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Can I Change From Student Visa To Work Visa In Australia If Sponsored?

If you are a student in Australia and plan to stay and work, it is important to understand your immigration options. The immigration routes available to you will depend wholly on your background, current circumstances, and future plans, and as such, there is no one best solution for everyone. If you are currently studying and you plan to complete your course before looking for work, the Australian Government provides specific visa schemes for this purpose.

If, however, you plan to finish your studies mid-way through your course and then start work, your options may be more limited. The reason for this is that the Australian immigration system is designed to ensure that only the most skilled and experienced migrant workers are invited to live and work. In this article, we will explain the options available for students in Australia who plan to work once they fully complete their studies and those who wish to finish early and find work.

Temporary Graduate Visa: Post-Study Work Stream

The most popular and suitable visa for students who have fully completed their course of study (i.e. they have graduated) and wish to stay in Australia to find work is the Temporary Graduate Visa (subclass 485). Under subclass 485, there are two streams, one of which is designed for international students who have recently graduated with a degree from an Australian institution; this is the Post-Study Work Stream. This visa will allow you to initially remain in Australia to work for between two and four years (the amount of time depends on the qualification you have achieved), and you can bring your family members to join you.

In order to be eligible for the 485 visa, applicants need to be under 50 years, hold a current student visa, or have held one in the last six months and now be on a bridging visa or other ‘substantive visa’. Beyond these, you will also need to meet the Australian study requirement, meaning that::

  • you completed a CRICOS-registered course
  • you successfully completed all course requirements
  • your study must have been delivered in English
  • you completed your course as a result of at least two academic years (92 weeks) study
  • you were physically in Australia for at least 16 calendar months to complete the study
  • you held an Australian study visa that allowed you to study

Your degree must be either a bachelor degree, bachelor (honours) degree, masters by coursework degree, masters (extended) degree, masters by research degree, or doctoral degree. If you are not from the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Canada, New Zealand or the Republic of Ireland, you will need to demonstrate your English language proficiency by passing a formal test to the required level. And finally, you will need to meet the general requirements for health, character, and have suitable healthcare insurance.

Temporary Work Visas

If you are not eligible under the graduate immigration scheme/s in Australia, then you may be able to apply for a temporary work visa. The challenge when applying for temporary work visas is that they are designed for migrants with sufficient skills. As such, it may be the case that if you were studying to enter a new occupation, but you have skills and experience from a previous occupation, these may be suitable. Two visas to consider are the Temporary Skill Shortage Visa (subclass 482) and the Skilled Employer-Sponsored Regional (Provisional) visa (subclass 494).

Temporary Skill Shortage Visa (subclass 482)

It is possible to apply for a 482 visa while you are physically in Australia, as long as you hold a current substantive visa (e.g. your study visa) or a bridging visa (A, B, or C). If granted, you will be able to work in Australia for up to two years (this may be longer in limited circumstances), and your family members will be able to join you.

To be eligible for a 482 visa, you must:

  • be nominated to work in an occupation on the list of eligible short-term skilled occupations (by your employer)
  • have at least two years relevant work experience in your nominated occupation or a related field
  • have a relevant skills assessment if this is required for your occupation
  • work only for your sponsor or associated entity, unless you are exempt
  • meet minimum standards of English language proficiency unless you are exempt from needing to show this

The two main hurdles to being granted this visa are that you find suitable employment and that you have the skills and experience to fulfil a role on the skilled occupation list. To satisfy this latter requirement, you will need to have a skills assessment by an approved skills assessor.

Skilled Employer-Sponsored Regional (Provisional) Visa (subclass 494)

There are three separate streams under this visa category, however, if you already have an employer, it is most likely you would use the ‘Employer Sponsored Stream’. The 494 visa is designed to enable regional employers to fill labour shortages in their immediate region by sponsoring skilled workers where employers can't source an appropriately skilled Australian worker. To be considered for the 494 visa, you must:

  • be nominated to work in an occupation on the relevant skilled occupation list
  • have at least three years relevant work experience in your nominated occupation
  • have a relevant skills assessment, unless an exemption applies
  • work only for your sponsor or associated entity, unless an exemption applies
  • be under 45 years of age, unless an exemption applies
  • meet minimum standards of English language proficiency

Wrapping Up

There are a number of visa options available for students currently in Australia, but the best route to choose will depend on a range of factors. If you are leaving your studies early, and you have prior skills on which you can rely, you may be able to acquire work through a temporary skilled worker route. If you are completing your studies before looking for work, the graduate visa may be suitable for your needs. Either way, it is always advisable to speak to an immigration lawyer who will be able to lay out the various visa options available to you based on your own unique background, situation, and future plans. We wish you the best of luck with furthering your career ‘Down Under’.

Related article:

How to change from student visa to work visa in Australia


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