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Skilled Migrant Visas

A skilled migrant visa allows skilled people to work and live in Australia. SkillSelect is Australia’s General Skilled Migration program. It is a points-based system and is the most popular visa application pathway for skilled workers.

SkillSelect allows you to apply for a permanent Australian visa, such as a Skilled Independent Visa subclass 189. You will need to hold certain qualifications, work experience and language ability requirements to be granted a skilled migrant visa in Australia.

Through the SkillSelect pathway, skilled workers of select occupations and professions can apply for Australian permanent residence on the basis of their skills alone. This means they do not need to be sponsored by an employer.

The Australian government changes the types of skilled occupations on the requisite lists from time to time. These changes reflect the shifting supply and demand for particular skills in Australia.

Skilled migrant visa subclasses

Under the Migration Act 1958 (Cth) and the Migration Regulations 1994 (Cth), visas are arranged in groups called subclasses. There are different types of skilled migrant visas, under a number of visa subclasses. The most widely known skilled migrant visas include the following:

Both of these visas are permanent residency visas.

As the name suggests, the Skilled Independent Visa subclass 189 is a visa which is available for applicants who do not require sponsorship by an employer, nor a state or territory government in Australia.

The Skilled Nominated Visa subclass 190 is available to applicants who meet the criteria to be sponsored by a state or territory government.

There is a temporary point-tested skilled migration visa which allows the holder to live and work in Australia for up to four years. This is the Skilled Regional Visa subclass 489 and requires sponsorship by either a state or territory government, or a relative living in a designated area.

Professions and occupations eligible for a skilled migrant visa

There are two skilled occupation lists that are relevant to skilled migrant visa applications. One is the Skilled Occupation List (SOL) which is relevant for applicants applying for the Skilled Independent Visa subclass 189 and the other is the Consolidated Sponsor Occupation List (CSOL) which is relevant to those looking at a Skilled Nominated Visa subclass 190.

Importantly, most occupations on the CSOL are reflected in the SOL. This means that a person looking at applying for a Skilled Nominated Visa subclass 190 can meet the points test for either the SOL or the CSOL.

Be aware, however, that states and territories have their own skilled occupation lists. For example, see New South Wales’ skilled occupation list for 2016-2017. It is important to check the specific lists of your chosen state or territory to ensure you can be successfully nominated.

How do you obtain a skilled migrant visa?

Once you have identified which occupation is relevant to your qualifications and experience, you can begin the process of obtaining a skilled migrant visa.

There are two main types of skilled migrant visas: the Skilled Independent Visa subclass 189 and the Skilled Nominated Visa subclass 190

The process to obtain a skilled migrant visa is similar across the different visa subclasses. The process is as follows:

  1. Obtain a skills assessment which positively shows your qualifications and relevant work experience to your nominated occupation;
  2. Ensure you have met the minimum number of points required at the time you intend to lodge your expression of interest. The Department of Home Affairs (DoHA) opposes additional points cut-offs for occupations where there is lower demand;
  3. Lodge your expression of interest through SkillSelect;
  4. Skilled Nominated Visa subclass 190 only: be nominated by a state or territory government. The process varies depending on the state or territory; and
  5. Once and invitation is received, you have 60 days to lodge an application for the visa through the SkillSelect portal.

At the time of writing, the DoHA advises that skilled migrant visas are taking three months to be processed. Depending on the circumstances and complexity of your application, this could be longer or shorter.

Skills assessment

In order to be granted a skilled migrant visa, a skills assessment is required. Skills assessments are conducted by assessing authorities. Each assessing authority will have its own requirements depending on the profession or occupation.

For most occupations listed in the SOL and CSOL, the applicant will need a university-level or trade qualification to be successful in their assessment.

Assessing authorities can only let you know if you have a positive assessment; they cannot advise you on whether your visa application will be successful or not.

The following is a table of the most common occupations and the relevant skills assessing authorities:

Occupations Assessing Authorities
Computer network and systems engineer, chief information officer, multimedia specialist, software and applications programmer, ICT engineers/analysts/specialists/managers, network, systems or database administrators Australian Computer Society
Engineering manager, chief executive or managing director, corporate general manager, sales and marketing manager, advertising manager, public relations manager, human resource manager, supply and distribution manager, procurement manager Australian Institute of Management
Early childhood or secondary school teacher, special needs or special education teacher, teachers for the hearing or sight impaired Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership
Registered nurse, nurse practitioner, midwife, nursing clinical director, nurse researcher/manager/educator Australian Nursing and Midwifery Accreditation Council
Engineering manager, engineer, engineering technologist, naval architect, civil or electrical engineering draftsperson, telecommunications network planner, telecommunications technical officer or technologist Engineers Australia
Accountant (general, management or taxation), internal or external auditor, finance manager, corporate treasurer Certified Practicing Accountants, Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand, Institute of Public Accountants
Barrister, solicitor State Legal Admission Authority, for example the New South Wales Legal Profession Admission Board
Child care centre manager, technician (various disciplines), trade workers (various disciplines) mechanic (various disciplines), electrician, electrical linesworker, chef, cook, baker, cabinetmaker, boat builder and repairer, shipwright, automotive electrician, aircraft maintenance engineer, metal fitters and mechanists, garden workers, hairdressers, wood machinists and other wood trades workers, plant operator. Trades Recognition Australia*   *Please note that this list of occupations is not exhaustive. You will need to refer to the SOL, CSOL and the Trades Recognition Australia website for details of every occupation that is assessed by Trades Recognition Australia.    
Managers in the areas of health, welfare, constructing, mining, corporate services, policy and planning, hospitality, lab work, quality assurance, environment, education and arts. Other occupations include information and organisation professionals, sales workers, public relations professionals, advertising specialists, marketing related occupations, air transport professionals, marine transport professionals, designers, chemist, food technologist, environmental scientists, life scientists, natural and physical science professionals, private tutors and teachers, university lecturer or tutors, vocational teachers (non trades), educational advisers and reviewers, health diagnostic and promotion professionals, complementary health therapists, audiologist, judicial and other legal professionals, counsellors, social professionals, medical technicians, science technicians, architectural/building and surveying technicians, animal attendants and trainers, veterinary nurse, clothing trades workers, performing arts technicians, health or medical workers, community workers, sports coaches or instructors, real estate, insurance and business-related occupations. Others include artistic occupation, media-related occupations, journalists, technical writers, company secretary, finance workers (dealers, traders, brokers, advisers, managers). Vocational Education and Training Assessment Services (VETASSESS)*   *Please note that this list of occupations is not exhaustive. You will need to refer to the SOL, CSOL and the VETASSESS website for details of every occupation that is assessed by VETASSESS.

Expression of interest

Before an application can be made, an expression of interest to the Department of Home Affairs must be submitted. DoHA requires that all expressions of interest should be completed using the SkillSelect portal online.

You may only nominate one occupation when you lodge your expression of interest. The nominated occupation must be the same occupation that was listed on your positive skills assessment. If you do not nominate the same occupation in your expression of interest as it is shown on your positive skills assessment and expression of interest, your visa cannot be granted. If this occurs, you will be required to undertake the expression of interest process again as this kind of error cannot be fixed through a Notification of incorrect answers Form 1023.

Once you have submitted your expression of interest, it will be stored in SkillSelect and remain valid for up to two years, unless withdrawn. If you meet the number of points required (and the caps have not been reached) for your nominated occupation, you will receive an invitation in the next invitation rounds.

More information about the invitation rounds, including the points required can be found on the Department of Home Affairs’ website.

Applying for the skilled migrant visa

After receiving your invitation, you will be able to log back into SkillSelect and submit an application for the visa subclass you have selected. The large majority of the details that were entered into your expression of interest will be carried across into your draft visa application.

Once you have completed the application, you will be required to pay the visa application charge. It is only upon payment of the visa fee that the DoHA will consider your application to be made.

Importantly, it is only at the stage of lodging and paying for the visa application will you be eligible for a Bridging Visa when applying while in Australia. Skills assessments and expressions of interests are not considered visa applications for the purposes of being granted a Bridging Visa.

Once lodged you will be required to attach electronic copies of your documents. To find out what is required, go to the DoHA’s document checklists for the Skilled Independent Visa subclass 189 and the Skilled Nominated Visa subclass 190.

Other requirements

You must undergo a medical assessment as proof that you do not represent a risk to public health and you must be of good character. This is usually determined by undergoing a criminal record check. You must also not have debts owing to the Australian government in the form of unpaid fines or tax owing.

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