Ticket to the World

In a word of increasing skilled shortages, your qualifications and skills can be a ticket to see the world. This is especially so when it comes to working or migrating to Australia.

Whilst modern Australia was built on a combination of both skilled workers and unskilled labour - the majority of which were people on a one-way ticket from the UK, Ireland and Europe - this is not the case anymore.

The focus is now well and truly on skilled individuals. Individuals who are qualified and have experience in high demand occupations such as engineering, healthcare, information technology, trades, accounting and professional services. It is no coincidence that these occupations remain in high demand around the world and it is these professions that are driving an increasingly global mobile workforce.

However, if you fall outside these high demand occupations this does not necessarily rule you out completely as Australia has a myriad of visa options. If you have some qualifications and professional experience it may be just about assessing yourself against the options, and then putting into place the pieces of the jigsaw to get the result you are after.

For the lucky few, the golden ticket is usually gained from being eligible for a skilled independent visa. Skilled independent visas are, in general, for people under 50 years old and work in one of the occupations mentioned above. These visas allow an individual and their family to arrive as permanent residents - the stepping-stone to Australia citizenship - and to access a great majority of public services that Australians can, such as healthcare and schools. Once gained, there is not even a requirement that you need to work in the skill that got you there.

For those that fall outside the skilled independent options, the past decade has seen an increasing focus on the States and Territories of Australia having a greater say on would be migrants. They are given some degree of autonomy to attract people with skills that aren’t necessarily in shortage nationally but are specifically in their state or regional area within. So while there may be little opportunity for people in occupations in your desired city, there may be elsewhere.  

Close relations in Australia - such as family - can also in some circumstances have a positive effect on a visa application. This family support can often be the difference between moving there or not.

When none of the above fits your circumstances there may be opportunities for you through employer-sponsored visas. When a recruiter picks up the phone to speak to you about roles in Australia, it is usually through a sponsored visa that you will be employed. Employer Sponsored visas allow for skilled individuals to obtain work visas as long as you remain with that employer. So, while it does come at the cost of some flexibility, compared to the independent visas it also often comes with the advantage of an income upon arrival. There are also other benefits that may be added - primarily depending on the human resources policy - such as housing, relocation, annual return flights home and other incentives. Whilst the heady days of benefits that were handed out pre-GFC no longer exist, anything offered can be the difference between going and staying. At this stage understanding the tax ramifications of accepting an offer, both home and abroad, is imperative. Although as this is an expensive business there may be claw back arrangements in place to repay some costs should you leave employment within a specified period of time.

Whilst employer sponsored visa are usually a temporary residency option it is often a pathway to permanent residency. Whilst accurate figures are hard to find, it is often suggested that 80% progress to permanent residency. This shows the appeal of a strong economy and an enviable lifestyle. It is also a reflection of the trend of successive governments supporting employer-sponsored migration.

For anyone who falls short of meeting any of the above visas, there may be some alternate options. The working holiday program allows most EU citizens under the age of 31 to experience 12-24 months working in Australia. Whilst this can be the great backpacking adventure of a life, it can also provide opportunities to experience living and undertaking work in Australia and can then lead onto other visas such as employer sponsored visas or even partner visas. It remains the ultimate 'try before you buy' option.

Where all else fails, there are significant advantages offered to those who may want to stay permanently in Australia if they undertake study in a recognised skill shortage area. This is best reflected by the fact that Australia has the fourth largest market in the world for foreign students in tertiary education.

However, it is not all about skilled individuals and employees. For successful investors or business owners that desire to relocate permanently to Australia, there are pathways via the business skills program. This program allows innovative and entrepreneurial people to either set up or buy a business or make investments in approved funds or businesses.

Finally, for those business owners looking to expand their business or to service new contracts in Australia there are pathways for you to facilitate this and to offer your employees an opportunity to change their life. The criteria for this is not always straight forward and involves compliance with a wide range of laws, such as covering corporate, tax and employment law to name a few. On the other hand, they allow a business to establish themselves from the beginning with the right foundations for long-term success. There have also been concessions made for contract and project workers to enter the country for work; a reflection of the growth and significance of the resources boom that has helped Australia to not have a recession in 23 years. The only developed country in the world to claim this.

Whether it is permanently or temporarily, those people with the right skills or desire can usually find a pathway. It may be easy for some compared to others but with planning, patience, and the right advice it is achievable.

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