Skilled visa options for Australia

Australia’s skilled migration program aims to meet the needs of the Australian labour market and strengthen our economy. Skilled workers in occupations in demand can help fill job vacancies which cannot be filled by an Australian resident worker. This video provides a brief overview of Australia’s skilled migration program.

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For more information, visit the department’s website.

Review of the permanent Employer Sponsored visa categories

Today, the department released a discussion paper which provides the starting point for public consultation on the review of the permanent Employer Sponsored visa categories. 

The permanent employer sponsored visas, which include the Employer Nomination Scheme, Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme and Labour Agreements, have become increasingly popular with visa applicants and Australian employers. 

This trend is reflected in the changing composition of the skilled migration program.  Specifically, how the proportion of employer sponsored places now exceeds the proportion of general skilled migration (GSM) places.  In 2010-11 38 per cent of the skilled migration program was employer sponsored and 31 per cent GSM.  Contrast this with 2007-08 where only 19 per cent of the skilled migration program was employer sponsored and more than half was GSM.

 The growth of the permanent employer sponsored categories can be attributed to the shift toward an actively managed demand driven migration program, the popularity of the subclass 457 temporary visa program and the department’s promotion of these programs through the outreach network and Skills Expos. It is also expected that this trend will continue in to the future.

A demand driven skilled migration program recognises that employers are best positioned to identify the skills that they need to maintain, grow and expand their businesses, and should support them in their efforts.  That is, it should offer them the ability to source foreign skilled workers to address their skills needs where they have been unable locate suitable workers from the Australian labour market.

In this context it is vitally important that these visa programs remain responsive to the needs of employers.  This will ensure that the best outcomes are delivered for the Australian economy.  That’s why this review is so timely, especially given that the last comprehensive review was back in 2004!

In Budget 2011-12 the government announced that the permanent employer sponsored programs would be reformed to fast-track the transition to permanent residence for subclass 457 visa holders who have worked inAustralia for several years.

Providing a fast-tracked pathway for these temporary skilled visa holders makes good sense.  In 2010-11 83 per cent of ENS and 59 per cent of RSMS visa approvals were to people who held a subclass 457 when they lodged their application for permanent residence.

The fact that their nominating employer wants to continue to employ them, and will sponsor them for permanent residence, shows that there is a good fit between the visa applicant and the business.  It also demonstrates that there continues to be a need for their skills and that they possess the appropriate skills to perform the work. 

The discussion paper canvasses this topic, as well as a number of other key issues which will be considered as part of the review.  Interested members of the public are encouraged to put forward any views and ideas that will help to improve the permanent employer sponsored programs by Friday 16 September 2011.

The discussion paper can be accessed from the departments website here:

Skills Australia Needs information evenings

Recognising the contribution that skilled migration makes to meeting critical skills shortages in Australia, the Department works with state governments and employers to promote skilled migration through events like Skills Australia Needs.

The event
The most recent Skills Australia Needs event was held in London in June 2011. The objective of the event was to bring together workers in areas of critical skills shortage with Australian state and territory governments and employers to facilitate employer sponsored migration.

The event was highly targeted towards critical skill shortages in Australia in the fields of healthcare, engineering and selected trades. Skilled workers were selected and invited to attend based on work experience and qualifications sought by Australian employers and state and territory governments. Australian employers attended the event and had the opportunity to talk directly with pre-screened skilled workers about job vacancies in their organisation where skilled Australian workers were not available to fill the positions.

An example of a skilled migrant bringing their skills to Australia after attending a Skills Australia Needs event is posted below on 27 June and shows the positive and real outcomes that come from events like these.

Why the UK?
In 2009–10, the United Kingdom was the largest overall source country for skilled migrants, accounting for almost 20 per cent of Australia’s skilled migration program.  It was the:
• largest source country for construction tradespersons and nursing professionals
• second largest source country for automotive tradespersons, electrical tradespersons and medical practitioners
• third largest source country for science, building and engineering professionals.

State Migration Open Days
The event coincided with the State Government Migration Open Days held in Birmingham on 4 June and Bristol on 11 June 2011, jointly hosted by the ACT, NSW, SA, VIC, and WA governments. The deliberate ‘bundling’ of DIAC and state government events provided the opportunity for employers to access a larger pool of skilled workers across the United Kingdom, therefore maximising the value of their visit.

What was the result?
Feedback from employers, state and territory governments and skilled workers indicates that the London information evenings have been a success, with a considerable number of jobs and state sponsorships being offered as a result.  Indeed, employers remain overwhelmingly supportive of future DIAC-led events, indicating that over 100 initial job offers were made during the event.

For Australian employers (particularly within the fields of engineering, health and trades industries) who are interested in attending future DIAC-hosted events, please contact your local Outreach Officer.

How the 457 program creates employment in the Australian labour market

One concern that we hear from time to time is that the 457 program is being used to take jobs from Australians. We understand why people are concerned about this – of course Australian businesses should be hiring and training Australians first.

The 457 program is designed to ensure businesses hire locally first. Not only do we believe the program is meeting this goal, but in the process, overseas workers are stimulating growth in areas with labour shortages, leading to more employment opportunities elsewhere in the economy.

Below is a graph that shows the rate of lodgements for 457 visas compared with the ANZ job advertisement index.


The x-axis is a simple time line from January 2003 to the current period. The y-axis shows the change of both job advertisements and visa applications since January 2003. This index tells us that in January 2006, there were about double the amount of applicants and advertisements than in January 2003.

What are the important messages we can take from this? The data clearly shows that despite some small variations along the way, as job vacancies in Australia grow, and there are not enough skilled Australian workers to fill the positions, businesses will look to overseas workers to fill the vacancies. Importantly, the opposite is also demonstrated. As job growth slows, the use of overseas workers also slows.

An interesting sidenote is the ‘spike’ in visa applications which does not correlate to the job advertisements. This happened due to the introduction of an English language requirement for the 457 program. Despite this blip, business as usual established itself over the longer-term.

Another graph, showing the correlation between the unemployment rate and visa applications of 457 workers, also shows how the program acts to employ Australians before overseas workers.

This graph is a little bit more complicated but tells the same story. The x-axis is still showing the time period from January 2003 to the current period. However the y-axis now shows two indexes. The left side is again a base rate of visa applications but the right side shows an inversed unemployment rate.

When unemployment is low (and fewer Australians are available in the labour market) businesses start to look overseas to fill vacancies. That is, businesses employ overseas workers when they struggle to find Australians to perform the work.

So why do businesses employ Australians before overseas workers? Simple – cost. It is cheaper to employ local labour. There are no overseas recruitment costs, no immigration fees and no obligation to provide travel costs to overseas workers.  Plus the additional time spent on HR matters can be significant.

The 457 program helps to address labour shortages, ensuring they do not constrain business activity and jeopardise Australian jobs. Rather than taking jobs from Australians, the program is an important cog in economic growth and the creation of jobs for Australians.