Australia: Applying for visas or citizenship

From a working holiday to permanent residency, our guide will help you to get the right visa

Australia’s Department of Immigration and Border Protection offers dozens of different visas for foreign workers, but the most popular among Irish immigrants are the working holiday and employer-sponsored (457) visas.

Australia’s Department of Immigration and Border Protection offers dozens of different visas for foreign workers, but the most popular among Irish immigrants are the working holiday and employer-sponsored (457) visas.

 
Irish citizens intending to work, study or set up a business in Australia need to have the right visa to suit their circumstances. The Department of Immigration and Border Protection has an excellent website which walks applicants step by step through the requirements and application process for the dozens of visa options, but the list below summarises the most common visa types for Irish workers. (Note: the information in this guide, which is intended as an overview, was correct at date of publication. Visa regulations change on a regular basis, so candidates should check the above website for the most up-to-date information).
 
Costs: Visa application costs range from A$440 (€307) for a working holiday visa to $4,205 for some of the skilled and investment visas. See immi.gov.au for the full list. Migration agents can assist with the application process for an additional fee, but are not essential. Make sure they are r egistered with the Australian government.
 
Temporary visas
A working holiday visa (417): Allows 18- to 30-year-olds to study, travel and work for up to one year (you can work for just six months with one employer). The visa can be extended by a year by working for three months in a regional or rural area. You cannot bring dependent children on this visa.
 
Employer sponsored (457): The 457 visa entitles you to live in Australia and work for up to four years for an employer who will directly sponsor you. You need to have a job offer from an approved employer in Australia to apply, and the employer will have to prove your skills can’t be sourced among Australian citizens or permanent residents in the local area. If you want to change positions your new employer must agree to sponsor you, and if you lose your job you must find another within 28 days. Workers can bring partners and children on secondary 457 visas.
 
Student Visa (subclass 500): Allows full-time students to work 40 hours a fortnight. It is becoming increasingly popular (allegedly among working holiday visa holders looking to stay on in Australia), with the number of Irish granted student visas tripling from 217 in 2007/08 to 703 in 2013/14.
 
Permanent visas
Permanent Residency: All permanent residence visas allow you and family members who have been granted this visa on the same application to stay in Australia indefinitely. Becoming a permanent resident entitles you to Medicare (Australia’s healthcare scheme), to apply for Australian citizenship if you are eligible, to sponsor eligible relatives for permanent residence, and to travel to and from Australia for five years from the date of issue (after that time, you will need a resident return visa or another visa to return to Australia if you leave).
 
Most long-stay visa schemes are offered under Australia’s skilled migration programme, which is based on the country’s economic needs and skill shortages.
 
Most permanent residence visas are points-based. Applicants must pass an English test, have a set amount of work experience in an occupation on the consolidated skills shortage list (see below), and meet age requirements for the visa type. All applicants for points-based programmes must submit an online expression of interest through SkillSelect on the Department of Immigration website. If the criteria are met, the applicant will be invited to lodge a formal visa application (they will suggest which visa you should apply for). The applicant will be asked if they are willing to live and work in regional Australia. Saying yes increases the chance of approval if employers are experiencing regional skill shortages in certain areas of the country.
 
The consolidated skills shortage list for all of Australia currently has about 200 occupations listed. Each state or territory has its own separate list with additional occupations in demand, so check both before applying. Note that these lists, as well as the application criteria, change regularly to meet immigration needs. Many skilled workers will need a skills assessment to have their qualifications accredited (assessing authorities are listed on the skills shortage list). The assessment usually costs about A$500.
 
Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (187): For workers without employer sponsorship whose occupation is on the skills shortage list for a particular state or territory in regional Australia (which excludes the Gold Coast, Brisbane, Newcastle, Sydney, Wollongong or Melbourne). It is a permanent residence visa designed to encourage skilled workers to move to regional areas. Applicants must be under 50 years of age.
 
Employer Nomination Scheme (186): Allows employers to sponsor highly skilled workers for permanent residency. You must be under 50 years of age.
 
General Skilled Migration programme: Workers whose occupation is on one of the skills shortage lists but don’t have an employer to sponsor them need to submit an expression of interest and then be invited through SkillSelect to apply. If a territory or government agency decides to nominate you after receiving your expression of interest, you will be invited to apply for a Skilled Nominated Visa (190).
 
If your occupation is not on the state list for the place you want to move to, but is on the national list, you can apply for a Skilled Independent Visa (189) .
 
Citizenship
If you have permanent residence and are considered “of good character”, you are entitled to apply for Australian citizenship. This will give you the right to vote, to apply to work in the public service or defence forces, to seek election to parliament, to apply for a passport and to travel freely to and from Australia, to receive help from Australia while overseas if needed, and to register children born overseas as Australian citizens by descent. Citizenship ceremonies are held regularly around the country, with Australia Day and St Patrick’s Day the most popular dates for Irish applicants. See citizenship.gov.au
 
 
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