Main Visa Options For Working Holiday Makers in Australia – Subclass 417 Visas

This article sets out in simple terms the main Australian visas that are available to a working holiday traveller in Australia. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list but a useful summary giving guidance on some key visa options.

Understanding your options The first step is to categorise each visa. Determine whether the visa is an independent visa option, obtainable by the applicant alone? Or does the visa require the sponsorship of an employer, spouse, family member or state body for the visa to be granted?

Then work out whether the visa is a visa to remain in Australia permanently or temporarily.

Once you have categorised the visas in this way you can then look at the rights that attach to each visa to see whether the visa will help you achieve your goals in coming to or remaining in Australia, e.g. does the visa allow me to work, part time or full time, for who, doing what? Can I study? Can I live anywhere etc?

Categorising visas in this way will allow you to work out the best visa option for you depending on your goals and personal circumstances. What options are then available will vary depending on your skills, work experience, qualifications, financial resources and / or whether you are able to gain the support of a sponsor to back you in your application.

Independent Permanent Migration – subclass 175

General skilled Migration – The points test.

A permanent residency (permanent residency) visa is the most beneficial visa to apply for as it allows you to remain permanently in Australia to live, work and study and to gain Australian citizenship.

To be eligible for permanent residence you will need to have formal qualifications and at least 12 months work experience in your trade or profession in the 24 months immediately before your application is lodged. Before you lodge your application you will need to have your qualifications and / or skills positively assessed by a designated assessing body and achieve 120 points to satisfy the points test for this visa.

Points are awarded to an applicant on the basis of, among other things, professional qualifications, work experience, age, English language ability and time working in Australia. Calculating your points accurately and categorising your occupation correctly is the key to successfully applying for this visa. An error in either of these areas often leads to the visa being refused and the applicant, rather than gaining permanent residency, having to leave Australia.

With this visa you can live and work anywhere in Australia and are not tied to a sponsor or employer.

If you seek permanent residency and do not score sufficient points to emigrate independently, then regional sponsored migration may be an option that you explore after your working holiday visa expires.

Sponsored Permanent Migration

General Skilled Migration with Sponsorship – subclass 176 visa and subclass 475 visa

Again, you must have qualifications and work experience to be eligible for permanent sponsored migration on the basis of points. However, you will either need less points, or gain points for being sponsored, to achieve permanent residency through this visa stream.

Being sponsored usually means you have to live and work for 2 years (as a standard rule) in an area related to your sponsor. For example if you are sponsored by a family member, you will have to live in the town or city they live, if you are sponsored by a state government, you will have to live in that state.

Remember parts of regional Australia are some of the most beautiful parts of Australia and offer great lifestyles and opportunities for people that emigrate through this visa stream.

Your immigration lawyer or migration agent should be able to assist in obtaining state sponsorship or you can apply directly to each state usually through their websites.

After you have spent the 2 years working and living in the designated area, you will then be able to gain an unconditional permanent residence visa to move and live anywhere you wish in Australia.

Sponsored Temporary

Sponsored Working Visa – Subclass 457 visa

If permanent residency is not available to you at this stage, then a temporary working visa may allow you to live and work in Australia until another permanent residence option opens up for you.

If you can’t satisfy the points test but have qualifications, work experience and an employer willing to sponsor you, then this may be the most suitable visa for you.

If granted this visa, you will have to work for the sponsoring employer for the period of the visa (usually 4 years) or until the employer ends your employment or withdraws their sponsorship or both. If this occurs, then you will usually be given some time to find new employment and a new sponsor to support you to apply for a new subclass 457 visa. However, without a sponsor you will not be able to remain in Australia on this visa.

There are two distinct stages to this visa application. Firstly, the employer applies for approval as a sponsor and when approved, nominates your for the visa. You then make an application for the visa in the nominated occupation.

To be eligible you must have qualifications and work experience relevant to the occupation in which you have been nominated. You must also satisfy the relevant English language requirement – either by being from an English speaking country or sitting an IELTS exam.

For your employer to be approved as a sponsor they must employ Australian citizens or permanent residents (at least 2 as a general rule), have good financials and be able to prove it and a good training record or commitment to training,

Very new businesses will find it a little more difficult to gain approval to sponsor employees but certainly not impossible with a well drafted and complete application.

There are a number of benefits that flow from being sponsored on a temporary working visa, subclass 457.

After 2 years on this visa and 12 months with an employer, your employer can nominate you directly for permanent residence – subclass 856 visa. Once granted, you have no obligation to remain with the employer and can move on to work anywhere. This is why employers often prefer to keep employees on a subclass 457 visa to retain control of their services, rather than helping them get permanent residence and losing them to another employer offering more money or better conditions.

Also, after working in Australia full time on this visa for at least 12 months, you will be eligible for 10 Australian work experience points, which may give you enough points to apply for permanent residency independently. You may also gain points in other areas due to the passage of time and changes in your circumstances.

Independent Temporary

Student Visas – Rights to Study Full Time and Work Part Time.

If you have no skills or qualifications, or can’t find an employer sponsor, or wish to strive for a new career, student visas are a very good, and may be your only, visa option to consider if you are on a working holiday subclass 417 visa.

Student visas are a good option because international students, after satisfying the ‘2-year Australian study’ requirement, are eligible to apply for permanent residence. They will still have to satisfy the points test but if they do not have enough points, they are able to apply for a temporary 18-month work visa for the goal of gaining further points from Australian work experience, then pass the points test and ultimately apply for permanent residence.

UK, Ireland, Canada and USA passport holders, which are all level 1 countries, can apply for a student visa in Australia while on a working holiday visa whereas most other passport holders will have to leave Australia to apply. Countries are given a level (or grading) according to the perceived risk a prospective student from a particular country has of breaching student visa conditions.

A student visa allows you to study full time and work 20 hours per week during semester, 40 hours per week during holiday periods and term breaks. The key to this visa option is, if your goal is permanent residence, to pick a course of study that when completed allows you to apply for a permanent visa with an occupational qualification that will –

a) Give you enough points in your circumstances to satisfy the relevant points test, and b) Offers strong employment opportunities either in Australia or your home country or both.

Any good Australian immigration lawyer should be able to give you this kind of direction when choosing your course of study.

Spouse Visas – Sponsored Temporary to PermanentMarried, De facto and Same Sex Couples – subclass 820 / 801 visa, subclass 826 / 814

If you have been in a relationship with an Australian citizen, permanent resident or eligible New Zealander, and have lived with them for at least 12 months then you will be eligible to apply for a spouse visa on the basis of your de facto relationship. Same sex couples can also apply for an interdependency visa. The Department of Immigration is very inflexible on this point and if you do not have 12 months living together as de facto partners then you will not be eligible.

If you are married, you can apply on the basis of being married.

If granted the visa, you will initially be given a 2-year temporary visa. After 2 years, if the relationship is still ongoing and your partner still sponsors you, you will be eligible for a permanent residence visa.

The challenge to successfully applying for this visa is being able to prove your relationship is genuine and that you have lived together for at least 12 months immediately before the date of your application. This is best achieved by providing a large bundle of documents as evidence including, phone records, emails, leases, household bills, photos, etc. This can be hard if you have been travelling all over Australia, living in variety of places and arrangements, paying cash for everything with very little by way of a paper trail. Without this paper trail, you stand little chance of success.

In this case, and if you have no other options, you can consider applying for a prospective marriage visa (sublcass 300) or getting married. Remember though, simply being married does not guarantee you that the visa will be granted.

The ultimate problem with spouse visas is if the relationship ends before you gain permanent residency so does your right to hold the visa and remain in Australia on the basis of your de facto or spouse relationship.

Extending your work holiday visa by 12 months – second subclass 417 working holiday visa

Most working holidaymakers are eligible to extend their visa for a further 12-month stay in Australia.

This is achieved by working for 3 months (88 days) in regional Australia (designated post code areas) in a specified occupation or employment. It is now wrong now to use the term ‘seasonal work’ as the list of occupations available to work in to be eligible for extending your visa is now far broader.

The current list of specified work can be found at

The current postcode list can be found at

The great benefit from achieving the 12-month extension, apart from seeing more of Australia, is that it gives you further time to develop other visa options to stay in Australia.

Remember though, if you want to extend, don’t leave it to late. You must find work, allow for periods where you can’t work of can’t find work and you must complete your 3-months and apply for your extension of your working holiday visa before your first subclass 417 visa expires. Otherwise, the opportunity to get the 2nd year on your visa is lost.

Stewart Coulson

Australian Immigration Lawyers and Migration Agents Sydney