Although Australia’s immigration laws are complex, there are many visas providing eligible applicants an opportunity to live, study, and / or work in Australia. Some visas provide pathways to permanent residency and allow the visa holder to bring eligible family members.

Understanding different visa categories and working with an immigration professional can help identify the most appropriate visa type and implement strategies towards achieving your immigration goals.

Choosing the right visa – working with an immigration professional

Immigration specialists use knowledge of the legal system and their understanding of immigration processes and policies to find the most appropriate visa type suited to their clients’ skills, qualifications, and personal circumstances.

Essentially, visas are grouped into categories or classes that share common factors and have specific eligibility criteria applicable to each subclass. All visas have conditions attached which must not be breached by a visa holder. An immigration expert can assist in determining your eligibility for a visa and explain the relevant conditions.

Information provided by a potential visa applicant is cross referenced with the criteria required for various classes to narrow down options and identify the most suitable pathway. Often, a number of pathways are explored before determining the most appropriate. If the criteria for a desired visa type cannot immediately be met, a strategy may be implemented so the applicant can meet the criteria in the future.

Popular visa types

Following is an overview of popular visa categories demonstrating the range of visas that may allow migration to Australia. Each visa type is subject to change and everybody’s circumstances are unique, so it is advantageous to work with an immigration specialist to find the most feasible pathway. 

Skilled Visas – employer sponsored

If you want to work in Australia and have the necessary skills and qualifications, a range of work visas may be appropriate for temporary or permanent residency.

The Australian Government recognises the economic value that skilled individuals bring to the country and has implemented programs to address skills shortages and assist employers fill genuine vacancies. In some cases, the grant of a provisional (temporary) visa may lead to eligibility for permanent residency.

The Temporary Skill Shortage (subclass 482) visa allows employers to bring skilled workers into Australia to fill vacancies that cannot be filled locally. Applicants must have the skills, qualifications and experience specified for a selected occupation on one of the skilled occupations lists. These lists are regularly reviewed. The employer must be an approved business sponsor and employ the visa holder in the nominated position. There are presently three streams:

  • The short-term stream grants a visa for a maximum two-year duration (or 4 years under International Trade Obligations) with a once-only renewal option.
  • The medium-term stream targets long-term skills gaps and grants a visa for up to four years with an opportunity to renew indefinitely whilst the occupation remains on the list. This visa offers a potential pathway for permanent residency after three years provided the visa holder meets the eligibility criteria and has complied with all visa conditions.
  • The labour agreement stream applies to employers who have entered into a labour agreement, and grants a visa for up to four years, with an opportunity to renew and to seek permanent residency, subject to eligibility, after three years.

The Employer Nomination Scheme (subclass 186) visa allows skilled workers who are nominated by an Australian business for an eligible occupation, to live and work in Australia permanently. Visa holders may enter under a Temporary Residence Transition stream, Direct Entry stream, or Agreement stream. However, applicants must have an occupation that is on the list of eligible skilled occupations, have at least 3 years relevant work experience, unless they are exempt and have a positive skills assessment, unless you are exempt.

The Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (subclass 187) visa allows skilled workers who are nominated by an approved Australian business operating in a regional area to live and work in Australia permanently under a Temporary Residence Transition stream or Direct Entry stream.

The Subclass 186 visa is available nationally, while the Subclass 187 is only for skilled workers who want to work in regional Australia.

Points Tested Visas

Points tested visas are for suitably qualified, eligible applicants. Which fall under the heading of general skilled migration. The General Skilled Migration (GSM) Program is a unique and conducted over 3 stages. Unlike most visa applications, the General Skilled Migration program is broken into three components:

  1. An Expressions of Interest (EOI) stage
  2. Accepting an Invitation to Apply
  3. Submitting your visa application

An applicant requires 65 points to allow them to enter the first stage, their EOI will sit in a pool for up to a period of 2 years, awaiting an invitation to apply from the Australian Government. Fortunately for the applicant, during this period of time, their points are susceptible to change if their able to claim additional points across any of the recognised categories.

The three main subclasses are:

  • The Skilled Independent visa (Subclass 189)
  • The Skilled Nominated visa (Subclass 190) 
  • The Skilled Work Regional (Provisional) visa (Subclass 491)

Both the Subclass 189 and 190 are applications for permanent residency while the Subclass 491 visa is a transitional visa, allowing for permanency after a minimum of 3 years.

The Skilled Migration Programme does not require a nomination or sponsorship from an Australian employer.

Business Innovation and Investment Visas

The Business Innovation and Investment (subclass visa 188) provides opportunities for experienced business operators, entrepreneurs or investors with significant assets to establish and operate a business or manage investment activity in Australia. These visas are very complex and only those invited by a state or territory government, after the successful submission of an expression of interest, may apply.

Business innovation visas may be appropriate for those with good business skills wishing to operate an existing business or establish a new business in Australia. Applicants should have sound business experience, adequate financial resources and assets and the business must be considered to be of economic benefit by the nominating state or territory. Holders of business innovation visas can live in Australia and operate their business for four years and may be eligible for a permanent visa afterwards provided the business is viable, has achieved specific targets related to growth and performance and all other criteria is met.

Investor visas require visa holders to invest in complying Australian investments of substantial amounts (from $1.5 million to $15 million) for a minimum of four years. The terms and types of investments are very specific, and applicants must have a genuine intention to reside in the state or territory in which the nominating agency is located.

Partner Migration

Partner visas allow married or de facto partners of an Australian citizen, permanent residents or eligible New Zealand citizen to travel to and live in Australia. Successful applicants are initially granted a temporary visa and, provided there is a continuing long-standing relationship (and other criteria are met) the grant of a permanent visa follows, usually after two years of the initial application. Applicants for partner visas must be sponsored and meet health and character requirements.

For partners intending on marrying, a prospective marriage visa may be granted. This is a temporary visa remaining valid for up to nine months. Once granted the applicant should enter Australia and marry within that time. After marriage, the applicant may apply for a partner visa.

Family Migration

There are a range of family related visas available to eligible applicants, however these depend on specific circumstances and require a very specific approach and adherence to specific policy and legislation to potentially achieve desired outcomes.

Student Visas

Student visas are available for people wishing to study in Australia. These include Vocational Education and Training Sector, Higher Education Sector and Post-Graduate Research Sector visas allowing students to stay in Australia whilst studying fulltime.


The Australian immigration system is constantly changing with numerous visa types and various eligibility criteria to work through when lodging an application.

This information is for general purposes only. Immigration matters can be complex, and it is important to consult a professional who will assess your circumstances and provide advice and guidance to find a workable pathway towards your immigration goals.

If you or someone you know wants more information or needs help or advice, please contact us on 02 9699 9877 or email [email protected].