Living and working overseas

Australian Immigration - overview

Australian immigration rules are constantly changing to meet the needs of that country's immigration requirements, so the following information should be regarded as a guide only to Australian immigration law. In all cases you should seek information directly from the Australian immigration service, or use the services of a professional immigration agency to ensure you have the latest up-to-date information available.

The legal right to be in Australia can be summed up, loosely, in five categories –

Australian citizen
Permanent resident
Temporary resident
Overseas student

There are, of course, many variations of the above categories but in essence you should fall under one of those main immigration areas to enter Australia.

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An Australian citizen has the right to live and work in Australia and to leave the country and re-enter the country as often, and for as long as, they wish. They are also entitled to an Australian passport.

A permanent resident is entitled to live and work in Australia for as long as they wish. They have legal access to social welfare and to the health system, and have basically the same rights as a citizen. If a permanent resident chooses to leave Australia there are certain guidelines as to the length of time they can stay outside of Australia and still maintain the right to re-enter the country. Permanent residents are issued with stamps in their passports declaring their status as a resident, but these need to be renewed after set periods of time. If you are outside of the country when your permanent residency expires, you will come under certain rules and regulations as to whether your residency will be revoked or re-issued.

A Temporary Resident is allowed to enter Australia to live and work for a specified period of time, and normally for a limited range of allowable activities. A temporary resident has limited rights to welfare and health assistance if required, and is expected to leave Australia (or re-apply for an extension to their permit) when their permit expires.

An Overseas Student is allowed into Australia to study for a particular educational course and for a set period of time. A student may undertake employment (if it is allowed in the terms of their permit), but only as a supplement to their studying. Employment may be limited to no more than 20 hours per week. Evidence of the course the student wishes to study must be provided and all course fees must be paid in full. An Overseas Student, like the Temporary Resident, has limited rights to medical and welfare assistance if the need arises.Visitors to Australia are allowed to enter the country and spend a specific period of time in Australia. Visitors are generally not permitted to work or study under this visa, and are expected to leave Australia before their Visitor’s Visa expires.

These are the main categories of status that allow you to be in Australia legally. As for the actual permits and visas that you can apply for, for the purpose of this guide we are going to concentrate on those visas and permits that allow foreigners into Australia to live, work, study or just visit. Issues of citizenship, dual nationality etc., are beyond the scope of this guide. It can’t be stressed enough however that you should seek professional advice from the Australian Immigration Service, your local embassy, or through third-party agencies on any immigration issue before departing for Australia.

Migration to Australia

If you are thinking about moving to Australia to live permanently, there are a number of immigration avenues open for you to explore.

In most cases you will be subjected to the ‘Points Test’ to determine your suitability to migrate to Australia. The Points Test is a list of qualities, attributes and experience assessment criteria where you are awarded points for things such as your age, your experience, and your English language ability. Candidates meeting the minimum points total will be considered for Australian immigration purposes. The pass mark for the points test changes periodically, so contact your nearest Embassy, or the Australian Immigration Service, for the latest pass mark. Those applicants with experience and skills in careers where the Australian government deems there is a shortage of skilled labour in Australia will be given priority over other candidates on a similar points score. A current list of those careers can be found on the Skilled Occupation List (SOL). In addition to the points test, you must also meet health and criminal history criteria – that is to say you must be in good health, and have no previous criminal history. You will be required to provide documentary evidence to demonstrate good health and character.

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