readers should be aware that the Migration Regulations change rapidly. Before using the information listed here, it is a good idea to check that the law has not changed by telephoning one of the free immigration law advice bodies listed in “Contacts“.

One of the best sources of information is the website of the Australian Government Department of Home Affairs (previously called the Department of Immigration and Border Protection) at

Skilled migrants

Last updated

30 June 2018

Who are ‘skilled migrants’ under the SkillSelect system?

Applicants for a skilled visa must complete an ‘expression of interest’ indicating which stream they are interested in and whether they are seeking nomination by a state or territory. If the applicant gets a certain score and there is a need for their particular occupation, they will be invited to apply for the visa.

The expression of interest must be accompanied by a skills assessment by the appropriate skills assessing body for the applicant’s occupation (obtained at the applicant’s expense) and other personal information. Only those occupations on the relevant Skilled Occupation List will be considered (see Home Affairs then decides whether it will accept their offer by ‘selecting’ them. 

Whether a SkillSelect offer will be made will depend upon how many applicants for each skilled occupation have already been selected in the migrant program year. If the number in a particular occupation has been reached, no offer will be made. If the number has not been reached and the expression of interest indicates that the proposed applicant would score more than 60 points, an offer may be made. However, if the numbers in the particular occupation category are greater than needed, offers only go to the highest points scored in that round. 

The government hopes, by this system, to avoid long-standing problems it has had with its ‘pipeline’ of skilled visa applicants in particular occupational groups ‘clogging up’ the system, when there are already enough skilled migrants in that occupation.

This increased efficiency is at the expense of the rights of visa applicants, because they will not know, at the time they lodge their expression of interest, whether they will be selected. If they are not selected, they cannot recover the money they have spent on getting a skills assessment, undergoing English testing, etc.

This same SkillSelect selection system also applies to business owners who wish to apply for a visa to start a business in Australia.

Skilled Occupation List

On 19 April 2017, the government abolished the Consolidated Sponsored Occupation List (CSOL). The CSOL had replaced the:

  • State and Territory Nominated Skilled Occupation List (STATSOL); 
  • Employer Nomination Scheme Occupation List (ENSOL);
  • subclass 442 Occupational Trainee List; and 
  • subclass 457 Skilled Occupation List.

Two new lists have been created:

  1. Medium and Long-term Strategic Skills List (MLTSSL);
  2. Short-term Skilled Occupation List (STSOL).

The government has stated that these lists will be adjusted every six months depending on the skill needs of the Australian economy. Applicants for skilled migrant visas should check the latest lists.

These lists are used for both employer-sponsored migration and independent skilled migration.

Those who have an Australian or overseas business that is willing to sponsor them, and their occupation is on one of the lists, can access various periods of stay in Australia. If their occupation is on the STSOL, they can only receive a two-year work visa and cannot apply for permanent residence on the basis of their skills. Those whose occupations are on the MLTSSL can receive a four-year work visa and are eligible to apply for a permanent visa.

An overview of the different types of skilled visas

Skilled migration (189, 190, 489) visa common requirements

To lodge a valid application for this visa you need to first submit an expression of interest through SkillSelect. You can do this within or outside Australia.You must meet the following basic requirements:

  • be invited to apply;
  • be younger than 45 years of age when you are invited to apply;
  • nominate an occupation that matches your skills and qualifications and is on the SOL;
  • have your skills assessed by the relevant assessing authority as suitable for your nominated occupation;
  • have at least competent English;
  • score at least 60 on the points test (sometimes more than 60 points are required if the occupation is oversubscribed; see;
  • meet the health and character requirements.

Skilled independent (subclass 189) visa

This points-based visa is for skilled workers who are not sponsored by an employer, a state or territory, or a family member. A visa holder can live and work permanently anywhere in Australia. Certain family members can be included in the application.

The visa applicant must apply under an occupation on the MLTSSL for this visa. Prior to lodging an expression of interest, a visa applicant should undertake a skill assessment with the relevant regulatory body if an applicant does not hold the relevant Australian qualification.

Skilled – nominated (subclass 190) visa

This visa is for skilled workers who are nominated by a state or territory. A visa holder must intend to live in the state or territory that sponsored them.

The main advantage of state or territory nomi­nation is that it provides the applicant with additional points in the ‘points test’. The relevant occupation list for the subclass 190 visa is the MLTSSL.

However, at the time of writing (30 June 2018), Victoria is prepared to sponsor any holder of a PhD with skills on both the MLTSSL and the STSOL (see

Skilled – nominated or sponsored (provisional) (subclass 489) visa

This visa is for skilled workers who are nominated by a state or territory, or who are sponsored by an eligible relative living in a designated area in Australia. The visa is valid for four years, and the visa holder must live and work in a specified regional area. 

Certain family members can be included in the application. This visa also allows holders of visa subclasses 495, 496, 475 and 487 to stay in Australia for an additional year. The advantage of applying under for the subclass 489 visa is that it provides the applicant with additional points in the ‘points test’. Subclass 489 visas are also given processing priority by Home Affairs. For this visa the relevant occupation list is the MLTSSL.

Employer Nomination Scheme (subclass 186)

This visa is for skilled workers from outside Australia or skilled temporary residents who live and work in Australia. It has three streams:

  1. Temporary residence transition stream: for subclass 457 visa (now called 482 visa) holders who have worked for two years (on 18 April 2017, this was increased to three years) and their employer wants to offer them a permanent position.
  2. Direct entry stream: for people who have never, or only briefly, worked in the Australian labour market.
  3. Agreement stream: for people sponsored by an employer through a labour or regional migration agreement.

Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (subclass 187)

This visa is for skilled workers from outside Australia or skilled temporary residents who live and work in regional Australia. It has three streams; these are identical to the three streams listed above under ‘Employer Nomination Scheme’.

Business talent (permanent) (subclass 132) visa

This visa has two streams.

Significant business history stream

You, your partner, or you and your partner combined must have all of the following:

  • total net assets of at least AUD$400 000 as the ownership interest in one or more qualifying businesses for least two of the four fiscal years immediately before you are invited to apply and if the qualifying business(es) was a publicly listed company, a shareholding of at least 10 per cent of the total issued capital;
  • net business and personal assets of at least AUD$1.5 million that are legally acquired and can be transferred to Australia within two years after the visa is granted;
  • a total annual turnover of at least AUD$3 million in one or more of your main businesses in at least two of the four fiscal years immediately before you are invited to apply;
  • ownership of at least:
    • 51 per cent of a business with turnover of less than AUD$400 000 per year
    • 30 per cent of a business with turnover of more than AUD$400 000 per year, or
    • 10 per cent of a publicly listed company;
  • an overall successful business career;
  • no involvement in unacceptable business activities; and
  • a genuine desire to own and maintain a management role in a business in Australia.

You must also be younger than 55 years of age, although a state or territory can waive this requirement if your proposed business will be of exceptional economic benefit to the region where it will operate.

Venture capital entrepreneur stream

You must have received at least AUD$1 million in funding from an Australian venture capital firm.

The funding must be for the start-up, product commercialisation or business development of a promising high-value business idea.

The venture capital firm must be a member of the Australian Private Equity and Venture Capital Association Limited (AVCAL). AVCAL has information about the venture capital category of membership in its venture capital entrepreneur visa factsheet. You must have entered into a formal (contractual) agreement with the venture capital firm for the funding.

Business innovation and investment (provisional) (subclass 188) visa

The purpose of these visas is to boost Australia’s economy and to compete effectively for high net worth individuals seeking investment migration. Applicants must be invited to apply by the minister and, in some cases, must be sponsored by the relevant state or territory. This visa includes four streams:

  1. Business innovation stream: for people with business skills who want to establish, develop and manage a new or existing business in Australia.
  2. Investor stream: for people who want to make a designated investment of at least AUD$1.5 million into an Australian state or territory and want to maintain business and investment activity in Australia after the original investment has matured.
  3. Significant investor stream: for investors who are willing to invest at least AUD$5 million into complying investments in Australia and want to maintain business and investment activity in Australia.
  4. Premium investor stream: for investors who make a complying and designated investment of AUD$15 million into an Australian state or territory.

Holding this visa is the first stage before becoming eligible to qualify for a business innovation and investment (permanent) visa (subclass 888).

Business innovation and investment (permanent) (subclass 888) visa

The business innovation and investment (permanent) visa (subclass 888) is the second stage of the business innovation and investment (provisional) visa (subclass 188). Applicants can apply for this visa after satisfying the requirements of their provisional visa.

For holders of a subclass 188 visa, the subclass 888 visa is the expected pathway to Australian permanent residency.

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