Visas and Work Permits 7 min

Work permits and visas in Australia: an employer’s guide

Written by Sally Flaxman
Sally Flaxman


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With a strong economy and a high quality of life, it’s no surprise that Australia is a desirable location for both businesses and workers.

 If you’re hiring in Australia or relocating an existing team member to the country, you’ll have to make sure they have the right documents to live and work abroad. Australia’s work permit and visa requirements can be complex — and you need to ensure you comply with them.

If you have no prior knowledge of Australia’s labor and immigration laws, employing workers in the country can be a tricky process. 

Whether it's dealing with the complexities of international taxes or sorting out benefits and payroll, global hiring is not a walk in the park. That’s why companies choose to work with an employer of record (EOR) to handle all of these processes while maintaining compliance with local labor laws.

In this guide, we’ll explain the basics of work permits and visas in Australia, and show you the various steps you may need to take to acquire them (depending on your team member’s status). We’ll also explain why an EOR like Remote can help you comply with immigration regulations and employment laws. 

Why is eligibility important?

Illegal employment has been the subject of intense scrutiny in Australia over recent years. If you fail to meet your legal responsibilities as an employer of overseas workers, you can face multiple sanctions, including:

  • A ban on employing other overseas individuals

  • Possible civil penalties of up to A$82,500

  • Other legal penalties, as well as reputational damage and increased scrutiny

These risks are only growing, too, especially as trends shift towards remote work and governments start to reassess their existing policies. For example, there are many instances of workers overstaying in countries, or working illegally on the wrong type of visa. This can create issues for your company, and authorities are cracking down.

As a result, it’s crucial to ensure that everything is above board, and that your people have the right paperwork.

To learn more, check out our dedicated guide on relocation below.

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Who is eligible to work in Australia?

Australian citizens are, by default, eligible to work in Australia (even if they currently live abroad), as are permanent residents.

Note that citizens of New Zealand are also eligible to live and work in Australia without a visa.

If your team member isn’t any of the above, then they will need to acquire a valid visa and a work permit.

Here’s how that works — and what you need to do.

Visas and work permits in Australia

Generally speaking, “work permit” and “work visa” are, for all intents and purposes, interchangeable terms in Australia. To live and work in the country, your team members will need a relevant work visa, which acts as a work permit and gives them the right to leave and enter the country.

There are many types of work visas in Australia, which we’ll discuss later in this article.

Getting a work visa in Australia

In Australia, you can apply for either a temporary or permanent work visa, depending on the role that your team member will be performing. In some cases, you may need to obtain a provisional work visa, that can then be converted into a permanent work visa later on.

Unlike other countries, only certain work visas require employee sponsorship. These are:

  • Temporary Skill Shortage visa (subclass 482)

  • Employer Nomination Scheme visa (subclass 186)

  • Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional (Provisional) visa (subclass 494)*

  • Regional Sponsor Migration Scheme (subclass 187)*

* — These are regional visas, with restrictions. See ‘Regional visas’ section below.

To sponsor an application for one of these visas, your team member’s role must usually be on Australia’s skilled occupation list. You can see this list in full here.

If the occupation is not on the list, you can potentially negotiate a labor agreement with the Department of Home Affairs (DHA).

If your team member is eligible for sponsorship, you will need to:

  1. Register your organization in ImmiAccount

  2. Submit your sponsorship application

  3. Nominate your employee

Once you have nominated your team member, they can submit their visa application.

Other types of work visas in Australia

As mentioned, there are numerous other types of work visas in Australia. These don’t require sponsorship on your part. They include:

Skilled Independent visa (subclass 189)

For workers who possess skills and qualifications that are highly in demand. Note that recipients must be “invited” to apply, and must be under the age of 45.

This visa is also applicable for New Zealand citizens, and holders of either a Hong Kong or British National (Overseas) passport.

Graduate visas

For international graduates of Australian universities who want to stay and work in Australia (subclass 485), or holders of engineering degrees (at accepted universities) who are under the age of 31 (subclass 476).

You can see a full, detailed list of all temporary and permanent work visas on the DHA website.

Regional visas

In recent years, the government has issued several new types of work visas specifically for “regional” Australia, an area that — for migration purposes — is defined as anywhere outside of Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane.

These visas include:

  • Skilled Work Regional (Provisional) visa (subclass 491)

  • Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional (Provisional) visa (subclass 494)*

  • Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (subclass 187)*

  • Permanent Residence (Skilled Regional) Visa (subclass 191)

  • Skilled Regional visa (subclass 887)

* — Sponsorship required.

Recipients of regional visas must live and work in an officially designated regional area. These are categorized as:

  • The “cities and major regional centers” of Perth, Adelaide, the Gold Coast, the Sunshine Coast, Canberra, Newcastle, Wollongong, Geelong, and Hobart

  • Any of the other 11,200 “regional centers and other regional areas” in Australia 

Eligibility requirements

Each visa type has its own specific eligibility criteria based on relevant factors, such as your team member’s age, role, experience, and background.

Note, too, that many visa types have different entry streams. If your team member is not eligible for one stream, they may be for another.

For most visas, your team member will need to speak, read, write, and understand English. They will usually need to prove this knowledge during the visa application process.

Does Australia offer a digital nomad visa?

Currently, the answer is no — there is no specialist digital nomad visa available in Australia. However, your employee can potentially work on one of the following two tourist visas:

  • Working Holiday visa (subclass 417)

  • Work and Holiday visa (subclass 462)

Although these visas are intended for travelers looking to work in Australia, recipients can also work remotely in Australia for an overseas employer.

However, it’s important to note that they can only work for the same employer for up to six months (although this restriction may be subject to change).

How Remote makes compliance in Australia so much easier

To hire an employee or relocate a team member to Australia, you’ll have to have a good understanding of employment laws in the country. You’ll also have to stay on top of a large amount of paperwork and ensure compliance while hiring team members in Australia or beyond — adding to the hassle of global hiring. 

Working with an EOR can make your life easier by helping you hire, pay, and manage workers abroad easily. From handling benefits and payroll to taxes and compliance with immigration regulations, Remote’s team of employment experts can help you avoid permanent establishment risks and help you remain compliant while hiring in Australia.

Download Remote’s Relocation Guide for useful tips on how you can manage the employee relocation process. For advice on relocating employees to Australia, contact our Mobility team to learn more about your options.

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