Work permits for employees in Australia: A complete guide for employers

Published

May 24, 2023

Before hiring in Australia, it’s crucial to ensure your prospective employee is allowed to work there. Foreign nationals living Down Under need visas issued by the Australian government before they can legally perform any kind of domestic labor. Employers who hire unlawful workers can face six-figure corporate fines.

So learn about everything companies need to know regarding Australian work visas—including the bevy of available types, eligibility criteria, and how to sponsor an applicant.

What is a work permit in Australia?

A work permit (or work visa) in Australia is a document issued by the Australian government that allows foreign nationals to work legally in Australia for a specific period of time and claim Australia as a temporary residence. After the visa expires, the holder either reapplies for new authorization or returns to their home country.

Work permits are issued by Australia’s Department of Home Affairs, which matches foreign workers with visas specific to their industry, provided they meet certain eligibility criteria.

Foreign workers can apply for skilled nominated visas, which Australian states or territories grant based on a points system that weighs factors such as age, experience, education, and English proficiency. Employers can also sponsor Australian workers themselves.

Who needs a work visa in Australia?

Foreign nationals who aren’t Australian citizens, and don’t have permanent residency in Australia, need to obtain a work permit.

When you send an offer letter to a new hire in Australia, it should include a clause about the offer being contingent on their eligibility to work in Australia legally.

How long does it take to get a work permit in Australia?

Processing times for getting a visa depend on a worker’s subclass. While it typically takes one to three months to apply for a temporary work visa, applications for skilled work permits may take up to 18 months. Foreign workers who want business owner visas may have to wait two years or more.

The Department of Home Affairs publishes an online list of all visa options, where you can view estimated processing times.

Types of work visas in Australia

Australian work permits are delineated by visa subclasses, and vary according to different skill sets, industries, and work timeframes. Visas for skilled foreign professionals who want to legally work in Australia include:

  • Employer Nomination Scheme (ENS) visa (subclass 186): This visa allows an employer to nominate a skilled worker abroad who, if accepted, can live and work on that employer’s behalf in Australia. To qualify, the applicant needs to complete a skills assessment.
  • Skilled independent visa (subclass 189): Allows invited workers, certain skilled New Zealand workers, and skilled Hong Kong or British National Passport holders to permanently live and work in Australia. Applications resume July 1, 2023.
  • Skilled nominated visa (subclass 190): Employers invite prospective migrants to apply for this work permit, who need to take a skills assessment to qualify. If accepted, the visa holder can work or study anywhere in Australia and sponsor some relatives to become permanent residents.
  • Skilled regional visa (subclass 887): Allows those who have previously lived and worked in a specified region of Australia to continue working in that region.
  • Regional Sponsor Migration Scheme (subclass 187): A work visa where employers nominate employees to permanently live and work in a certain Australian region.
  • Temporary Skill Shortage visa (subclass 482): Allows businesses to address labor shortages by sponsoring foreigners to temporarily work in Australia for one to four years. This replaced a separate temporary work visa (subclass 457) in 2018.
  • Business Innovation and Investment visa (subclass 888): This permanent visa is for Australian business owners, investors, and entrepreneurs who had a separate work permit that expired and would like to continue working in the country.
  • Working Holiday visa (subclass 417): Geared towards young adults who want to travel throughout Australia while intermittently working, these visa holders can legally stay in Australia for up to three years.
  • Temporary Work (Short Stay Specialist) visa (subclass 400): Allows a foreigner to perform short-term, specialized labor that isn’t readily available to an Australian employer.
  • Work and Holiday visa (subclass 462): Geared toward young adults who want an extended holiday and to work Australia to fund it, these visa holders can legally stay in Australia for up to one year.

Application process for Australia work visas

Each Australian work visa has separate eligibility requirements depending on the type of work, length of stay, and prior work authorization. Requirements can include:

Below are the important steps to expect when applying for an Australian work permit:

  • Applicants can go to the Australian Government’s Department of Home Affairs website to select the type of visa they’d like. Before applying for any visas that require skilled work, they should check if the job they’d like is on the department’s skilled occupation list to determine eligibility.
  • If an applicant is vying for a sponsored visa, they need to get nominated by an approved work sponsor. To be an approved sponsor, employers either need a Transaction Reference Number (TRN) or employer ID.
  • Complete and submit an Expression of Interest (EOI) through SkillSelect, the government’s application system for work visas. The applicant then gets an invitation to formally apply for the visa, which must be done within 60 days.
  • The application is assessed (often with a points-based system) based on skills, age, and other criteria.
  • The employer must provide a copy of the positive LMIA (if applicable) along with a detailed job offer letter, which doubles as an employment contract, with information about the role, salary, working location, and other relevant details.
  • The worker applies for the visa. They can start the process online. They'll be required to submit documents including their positive LMIA, job offer, proof of identity, health records, financial records, and biometrics. They may also need to meet with a visa officer.
  • If the worker meets the eligibility requirements for a visa, they'll receive an approval letter. They can present this letter at the port of entry when they arrive in Australia, where they'll receive their work permit.

Not sure what type of visa your employee would need? We offer Australian immigration services backed by top tier immigration advisers, and sponsor work visas in many countries. Inquire for more information.

Frequently asked questions about work permits for employees in Australia

What documents are required to apply for an Australia work permit?

When applying for a Australian work permit, a worker will often need:

  • A valid passport
  • Photo ID
  • National Identity Card
  • Education certificates
  • Financial statements
  • A sponsorship letter from an approved sponsor (for employer sponsored visas)
  • An invitation letter to fill out the visa application
  • A police certificate
  • Evidence of temporary stay in Australia (possibly including an itinerary)

How much does it cost to get an Australian work permit?

The cost of Australian work visas depends on the subclass and age of the applicant. Costs for temporary visas are shown in the table below (all values are in AUD):

Type of visa

Base charge

Extra charge if applicant is under 18

Extra charge if applicant is 18 or older

Temporary work visa

325

80

325

Short term skill shortage visa

1,330

335

1,330

Longer term and labor agreement skill shortage visa

2,770

695

2,770

Skilled visa

4,240

1,060

2,120

Some applicants who already live in Australia must pay a subsequent charge of AUD 700. Employer sponsorship fees are AUD 420 and nomination fees are AUD 330.

Are family members included in work visa applications in Australia?

While the exact visa requirements vary among visa types, you can typically include family members in Australian visa applications. They need to qualify as a “Member of the Family Unit,” which includes:

  • A spouse
  • A child or step-child younger than 18
  • A child or step-child younger than 23 who is a dependent
  • A child or step-child older than 23 who relies on the visa holder due to a physical or mental disability

How can you check your Australian visa conditions?

The Visa Entitlement Verification Online (VEVO) check is an online tool that gives you all the details of your current work permit, including:

  • Subclass
  • Expiration date
  • The “must not arrive after” date
  • Duration of stay
  • Conditions for staying (including the kind of work you can perform)

How do you renew your Australian work permit?

It depends on the type of work visa you have. Some include a “no further stay” clause, which means you can’t renew barring any extreme circumstances (like a severe illness or natural disaster in your home country). If a visa doesn’t have this condition, the permit-holder can apply for a new visa, provided the old one hasn’t expired yet. The government may issue a Bridging Visa A (BVA) as a stopgap work authorization before renewal.

Hire and set up employees in Australia with Rippling

Whether you’re an Australian employer or based overseas, Rippling can help you hire, onboard, and set up employees in Australia within minutes.

  • Onboard employees and contractors in 90 seconds.
  • Sponsor work visas in Australia with Rippling’s immigration services, backed by top-tier legal advisers.
  • Manage HR, IT, and Finance in one unified system.

See Rippling

Rippling and its affiliates do not provide tax, accounting or legal advice. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for tax, legal, or accounting advice. You should consult your own tax, legal, and accounting advisors before engaging in any related activities or transactions.

last edited: August 24, 2023

The Author

Jackson Knapp

Jackson is a writer from DC, based in Los Angeles. For Rippling, he writes about the global workforce and specializes in hiring trends in Australia, India, the Philippines, and Japan.

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