After years of daydreaming about going for morning runs on the beach and commuting to work by ferry, you are finally ready to move to Australia. You are ready to take action, but have no idea where to start. You must have so many questions about how to get an Australian visa; Should you get a visa first and then look for a job or the other way? Should you hire a visa agent? How much does it cost? How long does it take to get one? Truth to be told, the answers really depend on your specific situation.

There is no one size fits all to the question: how to get an Australian visa. It depends on how long you are planning to stay in the country, where you are from and most importantly; what are you planning to do in Australia.

So, what are you planning to do in Australia? How to get an Australian visa depends on your answer. Pick from below, and scroll down to the visa most relevant for you.

  • Traveling, see the country and maybe work in a few places to support myself -> Backpacking visas
  • Work full time for a few years and potentially settle in Australia -> Skilled Sponsorship visas
  • Study in Australia -> Student visa
  • Moving to be with my partner or family member -> Family member visas

Backpacking visas

Australia has visas specifically for backpackers. If you are younger than 30 years old (35 if you are from Canada or Ireland), speak English well and you are from an eligible country, you can apply for a backpacker visa. This allows you to spend a year in the country and allowed to work with some limitations. You can stay another year if you contribute to the country. For this you have to work 3 months on a farm in a rural area.

There are 2 backpacker visas; Work and Holiday visa (subclass 462) and Working Holiday visa (subclass 417), with the latter having slightly more favourable conditions. While the 417 is unlimited, the 462 is capped for each country, which is announced every year in July. The one should you apply for depends on what country you hold a passport for.

You can apply this visa on the Immigration’s website and need to cover the costs ($450) yourself. The processing only takes a few weeks, you should receive your visa in less than 2 months.

Skilled Sponsorship visas

If you are planning to move to Australia long term and build a career over here, you need to obtain a skilled sponsorship visa. This is only available for those who are working in a profession that is considered as a shortage in Australia. Luckily, the list is very long and it is regularly updated. It’s worth checking it again once in a while.

Sponsorship can be nominated by an employer or a state or you can put yourself forward to be invited. Skilled occupation visas have different conditions depending on how much Australia needs people with your professional skills and how much experience you have in the field. Different occupations may be eligible for different visas and are specified on the combined Skilled Occupations List.

Temporary Skills Shortage (TSS) visa (subclass 482)

Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa (subclass 482) is the most commonly used skilled visa. The occupation list for this visa is separated into two categories; Short Term Skilled Occupations List (STSOL) and Medium and Long-Term Strategic Skills List (MLTSSL). The latter being more of a shortage therefore offering better visa conditions. If your profession is on the short term list, you are eligible for a 2 year visa that you can only renew once. Medium-Long Term visa holders get a 4 year visa, that has no limitations on renewal and allowing the option to apply for Permanent Residency.

In order to obtain this visa you need to find an employer who will nominate you for a sponsorship. Companies don’t automatically have the right to nominate employees, they need to go through a process to qualify, so startups and smaller companies are unlikely to offer sponsorships. Those employers who are in fields of shortage skills are often qualified and very much used to the visa sponsorship process.

How to get a TSS visa?

To obtain the TSS visa you need to met a number of requirements including speaking adequate level of English, proven to have a minimum 2 years of experience in the nominated profession, have a relevant degree to your field and others. You are also required to get an OVHC insurance plan. These are set by the government, and your future employer needs to prove that you meet these requirements. It is possible to move jobs on a TSS visa. You need to find a new employer to sponsor you and transfer your existing visa. Your visa conditions and expiry date will remain the same in this instance.

The employer pays and arranges, visa agent and manages the process for the TSS visa application. Employers are not allowed to put any conditions on your visa sponsorship such as minimum time spent with the company, or paying back the costs.

You can directly apply and arrive to Australia on a TSS visa, however most employers prefer to hire people on a backpacker visa. After that, they will move you on to a sponsorship when you are already working for them. Australian employers are used to hiring people from overseas. It is pretty standard to go through your interview process over Skype. If you have the funds it’s also a good idea to arrive to the country on the Backpacker visa and apply for jobs locally.

Other skilled visas

If you are not eligible for a TSS visa, there are a few other options for you.

The Skilled Regional visa is a great way in to the country if you are willing to start in a less popular destination (for example Adelaide). Instead of finding an employer, you need to get nominated by the specific state you are moving to. You will need to work in this state until you get another visa that allows you to go elsewhere.

The Graduate visa allows students who just finished their education to temporary work and gain experience in Australia. This is available if you studied in a field that’s considered shortage in the country.

Permanent visas

Depending on your occupation you have a few options to obtain a permanent visa. Once an employer have been sponsoring you for at least 2 years they can nominate you for a permanent visa. This will be through the Employer Nomination Scheme (subclass 186).

Alternatively you can apply for a Skilled Nominated visa (subclass 190) in which case one of the States needs to nominate you.

You can also put yourself forward for a Skilled Independent visa (subclass 189). In this case you don’t need a sponsor.

Student visa

If you would like to study in Australia you first need to be accepted by the institution. Only after that you can apply for a Student visa (subclass 500). This visa is only available for full-time CIRCOS (Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students) registered institutions.

Independently from the institution’s acceptance process the Australian Government has a number of requirements prospective students need to meet. You need to prove that you speak an adequate level of English, you have enough money to support yourself while you are in the country and a few others. You will also be required to get an OSHC insurance plan. The student visa is generally 5 years long and you can live in the country for the time of your education. You can also work with some limitations. Multiple courses are allowed, and you can continue your education as long as one is a clear progression of the previous one.

How to get a Student visa?

You can directly apply for this visa on the Immigration website or hire a visa agent if that makes you more comfortable. Students need to cover the costs of this visa.

If you would like to stay in the country after your studies, you can switch to a Graduate visa (subclass 485). The Post-Study Work stream is specifically for grads who have studied in Australia.

You can also get a student visa if you are coming to Australia to improve your English. You will need to apply through the ELICOS (English Language Intensive Course for Overseas Students). This student visa lasts 12 months. You can extend it as long as you can prove that you are genuinely only temporarily staying in the country.

Family member visas

You may join your spouse or a family member in Australia. If your spouse/family member is an Australian citizen or permanent visa holder you need to apply for a separate visa. It will be dependant on your relationship to them. If your spouse/family member is on a temporary visa (for example TSS), you don’t need to apply for a separate visa. They will need to include you or add you to their visa application. You will need to cover the additional costs occurred. Read on to learn how to get an Australian visa as a family member.

Partner visa

The partner visa is a two-step process. Depending whether you are in or outside Australia you will need to apply for a different subclass. First, you need to apply for a Partner (Provisional) visa (subclass 820 (in AU) or 309 (outside AU)) which is a temporary visa. After 2 years, you can apply for your permanent Partner (Migrant) visa (subclass 801 (in AU) or 100 (outside AU)). You need to prove that your relationship is genuine and that both of you are committed to each other. If you are outside of Australia and you would like to join your partner earlier, you can also apply for a Prospective Marriage visa (subclass 300). You can apply for this if you are planning to get married in the next 9 months. After that you can proceed to apply for the Partner visa.

Child visa

Kids of Australian citizens and PR holders can stay in Australia. The parents need to apply for a Child visa (subclass 802 in AU) or 101 (outside AU). Children under the age of 18, full-time student aged 18-25 or disabled and financially dependent on their parent can apply for this type of visa.

If the parent’s permanent visa application is in progress, their child is eligible for a temporary Dependent Child visa (subclass 445).

Other relatives

You can also sponsor other family members and relatives to Australia. You can choose from a range options for parents, aged parents, orphans and only relatives. Check the Immi website to find out how to get an Australian visa in other cases.


We only covered the most common visas in this article. There are several other cases including outstanding talent (for example athletes), entrepreneurs, refugees and others.

Disclaimer: Please note that this article is not legal advice. Its intention is to help you understand the different visa types and how to get an Australian visa. The conditions change regularly, please make sure to check the latest information on the Immigration Office’s website. 

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