The thought of moving abroad could sound exciting and fun. But before we get to that part, let’s first learn about the Australian visa types and their application processes which are often one of the most important steps in the initial stage of relocating. Understanding these can also help to prepare you for the big move as you will know which type of visa is best suited for you and how you can go about applying it.

In Australia, the visa application process is handled and operated by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP). It is necessary to obtain official permission in the form of a visa before you visit or move to Australia – whether it is for just a few months, years or permanently. Anybody travelling to Australia without valid documentation may be denied entry or detained until their documentation and identity are confirmed. You can avoid these inconveniences by ensuring that your travel documents and visa are in order even before entering the country – and here is how you can do it.

Australian visa categories

Australian visa types
Photo credit: Paul Herbert

1. Visitor visas

You can apply for a business visitor visa if work is your primary purpose for visiting Australia. The types of work-related businesses can include negotiating, investigating, reviewing or signing contracts, conducting or attending meetings, conferences, and seminars, site inspection and exploratory visits.

Business travelers from ETA eligible countries can obtain an Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) which is valid for 12 months. With this, you can stay for up to a period of 3 months each time you visit Australia. To obtain this visa, you will need to have an eligible passport and apply from outside Australia. Remember to also check if you meet the requirements before applying as there is an online application service charge of $20.

Business travelers from EVV eligible countries can obtain an E Visitor Visa (EVV) which is valid for 12 months from the date your EVV is granted. With this, you can also stay for up to a period of 3 months each time you visit Australia. To obtain this visa, you will need to hold a passport from a particular country and apply from outside Australia.

For business travelers who are neither from the ETA or EVV eligible countries, you will need to apply for a Visitor Visa (subclass 600) which grants you a stay in Australia for up to 3, 6 or 12 months. The cost of applying for this visa starts from $370.

Even if you are just transiting through Australia, you will probably need a transit visa. This visa allows you to be in Australia for up to 72 hours before you will need to leave the country. But not everyone is required to have one. So, do check whether you need to apply for this visa before planning your trip because you wouldn’t want to have any delays or problems arising amid your traveling!

2. Training and studying visas

Student visa

Student visas are offered to international students who wish to study in the country. This visa allows you to stay up to 5 years and in line with your enrolment. To apply for a student visa, you must already be enrolled in a course of study in Australia and follow other requirements as stated. Some of the relevant documents necessary for a student visa application include a valid passport, visa application form, civil records, parental consent and health insurance. Cost for applying starts from $630 unless you have exemptions and processing time varies from 82 days to 8 months.

Training visa

A training visa is a temporary visa offered to individuals attending a work-related training course focused on improving their skills in their current field of study or occupation. This visa allows you to stay in Australia for up to 2 years and cost starts from $315 for the main applicant. Do check if you have met the strict requirements and prepare all necessary documents before applying for this visa.

Student guardian visa

A student guardian visa is a temporary visa offered to the student’s parent, custodian or relative aged 21 years or older who will provide care and support to the child. The length of your visa will be determined by the student visa holder’s stay and their age. Cost for applying this visa starts from $630 and processing time takes about 6 to 8 months. Do check if you meet all criteria and conditions before applying.

3. Family and partner visas

There are many kinds of visas within this category alone and they are all family and partner related. Several types of these visas include:

Sponsored Parent visa

A sponsored parent visa is a temporary visa that allows a parent of an Australian citizen, Australian permanent resident or eligible New Zealand citizen to enter Australia for up to 3 or 5 years. However, parents on this visa are not allowed to work in Australia. Cost varies depending on the duration of stay and processing time is between 5 to 9 months.

Aged Parent visa

The aged parent visa allows one of a settle Australian citizen, Australian permanent resident or eligible New Zealand citizen to stay in Australia permanently. If eligible, the parent can also apply for Australian citizenship using this visa. Cost for applying the visa starts from $6,490. Do ensure you meet all the criteria stated before applying.

Partner visa

There are two kinds of partner visa – one that is applied from overseas, and the other that is applied in Australia. Both visas allow the partner or spouse of an Australian citizen, Australian permanent resident or eligible New Zealand citizen to live in Australia provided they meet the basic criteria. It is also recommended to apply both the temporary and the permanent partner visa together.

Child visa

Child visas are given to children who have a legal guardian or parent in Australia and plans to join them. There are two types of child visa: The first one allows a child outside of Australia move to Australia to live with their parents and the second one allows a child to stay in Australia permanently and live with their parents. Both child visas are quite similar in terms of the benefits and cost for applying, but the duration of processing time varies, and the eligibility criteria differs slightly.

Adoption visa

An adoption visa is a permanent visa that allows children adopted outside of Australia to migrate to Australia as a permanent resident to live with their adoptive parent. With this visa, the child can study and access Medicare in Australia, as well as apply for Australian citizenship if eligible. However, the criteria is rather strict so make sure you read and check through that you are qualified for this visa before applying.

Prospective Marriage visa

The prospective marriage visa is a temporary visa (between 9 and 15 months from the date the visa is granted) that permits you to enter Australia with the primary purpose of getting married. To obtain this visa, you must be sponsored, be 18 years or older, be outside of Australia when applying and meet the accepted character and health requirements.

4. Working and skilled visas

Like the family and partner visas, there are also many kinds of visas within the working and skilled visa category, and they are all business and work related. Several types of these visas include:

Global Talent Visa

The global talent visa is a permanent visa for those who have an internationally recognized record of exceptional and outstanding achievement in an eligible field. This visa allows you to work, study and access Medicare in Australia, apply for Australian citizenship if eligible and even sponsor your relatives to come to Australia. Do check if you are eligible before applying as there are several criteria to meet.

Skilled Independent Visa

A skilled independent visa permits you to live in Australia indefinitely, and you must be invited to apply for the visa. However, you must meet the score points criteria to be eligible for this visa. Do also check through the types of documents required before applying.

5. Humanitarian and refugee visas

The government of Australia offers humanitarian resettlement under the special humanitarian and refugee program. The special humanitarian program is for individuals with family links in Australia who have been subject to gross violation of human rights and substantial discrimination in their home country. Types of visas found under this category include:

Refugee visa

The refugee visa is founded to protect individuals from the fear of prosecution should they decide to return or visit their home country. With this visa, you can stay, work and study in Australia permanently, and even propose family members for permanent residence. However, you have to meet all of the following stated requirements to apply for this visa. Though applying for this visa is free, the decision process could take many months, or even years.

Global special humanitarian visa

A global special humanitarian visa protects persons with family links in Australia from substantial discrimination and violation of human rights in their home country. You will be eligible for the visa if an organization or person in Australia has recommended you. With this visa, you can stay, work and study in Australia permanently, and even propose certain family members for permanent residence. However, you have to meet all of the following stated requirements to apply for this visa. Applying for this visa is usually free and the decision process could take many months, or even years. 

6. Other visas

Medical treatment visa

A medical treatment visa is a temporary visa that allows you to travel to or remain longer in Australia for medical treatment purposes or to support someone needing medical treatment who holds or has applied for this visa. It is also for those people who are donating an organ. This visa grants single entry or multiple entries to Australia depending on your situation, and you will also be allowed to study for up to 3 months (or longer if you meet the exemption criteria). As usual, check if you have met the criteria before applying for the visa.

Special category visa

The special category visa is a temporary visa that enables you to visit, stay, study and work in Australia. This visa is made available for New Zealand citizens that meet the eligibility criteria. It’s typically applied each time you enter or visit Australia. Cost for applying is free but processing time may vary depending on where you apply. This visa also requires you to remain a New Zealand citizen and continue to meet the character requirements.

7. Repealed visas

Information provided for this category are only for those who have already been granted the specific visa applied for, and it explains your rights and obligations.

Retirement visa

This visa is no longer available to new applicants other than partners of existing Retirement visa holders, former Retirement visa holders who have not held another substantive visa since last entering Australia. This retirement visa is made available for retirees and their partners who want to spend their retirement years in Australia. This is a temporary visa that allows you and your partner to visit, study, work or leave Australia at any time. However, this visa does not lead to permanent residence in Australia or to Australian citizenship and you’ll need to comply with all visa conditions and Australian laws.

Labour agreement visa

The labour agreement visa is a permanent resident visa that allows you and your family members who have been granted access to the visa to stay, study, work and access Medicare and healthcare schemes in Australia indefinitely. Similarly, you are expected to comply with all obligations as stated.

This visa is also no longer available for new applicants.

For a list of other visas that are not stated on the above, click here.

How to obtain an Australian visa

Australian visa application
Photo credit:123RF

It’s vital to ensure that you understand and know which type of Australian visa is right for you. There are different types of visas available, depending on the purpose of your visit. This also means that different visa types have different specific procedures for obtaining them.

Working in Australia

Step 1: Decide whether you want a permanent or temporary visa

A permanent working visa in Australia has no time limitation whereas a temporary working visa can be obtained and used for several years before they expire.

Step 2: Review the skilled occupations list

If you are applying for a certain kind of work visa, you must select an occupation that best describes the type of job you do from a list of Australia’s skilled occupations. These include engineering, construction, medical specialists, physicians, lawyers and architects.

Step 3: Send in an expression of interest

Australia has an online service website or platform where skilled workers can input details of their work skills and indicate their expression of interest in moving to Australia for work purposes. When you demonstrate your expression of interest and send in your application, the Australian government might find your information details and recommend you for a visa. If you meet the eligibility requirements, the state government of Australia may take the next step of inviting you to complete the visa application.

Step 4: Finish off a skills assessment

During the visa application process, some of the skilled occupations need a skills assessment. If the work you applied for requires such an assessment, you will be charged a fee for finishing the relevant tests. The Australian state uses a system that offers the standards for evaluating your skills for a particular skill occupation.

Step 5: Duration and costs

Most work visas in Australia are processed within one or two years. However, it is important to understand that the duration or processing time may vary due to the many factors that may affect the length of processing or review period. The costs for the Australian work visa ranges from $315 to $4,115. Some specific subclass or subcategories do not require a visa fee based on the specific subclass you are applying for.

Studying in Australia

Step 1: Validate your eligibility for a student visa

Several student visas are available if you wish to participate in research, training, or attend a school in Australia. Depending on your study, you might be eligible for a postgraduate research or higher education sector visa in one of the Australian universities. You can also obtain your visa to attend vocational training and work in certain types of on-job training and research.

Step 2: Finish off the correct application

After deciding and determining the type of visa you require, download and complete the details needed in the application. You can get the correct application form by going to the visa finder page on Australia’s DIBP website. You will need to create an account on the DIBP website which will help you keep track of your visa application status.

Step 3: Find out whether you are eligible for streamlined processing

You might be eligible for streamlined processing if you qualify for enrollment in a degree program that includes a master’s or bachelor’s degree. Streamlined processing has fewer evidentiary requirements that are usually found on a student visa.

Step 4: Send in your application to the DIBP site

Once you have filled in the required documentation and completed your application form, move forward in submitting your application along with the required fees for processing your application.

Step 5: Duration and costs

The processing duration for a student visa in Australia after applying takes a period of between four to eleven weeks, depending on the student sub-category visa you applied for. The cost or base fee for a student and training visa is $630 to $315, respectively. The student visa fees vary depending on which sub-category you are applying for.

Now that we have gone through quite a fair bit of the Australian visa types and the application process, it suddenly doesn’t seem so daunting after all, right? Just remember the rule of thumb: Read and check all eligibility criteria properly before choosing the most suitable visa to cater to your needs and if you’re unsure, there is an online digital assistant where you can ask questions and clarify any doubts before applying for a visa. With this, you’re good to go!  

*Travel restrictions to Australia are currently in place due to Covid-19. You should not apply for any visa until checking the latest information. If you are an immediate family member of either an Australian citizen or permanent resident, you may be eligible to apply for a Visitor Visa (Subclass 600).

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