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Australian Visa and Citizenship Guide
Australia has a very strict immigration policy – so unless you hold Australian citizenship, you will need a valid Australian visa to legally live and work in Australia.
The first step to applying for a visa is choosing the right one that caters to your needs and circumstances. Between the visa application fees, expiry dates, and paperwork, applying for a visa should not be taken lightly. So in order for you to make an informed decision about which one you should apply for, here are a few key things you should consider:
- The purpose for your migration: Some of the most popular reasons people migrate to Australia include work, study, a business visit, or an extended holiday
- The length of your stay: Both temporary and permanent visas are available, so whether you intend to return home within one to two years, or plan to remain in Australia for longer, this will affect which visa you should apply for
- Your skillset: Skilled workers are always in demand in Australia, so those in an occupation under one of the Skilled Occupation Lists may be eligible for skilled work visas
- Sponsorship: If your company is sponsoring you to work in their Australian-based branch, or if a company in Australia is offering to sponsor you to work for them, you’ll qualify for a specific sponsored/nominated visa
- Your citizenship: Australia holds visa relationships with specific countries – particularly those in the Commonwealth and Asia Pacific. If you’re a citizen with a dual-visa relationship with Australia, this will open up different visa options.
Once you’ve decided on the purpose and length of your stay, you can then begin looking into your various visa options. For example, if your purpose is to work, you’ll likely be looking at the 457 Temporary Work visa or one of the regional work visas (187), if it’s for business, you’ll be looking at the 188 Business Innovation and Investment visa, for holiday the 417 and 462 visas are optimal, or for study, there are student visas.
Of course, if you’re only thinking about moving to Australia, you can freely browse you options and be inspired by the opportunities that lie before you.
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Australian visas can be broken up into six categories: temporary work visas, sponsored/nominated work visas, permanent work visas, student visas, visitor visas, and bridging visas.
Temporary and provisional visas have a limited duration of stay, which can be as little as one-day or as much as four years, and can range from Working and Holiday visas to Temporary Work (Skilled) visas. Many temporary visas have a ‘no further stay’ condition, which means you cannot apply for this visa if you already hold a visa with a ‘no further stay’ condition written on it. Under certain circumstances, these visas can have this condition waived. You will be advised of this in your visa grant letter.
Holders of visas without this condition might be able to apply for a different visa in order to extend their stay. For more information, contact your nearest immigration office in Australia.
The most common temporary visas include:
Sponsored/nominated visas rely on an approved sponsor/nominee to sponsor or nominate you for work in Australia. This sponsor/nominator could be your next employer who has sponsored you for your specialised skillset or could be your current employer, seeking to transfer you to their Australian-office. Alternatively, if you’re a business owner, a state/territory could be nominating you to establish/maintain/invest in an Australian business.
The most common sponsored/nominated visas include:
Don’t have a nomination/sponsorship?
Skilled workers who want to migrate to Australia, but haven’t been able to obtain a nomination or sponsorship into Australia can apply for SkillSelect for a possible invite into the country. The purpose of SkillSelect is to ensure that Australia’s skilled migration program responds to and fulfils its economic needs.
To apply for a skilled visa (without nomination/sponsorship) you can submit an EOI (expression of interest) outlining your qualifications. You can then be nominated by valid sponsors or be invited by government agencies for a skilled visa.
Visas that you can apply for following your submission of a successful EOI are: Business Talent (132), Business Innovation and Investment (188), Skilled Independent (189), Skilled Nominated (190), Skilled Nominated or Sponsored (489). Following an invitation received through SkillSelect, you can also apply for: Temporary Work (457), Employer Nomination Scheme (186) and Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (187).
Permanent Work Visas
Where temporary and sponsored work visas might have expiry dates on them, requiring you to either cease work and leave the country or to apply for another visa in order to extend your stay, permanent work visas allow you to remain in the country for an indefinite period of time.
Due to the permanent nature of your residency, these visas also entitle you to many national benefits, including the ability to study in Australia, enrol in Medicare and, if eligible, apply for citizenship. (Note: those holding the 891 Investor Visa are not eligible for these benefits.)
The most common permanent work visas include:
For study: Student visas
Applicants wishing to study in Australia have their own set of visas for which they can apply. These include: higher education (573, 574), vocational education and training (572), English language courses (570), high schools (571), professional development (402, 485), DFAT/defence (576), and non-award (student exchange/study abroad, 575) visas. For students who are under 18 and require supervision, there is also a Student Guardian (580), to pertain to this need.
Which visa applies to you will depend on what level of education you’re seeking, as well as your acceptance and enrollment into a registered course at an Australian educational institution. Most student visas allow you to stay in Australia to study full-time for the length of your course, with many allowing you to work in Australia (with restrictions).
In the cases of professional development and SFAT visas, you will need to be sponsored by a training/development sponsor or the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade/Department of Defence, respectively.
For visitors: Visitor visas
Visitor (600), Electronic Travel Authority (601), and eVisitor (651) visas all fall under the banner of ‘visiting for work’ visas. These are visas that allow for temporary stay for work purposes (enquires, renewing of contracts, visits), however, under certain circumstances, these visas may allow you to visit family and friends and tour the country as well.
Your three main visitor visas are:
The main purpose of bridging visas is to allow migrants whose previous visa has expired (or is about to expire), to stay in Australia lawfully until their application for consecutive substantive visa is being decided. There are various bridging visas available, depending on your circumstances, including if you haven’t been able to secure an interview to apply for a substantive visa, and if you wish to leave and return to Australia while your application is being processed.
The Australian visa application process
Depending on which visa you’re applying for, you’ll have a specific application process to follow. Sometimes you’ll have to be outside of the country in order to apply, other times you’ll need to be inside. Some visas require you to post your application in, others require you to submit it in person at the Australian embassy in your country, while others require an online application.
To apply, you will also need to fulfil the requirements of your visa application. Here are a few important documents you may need to secure you that visa, and some tips and tricks on how to make sure you submit them correct:
IELTS (International English Language Testing System)
IELTS is accepted by over 9,000 organisations as an indicator of English language proficiency and covers four components: listening, speaking, reading, and writing. To locate your nearest test centre, and take a sample test, visit the official IELTS website. Many migration websites as well as universities host tests and offer preparation courses to ensure you get the best IELTS result you can. In Australia, these include: Sydney University, Macquarie University, UNSW, and UTS.
Things to remember
Keep the following in mind when applying for an Australian visa
- No photocopies. In most cases, only original documents will be accepted. If you’re skeptical, post all your items by registered post and keep all your tracking documents handy.
- Certify your documents. Most of your documents will need to be certified before submitted. Make sure you understand what needs to be certified and have these done together to save time.
- Translate your documents. If your documents are in another language, you will need to have them translated into English to be valid. Again, gather all the documents required to be translated and do all these together to save time.
- Visas take time. Ask how long your visa could take to process, as well as when it becomes valid — sometimes this could be three months after it’s processed, other times it won’t become valid until you land in Australia. Try to time it so your visa won’t arrive so early you lose precious months waiting for your flight day, but not so close that you end up stressing over if it’ll make it in time.
What if I need help with my visa?
While migration agents can facilitate the processes involved with applying for a visa, you can also do it yourself online. If you need to enlist the services of a migration agent, use an agent registered with the Office of the Migration Agents Registration Authority (MARA) to avoid migration fraud.
For details on how to apply for your specific visa, visit the Australian Government Department of Immigration and Border Protection website.[/fin_accordion][/fin_accordions]
While some migrants might choose to return home after their visas have expired, others might choose to become an Australian national. The good news is that Australia allows for dual citizenship, so depending on whether your home nation allows for dual citizenship or not, you might not have to relinquish your home country’s passport to become an Aussie citizen. This doesn’t mean you should take Australian citizenship lightly. Remember, by becoming a citizen, you are making a commitment to Australia, its people, its lifestyle, and its laws.
Who is eligible for citizenship?
Those eligible for citizenship are:
- A migrants with a permanent residence
- A spouse or partner of an Australian citizen
- A New Zealand citizen living in Australia
- The child of a former citizen
- A child adopted overseas by an Australian citizen
- A child born overseas to an Australian citizen
- A former Australian citizen
- Commonwealth Migration Scheme arrival
- Refugee and humanitarian entrant
- Person born in Papua before 1975
Migrants with a permanent residence must also be of good character, be likely/continue to reside in Australia or keep a close and continuing association with the nation, and satisfy a residence requirement. This requirement involves having lived in Australia for four years on a valid Australian visa, the last 12 months of which was as a permanent resident, and not having been absent from the country for longer than one year in total over the four years of residence. The applicant must also have not been absent from Australia for more than 90 days in the year before applying.
Applying for citizenship
Once all eligibility requirements have been met, the applicant should prepare for their citizenship test or interview, and gather all relevant proof-of-identity documents. They must then complete and lodge their application. Once received, so long as everything is in order, the department will contact the applicant to make an appointment for their test/interview. If the department grants you citizenship, you’ll need to attend a ceremony to make the Australian Citizenship Pledge and complete their citizenship.
For full details on becoming an Australian citizen, including application forms, contact details, and citizenship practice tests, visit the Australian Citizenship website.
Immigration and the law
Australia has a non-discriminatory immigration policy, so anyone can apply to migrate to Australia from any country. Processing arrangements for migration applications will vary depending on your situation, so it pays to do your research beforehand to make sure you’re applying for the right visa and to help you decide whether living in Australia is the right move for you.
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