186 visa: your ticket to permanent residency in Australia
Consider yourself lucky if you possess the skills that are in high demand in Australia today.
Well, not only you but your family members and relatives as well – for the dream of millions of foreign nationals to obtain permanent residence (and ultimately Australian citizenship) in the land of happiness and opportunities is like being served to you on a silver platter.
You may wonder why. Well, the Commonwealth government has reserved a visa just for skilled people like you. It is a known fact that the country is in constant need of skilled workers to satisfy the growing demand of companies for them. The local labor market just could not keep up with the economy’s appetite for a skilled workforce. Hence, businesses are turning their attention abroad to lure future employees. For most of these companies, it’s the only option left to keep their operations running or to support future expansions.
And if you happen to be the person they are in need of, expect a job offer, in the form of a nomination, from them. A work visa is waiting for you then. It is called an Employer Nomination Scheme visa, or visa 186, or simply ENS.
What is 186 visa?
186 visa also called ENS visa (Employer Nomination Scheme) is a work visa intended for skilled workers like you who are willing to work in Australia. It is also being used by employers to source out talent from abroad for their businesses.
186 visa process comprises two steps:
- The first step involves the nomination of a worker by an Australian employer for an eligible occupation, and
- the second step consists of your visa application under any of the three streams.
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Three application streams
Yes, there’s not one but three ways by which you can obtain a 186 visa. Here they are:
Temporary Residence Transition (TRT) 186 visa stream
You can avail of TRT stream if your employer supports you for a permanent residence here, and on the condition that you are a holder of any of the Temporary Skills Shortage (TSS) visa or subclass 482, Temporary Work Skilled visa or subclass 457 visa or a related bridging visa. It is required further that you have served your employer here full-time using your TSS or subclass 457 visa for a required number of years in the same occupation for which you are nominated before the making of the nomination. (We wrote earlier about converting 457 to PR.)
If, however, you do not qualify for the TRT stream, you need not fret. There’s another stream that you can apply for. This is the Direct Entry stream.
Direct Entry 186 visa stream
Even if you have not worked in Australia for your employer for the required length of time as a qualification for TRT stream, you can still avail of an ENS visa through Direct Entry stream. Here, your employer needs to nominate you for this stream despite the lack of length of service requirement. This usually happens when the skill you possess is at a higher level and the demand for it is equally high.
Labor Agreement 186 visa stream
You can be a beneficiary of this stream when your employer opts to sponsor you for a permanent residence in the country and has entered into an agreement with the government through the Department of Home Affairs (DHA).
This type of arrangement between the government and the businesses allows the latter to nominate skilled workers from abroad provided that there is a real need for workers that the local labor market can’t provide.
What’s in it for you and your family members?
Visa 186 is one of the most enticing visas for skilled foreign nationals on the strength of its provision to grant permanent residency not only to you but to your family members as well. After all, acquiring permanent residence in no less than the prosperous country of Australia has been considered by many non-citizens as the holy grail of immigration.
What does it mean to be a permanent resident of Australia then?
- If you and your family become permanent residents here, you can work and live here permanently.
- You no longer need to worry about your health-related concerns and expenses because you will be covered by Medicare, Australia’s national health care system that’s the envy in many places in the world.
- You can choose to study in any university of your choice.
- Travel-wise, you can go out and come in anytime you want for five years from the date your application is approved. After 5 years you’ll have to renew your permanent resident visa if you want to travel overseas.
- You and your family will not remain lonely here because you can sponsor your relatives for permanent residence also.
- Best of all, you’ll have a shot at an Australian citizenship, the ultimate goal, if you are qualified.
How do you qualify for 186 visa?
Since acquiring an ENS visa is a two-step process, the requirements are likewise two-tiered: There’s one set of general requirements for the applicant, and there’s another set for the sponsor.
After spelling out the general requirements for both applicant and sponsor, the DHA proceeded to enumerate more requirements depending on the application stream you are qualified for. There’s a list of requirements specific only for TRT stream, there’s also another list for Direct Entry stream and so is for Labor Agreement stream.
General requirements for primary 186 visa applicants
Let’s start with the general requirements for the visa 186 applicants. These apply to any of the ENS streams:
- First and most important, you must be nominated by an eligible Australian employer within a period of six months before you file your application. Without the sponsor’s nomination, don’t hope for an ENS visa. That’s how vital this requirement is.
- Needless to say, you must possess the needed skills, qualifications and work experience for the occupation that you are nominated. Related to this, you need to have the required registration, license or professional membership for such occupation if mandatory in Australia. For instance, if you are nominated for a job in the health sector, you must be registered or is qualified for registration with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency. If you are an engineer, you must be registered with the corresponding agency overseeing the engineers, and so on.
- As to the age, you must not be over 44 years old at the time of lodgement. You can, however, turn older than 45 after the submission of the application (there are some exemptions. Book a consultation if you’d like to discuss your situation)
- Unless you are exempted, you need to possess the required English proficiency. The standards here vary depending on the stream you apply for or on the job that you are going to undertake here.
- You must pledge to work in the job for which you are nominated no less than two years from the date the permanent residency is granted. In the same way, your employer must commit to ensuring that the nominated occupation is available to you for a period of at least two years after a visa is granted.
- You must comply with the usual health and character requirements. This also applies to all your family members whether or not they will travel with you to Australia. If anyone in the family fails the health and character tests, your visa application and the applications of all family members might be refused. A health waiver might be available for TRT stream only.
- Pass the specific requirements of the stream you apply for, which we are going to discuss in detail below.
General requirements for 186 visa sponsors
For your employer, they need to comply with the following general requirements:
- Your employer must see to it that the salary offered to you follows the market rate in the country. This means your salary should be equal to the salary offered to an Australian citizen performing the same job in the same location.
- Your employer must observe the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT) when making a salary offer to you. If they offer you a rate that’s not at least equal to the TSMIT, your nominated occupation cannot be sponsored. TSMIT right now (October 2018) is pegged at about 53,900 AUD per annum.
- While you are required to work in the nominated role for at least two years from the date your permanent residency is granted, your employer will also commit to making sure the nominated job will remain available to you at about the same span of time so as to provide you with employment in the nominated occupation. The DHA will assess the capacity of the business to survive at least that long.
- Your sponsoring employer does not have any unfavorable record when it comes to sponsoring employees.
- They maintain a good record as to their compliance with Australian migration laws, labor laws, and other pertinent laws in general.
- They meet the specific requirements of the stream you are nominated for.
Specific requirements for the primary applicants of 186 visa TRT stream
If you opt to apply under the Temporary Residence Transition stream, you are required to work full-time for at least three years of the last four years with your nominating employer in the same occupation that you were nominated for using either visa 457 or visa 482 (TSS).
You can include the time while you were on a bridging visa in the computation if it happened that you applied for a 457 visa or a TSS visa and you were already a holder of either of the two.
Specific requirements for the primary applicants of 186 visa Direct Entry stream
The Direct Entry stream of ENS visa requires that you demonstrated three years of full-time work experience related to your nominated occupation. You can only include work experience that takes place after you have completed your studies, training or apprenticeship relevant to the job. Part-time jobs can be counted in such a way that 12 months of casual work can be counted as six months full-time job.
Apart from the required work experience, Direct Entry stream also needs skills assessment on the nominated occupation. You can get this requirement from the skill assessment body governing your line of work.
If you are a citizen of New Zealand holding visa subclass 444 or a relative of a citizen of that country (with visa subclass 461), you are lucky. You need not undergo the skill assessment provided you have worked in the recognized occupation with the same employer for not less than two years of the last three years.
Furthermore, you need not obtain skill assessment if your sponsor happens to be a university in Australia or a scientific agency of the government and you are working as a researcher, scientist or other related occupation.
Specific requirements for the nominating sponsors of 186 visa TRT stream
On the side of the employer, they must abide by the following:
- Per guideline of the DHA, your employer cannot just nominate any occupation. The job for which you will be sponsored should be part of the Medium and Long-Term Strategic Skills List or MLTSSL.
- The immigration department also will verify if a 457 visa or TSS visa holder is doing the eligible job he or she is nominated for. There should be no adverse findings in this regard.
- Your employer should also uphold what the DHA calls as equivalent terms and conditions of employment. This means that the terms and conditions of your employment (such as your salary) should be on equal footing with those enjoyed by an Australian citizen or permanent resident doing the same job in the same area. This can be verified through company documents.
What if your employer does not have an Australian citizen or permanent resident employee doing the role that you are nominated for?
Well, your employer can refer to the current Australian market rate for your nominated occupation and show that your salary, benefits and other employment conditions are at least at par with the country’s salary market based on the occupation and business location.
- The immigration department also requires that your sponsoring employer can prove that the need for the nominated occupation is genuine. In verifying this requisite, the department may look into the following:
- Any verified increase in business activities
- Any confirmed plans for future business expansion
- The possible adverse results to the business if the nomination is denied
- Extra time being undertaken by the current number of employees to finish their job
- The said position continues to be needed in the regular business activity of the company
- The position has been previously occupied but now becomes vacant due to employee resignation or being occupied by a temporary resident
- The position is vital in maintaining or improving the volume and quality of output
All of the above should be supported with documents. To cite an example, if your employer nominates you to be a chef of a restaurant, they should prove that the restaurant exists and it needs your skills.
Your employer could show the following proofs:
- The list and photos of food and drinks on offer in the establishment
- Photos of the place with customers dining, photos of the kitchen area complete with utensils and materials for cooking, including the chef and other personnel busy preparing the orders, and other pertinent areas of the business.
- Photos of meat, fish, vegetables, fruits, and ingredients for use on the menu
- Copies of business permits, licenses, invoices and receipts all under the name of the company
- Advertising and marketing campaigns
- Social media posts and online reviews about the company
This is just to show that the immigration department does not leave any stone unturned to establish the legitimacy of the company and the genuine need for the nominated role.
Specific requirements for the nominating sponsors of 186 visa Direct Entry stream
When it comes to the Direct Entry stream, your employer should nominate you for an occupation that’s listed in the Medium and Long-Term Strategic Skills List (MLTSSL). They cannot just nominate you for any job.
Just like in the TRT stream, the employer who’s nominating you for the Direct Entry stream also needs to prove the genuine need of the business for the nominated occupation. The Department will assess various areas of your employer’s business such as its finances, operations and systems, staffing, documentation, and future plans just to ascertain that your presence in the company is indeed necessary.
186 visa application process
You may now ask: How can I apply for visa 186?
Here is the step by step process:
- Check if you are eligible for any of the three ENS streams. Find out first if you can pass the general requirements of a visa 186. If you can, proceed to check the requirements specific to the stream that you can qualify.
- Ask your employer to submit their nomination. Obviously, you cannot apply for an ENS visa without the nomination from your employer. They should do it with the DHA. You don’t have to wait until the nomination is approved, visa application can be lodged any time after the nomination is lodged but no later than six months from the date the nomination has been approved. This becomes handy if your current visa is about to expire. Keep in mind – if nomination will be refused your visa will not be approved either. You can lodge AAT review – but that’s a different story. Give us a call if you’ve been impacted by nomination or visa refusal, and do it quickly – you have just a few weeks to appeal, otherwise, you’ll lose your rights to appeal.
- Gather and prepare the required documents. Claims that you make in the application must be accompanied with documents to prove the validity of such.
- File your application online. Application for the Employer Nomination Scheme visa is done through the DHA website. One of the reasons your employer should file their nomination first before you start your application is that you need the transaction reference number (TRN) of your employer’s nomination in your own online 186 visa application. The TRN will be issued to them once they start with the nomination process. You need not wait for the decision of the immigration department on your employer’s nomination before you lodge your application. Once they start the ball rolling and receive the TRN, you can also make your online application.
- Wait for the decision of the DHA on your application. In this aspect, you need to have patience. It may take some time before the decision is handed down. If you get a favorable decision, you can already start working or continue working on the eligible occupation you are sponsored for. If a decision is unfavorable – call us and we may help you get things sorted in AAT.
186 visa immigration fees
Let’s take a look at some of the items which you or your employer needs to pay for and how much (as of October 2018 – may change in the future):
- Application for ENS nomination = $540.00
- Visa application of the primary applicant = $3,670.00
- Visa application charge for one additional adult 18 years of age and below = $920.00
- Visa application charge for one additional adult 18 years and above = $1,835.00
- Skilling Australians Fund (SAF) levy:
- For companies with an annual turnover of less than $10 million = $3,000 per annum
- For companies with an annual turnover of $10 million or more = $5,000 per annum
- You also need to consider other fees, such as:
- medical examinations,
- skills assessment fees
- migration agent fees
Avoid the hassle on your visa 186 application with Nowak Migration
Because you have reached this point of this article, we assume you have read through the whole application process for visa 186 as well as its requirements. We bet you find the process daunting. We are not surprised: It is really daunting.
But don’t lose heart. Your dependable migration agency is always here for you, whether you are the primary applicant or the nominating employer. Both ways we can help you.
All you need to do is to give us a ring or send us a message. Our contact information can be found anywhere on our website. Just choose the means of communication most convenient to you, and we will be at your beck and call.
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