Australia Work Visa Requirements and How to Apply: 3 Available Options

Last updated on June 5th, 2024 at 11:20 am

As a large country with a relatively small population, Australia depends on new arrivals from overseas to keep its economy moving, and here at Remitly, we have many customers who have moved internationally to the land Down Under.

Some only stay in the country for a few years, while others pursue an Australian work visa with a pathway to permanent residency and citizenship.

The country’s robust economy and high quality of life make it an attractive destination for many immigrants. But Australia’s work visas have detailed eligibility requirements and conditions for employment.

Before moving to Australia, be sure to get all of your paperwork in order and apply for the right visa for your situation.

Types of Australian work visas

Three Types of Australia Work Visas
Short-stay work visa For temporary or seasonal jobs in Australia.
Temporary work visa Typically requires you to have a specific skill set or sponsorship from an employer.
Permanent work visa You may be eligible for a permanent visa without spending time in Australia as a temporary resident first.

Each visa has its own application fee, processing time, and eligibility requirements.

Short-stay work visas

Short-stay work visas are for those who want to take on temporary or seasonal jobs in Australia, such as agriculture and hospitality, before returning home.

The Working Holiday visa (Subclass 417) allows applicants from eligible countries to work in Australia for up to one year. You must be between the ages of 18 and 30 when you apply (or up to 35 for some countries, such as France and Canada) to qualify for the holiday visa.

A similar visa, the Work and Holiday visa (Subclass 462), covers an additional set of countries, including the U.S., China, and Singapore. Depending on which passport you hold, you’ll need to meet certain eligibility requirements to obtain this type of holiday visa, such as:

  • Having functional English language skills
  • Having enough money in your bank account to live on while you’re in Australia and to depart Australia (around $5,000 AUD)
  • Having a secondary or tertiary education certificate (varies by country)

These visas don’t require you to have a job lined up in advance or be sponsored by an Australian employer, but you’ll be limited to six months of work with each employer.

You may be able to apply for a second and even a third visa if you perform certain types of work during your first year in Australia. This includes tourism and hospitality work in remote regions, as well as bushfire recovery and construction work.

The Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) stream is another short-stay visa. It allows residents of Papua New Guinea, Fiji, and several other countries to undertake seasonal or temporary work for an eligible employer.

This visa costs $335 AUD and may be granted for up to four years, depending on the type of employment.

Another short-stay option outside of the holiday visa programs is the Temporary Work (Specialist Short Stay) visa. Good for up to six months, the work visa is for people with highly specialized skills that an Australian employer needs and can’t reasonably find in Australia.

The Specialist Short Stay work visa costs $405 AUD, and you can only complete the visa application before coming to Australia.

Holiday visa applications and other short-term visa applications are usually processed faster than other Australian work visas. Processing times for the 417 Working Holiday visa range from just one day to 44 days, while 90% of Pacific Australia Labour Mobility visas are processed in two weeks.

Temporary work visas

Temporary work visas are more complex than short-stay visas and typically require you to have a specific skill set or sponsorship from an employer.

These visas may allow you to bring your family to Australia with you and could lead to permanent residency if the requirements for a permanent visa are met.

The Temporary Skill Shortage visa category (Subclass 482) costs $1,455 to $3,305 AUD to apply and allows skilled workers to stay in Australia for anywhere from two years up to five years.

You’ll need to have training or work experience in a career on the skilled occupation list, including accountants, cooks, and chiropractors. How long the visa will remain in effect depends on your nominated occupation.

Skilled workers who have recently completed their studies have additional visa options, such as the Temporary Graduate visa (Subclass 485). This visa is for international students who have studied in Australia or overseas in specific occupations. The visa application costs $1,895 AUD, with five to 17 months processing times.

Australia also has visa programs for skilled workers willing to live outside major cities. The Skilled Work Regional (Provisional) visa (subclass 491) has visa fees starting at $4,640 AUD and is valid for up to five years.

You’ll need to live in a “designated regional area” and can apply for permanent residency after three years.

Permanent work visas

In some cases, you may be eligible for a permanent visa without spending time in Australia as a temporary resident first.

An Australian employer must nominate skilled workers with at least three years of experience, undergo a skills assessment, and qualify for the Employer Nomination Scheme (Subclass 186).

The Skilled Nominated visa (Subclass 190) requires nomination by a government agency, while the Skilled Independent visa (Subclass 189) doesn’t require a nomination at all.

The skilled visas are only available to applicants under 45 years of age. You’ll need to submit an expression of interest on the SkillSelect platform and earn at least 65 points based on factors like your age, English language skills, and work experience.

Other permanent visa options include the Global Talent Visa Program for “highly skilled professionals” and the Business Innovation and Investment visa.

If you aren’t sure which Australian work visa to apply for or whether you meet the visa requirements, consider seeking a migration agent or a short-stay specialist.

Australia work visa: person putting money into an envelope

How to apply for an Australian work visa

The Australian immigration system uses an online portal to handle visa applications. In most cases, you can apply for a visa online and receive your visa by email. Since processing times can vary widely from one visa to the next, be sure to prepare for your Australian visa application and submit it well before your intended arrival.

For a short-stay work visa, be prepared to upload documents such as:

  • A valid passport
  • Your work history and education
  • Proof of sufficient funds in your bank account
  • Proof of English-language proficiency (if applicable)
  • Letter of support from your country’s government (if applicable)

You may need to go through additional steps for long-stay visas to show that you meet the Australian government’s health and character requirements. This might include:

  • A medical check
  • A police certificate from your country of residence
  • An interview at the nearest Australian embassy or consulate

Once you have an Australian work visa, your prospective employer can verify it with the Department of Home Affairs using an online portal.

Australia work visa: person handing money to another person

Who needs a visa to work in Australia?

If you’re coming to Australia from overseas and you aren’t already an Australian citizen or permanent resident, you’ll need a valid visa to enter the country and work there.

The type of visa depends on the purpose and duration of your trip.

Residents of certain countries can apply for an Electronic Travel Authority (ETA), which allows you to visit Australia for up to three months at a time for tourism and limited business activities, such as going to a conference.

However, if you’re performing any kind of paid work, you’ll need a visa that allows you to undertake that kind of employment.

The exception is if you’re a New Zealand citizen with a New Zealand passport; in that case, you can live and work in Australia indefinitely and will be granted a Special Category visa (Subclass 444) upon arrival.

Another scenario is if you’re the spouse or partner of an Australian citizen or permanent resident. You’ll still need to apply for a partner visa—which may be pricier than a work visa—but you won’t need to apply for any additional work permits.

Student visa holders also don’t need to apply for a work permit, but there are limits on the number of hours you can work per week.

Australia work visa FAQs

Still have questions about the Australian work visa programs or immigrating to Australia? Read on for answers to some of the most common visa questions.

What is permanent residency?

Permanent residency is an immigration status that allows a person who isn’t a citizen of Australia to legally remain in the country indefinitely. People who hold this status are known as Australian permanent residents.

Can you work in Australia permanently with a work visa?

The permanent visas outlined above provide a pathway to permanent residency. If you apply for and are granted a permanent visa, you can typically remain in Australia indefinitely, provided that you remain eligible.

With a temporary visa, applying to become a permanent resident may be possible after you have lived in the country for a few years. The rules vary for each type of visa, so check the information on the official page for the visa you’re applying for to learn more.

In most cases, short-stay visas like those issued through the working holiday program aren’t a path to permanent residency. If you wish to find a job and remain permanently in Australia, you’ll likely need to return home and apply for a permanent visa.

What is an approved Australian employer?

An approved Australian employer is a business that has been granted permission from the Australian government to sponsor visa applicants. For many visas, you’ll need to be hired by an approved employer for a permanent or temporary job before starting the application process.

How can I check what the latest visa requirements are?

The Australian government frequently updates the requirements for and fees associated with work visas. Check the official website via the links above or contact your closest Australian embassy or consulate for the latest information.

Where can I find a complete list of skilled occupations?

The Department of Home Affairs website lists all of the skilled occupations. You can access the list here.

What is the age limit for the Working Holiday visa (Subclass 417)?

The age limit for the working holiday visa program varies by country of origin. In most cases, the age limit is 30 or 35. You can find out the specific guidelines for the working holiday visa for your country here.

Can my family members stay in Australia with me if I am eligible for a work visa?

Certain family members can typically relocate to Australia with you, depending on the type of visa you apply for.

Normally, Australia allows the spouse or partner of the applicant and their dependents to apply through the family member visa program. Keep in mind that, in most cases, all of your family members will need to fill out an application and pay a fee.

Can I legally work and stay in Australia if I’m self-employed?

Yes, you can legally work in Australia as a self-employed person if you obtain a visa. Two streams are available for self-employment: the Subclass 132 Business Talent Visa and the Subclass 188 Business Innovator Visa. Follow the links to learn more about the eligibility requirements.

When and how do I pay the fees for a visa?

With most visas, you will need to pay the required fees when you submit your application. You can do this online via credit card, PayPal, UnionPay, or BPAY. Learn more about fee payments here.

More about Australia and other countries: