained in Australia during the COVID-19 border closure period.
As this is a provisional visa, it enables the applicants to apply for permanent residence independently after living and working in regional Australia for 3 years as the holder of the Subclass 494 through the Subclass 191 visa. Employer sponsorship is not required for the Subclass 191 visa.
186 Employer Nomination Scheme Visa
The Subclass 186 visa is an employer-sponsored permanent residence visa with two streams: Direct Entry and Temporary Residence Transition (TRT). Employers do not need to be approved Standard Business Sponsors to nominate applicants for this visa.
The Direct Entry streams allow businesses to nominate visa applicants who are in Australia or overseas. The TRT stream allows the nomination of existing employees who have worked within the business for at least three years on a Subclass 482 visa.
The visa requirements include:
- 3 years of full-time post-qualification work experience (Direct Entry Stream)
- 3 years of employment on a Subclass 482 visa with the nominating business (TRT Stream)
- Skills Assessment (Direct Entry Stream)
- Competent English
- Health and character tests
- Age limit: application before the applicant turns 45 years of age
Exemptions are available for age, English, and skill in limited circumstances.
The sponsoring employer must offer a position that will be available for at least two years. The primary applicant must intend to remain in that position for two years. The intention of both parties must remain during the visa decision period, noting that there may be many months between the time of application and the time of decision.
Labour Agreements are specific agreements between the Department of Home Affairs and an Australian organisation to allow the sponsorship of international employees on employer-sponsored visas (using the Subclass 482, 494, and 186 visa categories).
The government has established industry labour agreements by which organisations in particular industries can access labour by negotiating a Labour Agreement under an industry ‘template’ agreement. The Dairy, Fishing, On-hire, and Advertising industries are examples in this category. Company Specific labour agreements are another category whereby individual businesses may apply for an agreement based on their particular needs. Other categories include Project Migration Agreements, Global Talent and DAMA.
Labour Agreements typically provide concessions to the standard migration program so that employers can access skills and labour that is not available through the occupation lists of the skilled visa programs. Applications must be supported by extensive evidence and a strong business case.
Designated Area Migration Agreements (DAMA)
DAMAs are regional area agreements that use the labour agreement and employer-sponsored programs in specific areas of Australia. Our article on DAMA in Australia provides more details.
Interstaff | Over 30 Years of Visa and Migration Experience
Interstaff is an Australian-owned and operated business providing strategic migration advice to businesses and individuals Australia-wide and internationally since 1988.
Should you need professional advice on your Visa or Migration requirements, we encourage you to call Interstaff’s Migration Agents on 08 9221 3388 (Perth) or 02 7200 2567 (Sydney) or 03 8319 0902 (Melbourne) or +61 8 9221 3388 (International).