186 ENS Lawyers

Subclass 186 visa allows Australian employers to sponsor foreign skilled workers for permanent residency in limited occupations. There are 3 different streams and each stream has their own criteria with respect to a range of factors, such as occupations, professional experience and minimum salary.

  • Labour Agreement stream: Limited employers may negotiate and arrange bilateral agreements with the Department.
  • Temporary Residence Transition stream: Certain subclass 457 or 482 visa holders may qualify for transition.
  • Direct Entry steam: Applicants with a prescribed period of work experience in an eligible occupation may be eligible to apply directly.

As Subclass 186 is an employer sponsored visa, only foreign nationals who are employed and nominated in an eligible occupation by an approved Australian employer sponsor may apply. The costs of the sponsorship approval and nomination application must be borne by the employer.


Labour Agreement Stream

For the purpose of this stream, a labour agreement refers to a bilateral agreement between the Department and a reputable Australian business to sponsor foreign workers via streamlined procedures. These agreements are not entered into lightly by the Government as most employers will not be eligible for a labour agreement. There must be a legitimate need to address labour shortage affecting specific industries or regions. Designated Area Migration Agreements (DAMA) operates through a labour agreement.

If a labour agreement is issued to the sponsoring employer, the applicable nomination criteria varies from the other streams as each labour agreement may permit concessional terms as negotiated.


Common Criteria

Applicants in the streams of transition and direct entry must satisfy the following:

  • Applicant holds the necessary licences, registration and memberships;
  • The position is subject to nomination and the applicant is nominated by a employer approved as a standard business sponsor;
  • The employment contract must provide employment for at least 2 years and not forbid the continuance after the 2-year period;
  • Applicant has not provided a benefit to the employer in exchange for the nomination in the last 3 years, pursuant to subsections 245AR(1), 245AS(1), 245AT(1) or 245AU(1) of the Migration Act;
  • Applicant must be less than 45 years old (exemptions may apply);
  • Applicant must have at least functional English (exemptions may apply).


Eligible Occupations

Applicants in the streams of transition and direct entry must have eligible occupations to qualify for Subclass 186 visas.

Holders of Subclass 457 visas as a result of a visa application lodged before 18 April 2017, may apply for a Subclass 186 visa. This would be under the temporary residence transition stream, with the occupation nominated for the Subclass 457 visa. In effect, the eligible occupations do not apply in this circumstance.


Age Limitations

Applicants aged 45 and over are generally ineligible for a Subclass 186 visa. A number of exemptions may apply in limited circumstances.

For the Direct Entry stream, the age exemption applies to:

  • Researchers, scientists and technical specialists nominated by a scientific agency of the Australian Government;
  • Senior academics nominated by an Australian university;
  • Subclass 444 or 461 visa holders who have worked for the nominating employer for 2 of the last 3 years.

For the Transition stream, the age exemption applies to:

  • Researchers, scientists and technical specialists nominated by a scientific agency of the Australian Government;
  • Senior academics nominated by an Australian university;
  • High income earners according to the Fair Work High Income Threshold;
  • Regional medical practitioner exemption;
  • The age limit of 49 applies if the applicant holds a current Subclass 457 visa which was applied before 18 April 2017.


Temporary Residence Transition Stream

Applicants who currently hold either subclasses 457 and 482 visas, may transition to Subclass 186 visas after a period between 2 and 3 years of nominated employment has lapsed. For most applicants, the requisite duration of employment is 3 years. In some cases, applicants who hold Subclass 457 visas applied for before 18 April 2017 may apply after only 2 of employment. 


Fair Work High Income Threshold

Applicants, who have worked for the nominating employer for at least 3 years and, for each of the 3 years, have earned above the high income threshold set by the Fair Work, are eligible to apply for Subclass 186 visas regardless of their age. This exemption is only available for the transition stream.

The threshold is indexed and varied annually as of 1 July. It is currently $153,600.


Regional Medical Practitioner

The age exemption applies to licenced medical practitioners in the transition stream where:

  • They have been employed as medical practitioners for the last 3 years;
  • They had held Subclass 457 or 482 visas for the 3-year period;
  • They were employed in regional Australia for at least 2 of the 3 years; and
  • The position nominated for Subclass 186 visas is located in regional Australia.


Direct Entry Stream

Direct entry allows qualified applicants with significant occupational experience to apply for immediate permanent residency without transition via another temporary employment visa. Applicants in this stream require a greater duration of occupational experience and a formal skills assessment.


Skills Assessment

All eligible occupations are assigned a skills assessment authority. Each assessor has different policies, procedures and prerequisites. Based on the evidence provided to the assessor, they will determine whether you meet the skill and education threshold for your occupation and period of valid work experience that can be claimed to the Department. Work experience without evidence will usually be disregarded by the assessor. Furthermore, in the event of the requisite formal qualification, only the work experience accrued after its completion will be counted.


Application Charges

The following costs are payable by the employer:

  • Sponsorship application: $420
  • Nomination application: $540

The following costs associated with the application must be paid by the applicant:

  • Base application charge: $4,240

Additional applicant charge for an applicant who is at least 18: $2,120

Additional applicant charge for an applicant who is less than 18: $1,060

Second instalment, payable only by applicants who do not evidence functional English:

  • Primary applicant: $9,800
  • Secondary applicant: $4,890


Skilling Australians Fund Levy

As of 12th August 2018, under the Temporary Residence Transition and Direct Entry streams, the employer must make a mandatory contribution to the Skilling Australians Fund, often abbreviated as “SAF.” The purpose of this fund is to finance the training of Australian workers in order to address skill shortages in the domestic labour market.  

This SAF levy is payable at the time of lodging the nomination application. The total cost of the levy is dependent on the annual turnover of the sponsoring employer.

The figures for this levy are as follows;

  • Employers with the annual turnover less than $10,000,000: $3,000
  • Employers with the annual turnover more than $10,000,000: $5,000


Applicable Public Interest Criteria

4001, 4002, 4003, 4004, 4010, 4020, 4021, 4019 (if applicable). 


Applicable Special Return Criteria

5001, 5002, 5010.


Visa Conditions

If an applicant is outside Australia at the time of grant, the visa must set first entry before a specified date.

For secondary applicants, the following may be imposed:

  • 8515: The holder of the visa must not marry or enter into a de facto relationship before entering Australia.


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