Like most countries, Australia restricts the right to work and live in the country to its own citizens and permanent residents. Permanent residents are not yet Australian citizens but are citizens of other countries who have acquired the status of permanent residence in Australia. This allows them to do almost everything that an Australian citizen can do apart from standing for a state or federal parliamentary position (MP), voting, or working for an Australian government office.

The only other citizens who are allowed free access to live and work in Australia are citizens of New Zealand under a reciprocal arrangement.

All other citizens of other countries must apply for and obtain a specific category work visa which will allow them to live and work in Australia under particular restrictions and conditions.

All visa applications are handled by the Department of Home Affairs (DHA), often take several weeks or months to process, and can cost anything from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. There are many categories and sub-categories of work visas, which can be frustratingly confusing to navigate. Here are some of the most popular.

Australian Work Visa Types

Australian work visas are broadly divided into two main categories:

  • Short-term visas: most fit into this category;
  • Long-term visas: these are dependent on changing skill shortages and most are linked to permanent residence.

The requirements, processing time, and cost of each work visa depend entirely on the category or sub-category of the visa. Not surprisingly, limited short-term visas like the Pacific Labor Scheme and the Seasonal Worker Program are both cheaper and quicker to process, One of the reasons for this is the dire shortage of employees for such industries as fruit and vegetable growing and the hospitality industries due in main part to restrictions during the first two years of the pandemic. 

Any visa offered in either of these categories depends on an application from a specific employer to the DHA. Visa limits may be anything from a few months to 3 years and could be renewed annually. These visas are given to residents of certain Pacific Island countries (e.g. Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Fiji, Samoa, and Tonga). The cost of such visas is around the $300 mark.

The other more easily obtainable short-term visa is the working holiday visa. This is open to young people between 18 and 30 (in some cases 35) of specific countries that have a recip[rocal arrangement with Australia. They cost around $400 to $450, take a few weeks to process, and last typically up to 2 years with certain restrictions. The idea is to attract young people to have a holiday in Australia and pay their way by working for relatively short periods, typically in vegetable and fruit harvesting and hospitality industries.

Temporary skilled work visas

Australia has a list of skill shortages, which changes from time to time. Non-citizens who are suitably qualified and experienced and who have the skills in demand (usually when and where suitable Australians cannot be sourced) may apply for a temporary work visa. The visa ties the applicant to a specific employer for a specific maximum time limit, usually up to 3 years. However, if the worker fits the criteria for permanent residence at some point while in Australia or after having completed the job they applied for, then they may apply for a permanent work visa, typically a permanent residence visa. There are several different sub-categories of temporary skilled work visas, some of which require nomination by a regional administration, others by specific employers. Visa applications cost over $4,000 to process and may take several months before a visa is issued.

Permanent residence

Work-related permanent residence visas depend on having a recognized skill o the skill shortage list. Other requirements include an age limit, English language ability, nomination by an employer, criminal record check, medical check, and provision of all supporting documents including a valid passport. A successful applicant can come and live and work in Australia, bring their immediate family with them, gain permanent residence which includes access to Medicare and after 5 years of residence the chance to apply for Australian citizenship.

Conclusion

There are several often bewilderingly confusing categories of Australian work visas. You do need to do a lot of homework before making an application. Application fees can e high and will not be returned if your application is rejected. Make sure that any documents not printed in English are  translated by a professional translator, preferably a NAATI-certified document translation service.