All foreign visitors, apart from those who hold a New Zealand passport, require a visa to enter Australia. For tourist purposes, most people can simply apply online for an ETA (Electronic Travel Authority). ETAs are also available for some business travellers. They are valid for 12 months, and they allow you to stay in Australia for up to three months at a time. The business ETA covers conference attendance, business negotiations and exploratory business visits.
If you wish to spend a longer time in Australia, but will not be working or studying, you can apply for a long-stay visitor visa, which lasts for up to 12 months. You must be able to demonstrate you have funds to support yourself during your visit, and you may also be asked to undergo a medical examination.
If you wish to live and work long-term in Australia, or to become a permanent resident, there are a number of options. Most work-related visas fall under the Australian General Skilled Migrant Programme (GSM). In all cases, you must be able to pass the points test, demonstrate competence in English, and prove you are in good health and of good character.
Potential migrants, with skills and experience in certain areas, are eligible to apply for a skilled migrant visa. A list of the skills in demand can be found on the Australian Medium and Long Term Strategic Skills List (MLTSSL), and you should consult this first. You must be under 45 when you apply, be fluent in English, and be able to pass the Australian points test with a minimum of 65 points. At the time of writing, skills in a variety of engineering, computing, scientific and medical professions, as well as some areas of education and the arts, are listed.
Once you have identified that you possess the relevant skills, you must apply for a skills assessment with the relevant authority – a list of these can be found on the website of the Australian Government Department of Home Affairs (DOHA). Once you have received a positive skills assessment, you may submit an expression of interest (EOI) via SkillSelect, on the DOHA website. This is a tool which allows you to register your skills and qualifications with a range of potential employers, as well as state and territorial governments within Australia. Your entry remains live for two years and can be updated as and when you gain new qualifications and experience and if your family situation changes. Candidates with the highest level EOIs will automatically receive an invitation to apply for a skilled migrant visa.
In addition, state and regional governments issue invitations to workers they wish to sponsor. Once you receive an invitation, you should proceed to apply for a skilled migrant visa. These are granted for five years and you may bring your spouse and dependent children with you. If you have been nominated by a state or territory, you must live and work in it for a minimum of two years after the visa is granted. The visa can be renewed if you live and work in Australia for at least two years in the five-year period. After four years’ continuous residence, you may apply for citizenship.
If you wish to set up a business in Australia, or manage an existing one, and possess the appropriate skills and qualifications, you may be eligible for a business and innovation visa. As with the skilled migrant visa, you should register an expression of interest (EOI) via SkillSelect. You may then either approach the government of an Australian state or territory with your business proposal, or wait for an invitation. Once you have an invitation, you may apply for a visa. You must also be able to provide the appropriate business documents, and proof that you have at least AUS$800000 net in assets ($557000/£420000). You can also apply as a potential investor, if you can invest a minimum of AUS$1.5 million in an Australian state or territory, or at least AUS$5 million in certain Australian investments, and have an invitation via SkillSelect. All of these visas can be extended, and they all attract a significant fee. Details can be found on the DOHA website.
In addition, people with an Australian spouse or partner, or who are parents of Australian citizens, can apply for family migration visas. Your partner or spouse must be able to prove they can support you for at least two years. Parents must be sponsored by their child, who must be an Australian citizen, permanent resident or eligible citizen of New Zealand.
Visit the Australian Government website for more information on the skilled occupation list and the skills assessment process. You can also learn more about the business innovation and investment visa, and submit your expression of interest.