Are you a UK young professional thinking of moving to Oz but can’t work out the deal with visas? Here is a simplified guide to the options available to you.
417 Working Holiday Visa
If you are under 31, by far the easiest approach is to start on a 417 working holiday visa. These are really simple and quick to obtain (everything can be done online) and give you the right to work in Australia for one year – though you can only remain with an individual employer for a total of 6 months.
If you stay on this visa, you can apply for a second one year visa after your first one if you carry out a certain amount of farm work in between.
457 “Sponsored” Visa
What most expats will do is gain employment on a 417 under an agreement with their employer that they will sponsor onto a 457 following successfully passing probation. On a 457 you have the right to remain in Australia employed by the sponsoring company for 4 years. If you have a partner and can prove that you are a serious couple (by providing evidence of a shared address back in the UK, joint bank accounts, joint tenancy here) then one of you can go defacto on the other persons 457. This make it easier if one has the type job that will sponsor easier than the other.
This does mean that your right to remain in the country relies on your employment which feels a little scary. If you were to leave or lose your job you do have three months grace to find another sponsoring role. It’s also key to remember that getting sponsored in the first place is the hard bit as that’s pricey for an employer. Once you are sponsored it is very cheap for that sponsorship to be transferred to a different employer should you wish to move jobs, making you more attractive than expat candidates that aren’t currently sponsored at all. Some businesses do use visas to try and “trap” staff in – with a 457 it’s important to remember that you do have options.
If you are looking to stay in Oz on a more permanent basis you can then think about applying for PR (permanent residency). The advantage of this is greater flexibility to leave and return to Australia within 5 years from the visa issue date (with the option to apply for a Resident Return Visa after that as long as you lived in Oz for 2 out of the 5 years). It also gives you more opportunities in terms of work. You also need to be on a permanent resident visa for at least 12 months before you can apply for Australian citizenship.
There are two downsides to PR; firstly, your Super (the Australian compulsory pension) cannot then be withdrawn if you do leave Oz for good (you need to wait until retirement age like a real Aussie). Secondly, if you pay for it yourself it becomes pretty expensive (mainly due to the cost of police checks and lawyer fees rather than the visa itself). If your employer nominates you and pays, they will likely want you to commit to a 1-3 year period of further time spent working for them lest you’ll need to pay back the cost.
Here are those two routes to PR explained:
The employer nominated route to permanent residency is a 186 visa. There are two slight variations of the 186 visa. The most common version requires that you work for two years on a 457 sponsored by the employer that is to nominate you for PR before you apply. This one is most commonly discussed and most employers only talk to employees about this option. There is a second option called “direct entry” where any employer can nominate you for PR at any time. So you don’t need to work for them for two years on a 457 first. Remember this – I’ve seen friends successfully negotiate with employers to nominate them for PR via this direct entry route so that they don’t have to wait.
If you can’t / don’t wish to achieve PR via your employer, the other option is the skills assessed “skilled independent visa” (189 visa) this can be applied for any time, so long as you are qualified in an area that’s on Australia’s skills shortage list. This list can be found here.
Once you have been living in Australia for 4 years, and have been a permanent resident for 12 months (see above) then you can apply for Australian citizenship. The benefit of this over PR is that there are no restrictions on coming and going.