International Students

International Student Brochure 2012

Australian employers require you to have the legal right to work in Australia. Some specify Australian citizenship and/or permanent residency (PR) status. If you do not have your PR, it’s important to check on the eligibility requirements of individual employers.

It has now become easier for you, as a graduating international student, to test out the Australian workplace and establish whether you really do want to work in Australia. Since its introduction in September 2007, the Skilled – Graduate (Temporary) visa (subclass 485) has become popular with both students and employers.

To be eligible to apply for most visas under the Australian Government’s General Skilled Migration (GSM) program, you need 12 months’ post-qualification work experience and/or a high level of English language ability.

Temporary work visa for skilled graduates

The Skilled – Graduate (Temporary) visa (subclass 485) allows overseas students who are unable to pass the points test for a permanent GSM visa at the completion of their studies to remain in Australia for 18 months to gain skilled work experience or improve their English skills. There are no restrictions on work or study with this visa, so you are free to do any of the following during the period of stay:

  • work
  • travel
  • study to improve your English skills
  • complete a Professional Year Program (PYP).*

Apart from professional legal fees, the visa application fee is $230 (as at September 2009).

It allows you to obtain relevant work experience or undertake a PYP so you can accumulate 10 Australian work experience points after 12 months of work, before you can apply for a GSM visa. The 12 months’ experience need to be in your nominated skilled occupation or a closely related skilled occupation (e.g. a closely related occupation would be if you had nominated ‘accountant’ as your skilled occupation, but you have been employed as an ‘internal auditor’).

The PYP must be undertaken with an approved partner of the Australian Government’s registered program providers.

Who is this visa for?

This visa is for overseas students who:

  • are under 45 years of age
  • hold an eligible student visa or have held one in the last six months
  • have met the two-year study requirement in the past six months
  • nominate a 50 or 60 point occupation from the Skilled Occupation list
  • have applied to have your skills assessed for your nominated skilled occupation
  • have competent English, or vocational English in the case of an applicant who has applied to have their skills assessed in a trade qualification.

For further details of other eligibility requirements, see

For more information about the PYP, see

Other visas you can apply for if you are currently in Australia are outlined below.

* This is an Australian government initiative specifically designed for Skilled – Graduate (Temporary) visa (subclass 485) holders. The PYP is a 44-week program offered by approved industry providers. It includes workshops, skills training and a professional internship placement. The PYP is recognised by the Department of Immigration & Citizenship (DIAC) and on successful completion of the program participants may be eligible to be awarded 10 GSM points. The PYP is available to IT, Engineering and Accounting graduates.

Visas & Processes, FAQs, Migration Lawyers & Agents


Visas & Processes

Skilled – Independent (Residence) visa (885)

You will need to meet minimum eligibility criteria and pass the points test on your own as an independent applicant.

Skilled – Sponsored (Residence) visa (886)

You will need to meet minimum eligibility criteria and organise sponsorship via an eligible relative or your state or territory government.

Skilled – Regional Sponsored (Provisional) visa (487)

Three-year temporary visa for which you will need to meet minimum eligibility criteria and:

  • be nominated by a state or territory government OR
  • be sponsored by an eligible relative living in a designated area of Australia
  • have a letter of offer from a regionally-based employer.

You will receive bonus points for sponsorship. Holders of this visa can apply for a permanent Skilled – Regional visa (see below) once they have lived for two years and worked for one year in a specified regional area of Australia.

Skilled – Regional (Residence) visa (887)

This is a permanent visa (eligible 487 holders and other provisional visa holders can apply). You need to have:

  • lived in a regional area for at least two years
  • worked full time for at least one year AND
  • complied with visa conditions.
Temporary Business (Long-Stay) visa (457)

This visa is for Australian employers (company/business) who would like to employ an overseas worker (for up to four years) to fill a nominated skilled position within their company or business. You generally need to have qualifications or skills and language ability to fill the nominated skilled position within the company or business and, among other requirements, be paid a market salary to fill that position.

For more information on gaining permanent residency and all aspects of visa requirements for Australia visit:

For information about working and residency visas and all aspects of visa requirements for New Zealand visit:

Your University Careers Services Offices are also a recommended resource of useful and up-to-date information for international students. A complete list of careers services can be found by clicking here.


Frequently Asked Questions

I am unsure of my visa eligibility and need assistance. Where can I go for help?

Your university careers service and/or international students office should be able to provide assistance to you and refer you to other sources of information and support.

I don’t have permanent residency (PR), but I would like to pursue a career in Australia.

There is a range of pathways through which to apply for PR, including the GSM program (outlined on previous page). Be aware that there are different categories of application depending upon where in Australia you wish to work, whether you have a sponsoring family member or sponsor employer and other factors, such as English language proficiency, occupational area, etc. The aforementioned Skilled – Graduate (Temporary) visa (subclass 485) is a good option for international students.

When should I put in my application for a 485 visa? Do I need a letter of offer?

Ideally you need to lodge your application for a 485 visa after you have completed your studies and before your current student visa expires. In some circumstances you can apply while you hold another type of visa, provided you apply within six months of completing your studies. An official letter of employer offer is not required.

How long does it take for a 485 visa to be processed?

The Australian Government Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) indicates that 75 per cent of applications applied for within Australia are processed within six months. Processing times vary depending on whether the applicant is from a ‘high risk’ or ‘low risk’ country.

What is a ‘low risk’ country?

‘Low risk’ countries are based in Europe, the Scandinavian region, Americas and selected Asian countries (Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea). For specific countries, check the Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) list ( ‘High risk’ countries are generally those not

Migration lawyers and migration agents

Making the decision to apply for residency to another country can be one of the most important life decisions a person will have to make.

Australian immigration law is one of the most complex and, at times, daunting pieces of legislation that an individual must deal with. It is often difficult and confusing to negotiate Australia’s migration system, which consists of many programs and various temporary and permanent visa options. With over 140 different visa options available it is important for an individual to get the right advice about the right option for their particular circumstances.

In Australia, individuals can get migration assistance and advice from a registered migration lawyer, solicitor or a migration agent. These people are referred to as ‘registered migration advisors’. Migration advisors must be registered with the Office of the Migration Agents Registration Authority (MARA) ( and are subject to a professional code of conduct.

A good registered migration advisor will assist you by explaining the various options open to you, help you prepare your visa application properly (with all the necessary documents and information required by DIAC) and effectively advocate on your behalf during the processing of your visa application.

When choosing a migration advisor to assist with your application and/or provide you with migration advice, ensure that they are a registered advisor (by asking for their MARA registration number), seek information about their background and experience in the migration industry, find out how long they have been a registered advisor and whether or not they have any legal qualifications or background.

Spectrum Immigration Services (SIS) is Spectrum Migrant Resource Centre’s not-for-profit immigration legal advice service, based in Preston, Victoria. International students can obtain legal advice about their migration options by attending a low cost 30-minute initial consultation (via phone or face to face) by emailing [email protected] or calling (03) 9470 2311. Visit us at

GCA would like to acknowledge the valuable assistance of the following organisations and individuals in reviewing and editing the content of this page relating to visas, citizenship and permanent residency:

  • Spectrum Immigration Services, particularly Mary Hanna, Migration Lawyer & Practice Manager
  • Institute of Continuing & TESOL Education (ICTE-UQ), The University of Queensland, particularly Frances Wickerson, Communications Officer.

Information on visas was current as at December 2011.

Further Resources

Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship
Immigration New Zealand
Office of the Migration Agents Registration Authority (MARA)