foreign workers entitlement to work

All people working in Australia, including foreign workers, are entitled to basic rights and protections in the workplace. Foreign workers are people who are not Australian citizens or permanent residents, and may include ‘backpackers’, seasonal workers, or international students.

In order to work in Australia, foreign workers must have a temporary long-stay or permanent visa.

Employers engaging foreign workers must ensure they comply with both Australian workplace laws and immigration laws. Australian immigration laws – including applying for and understanding the rules of valid work visas, as well as the obligation to pay market salary rates for Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa holders – are enforced by the Department of Home Affairs. For information on all visa requirements visit the Departments website.

australian working visas

Broadly speaking, there are three types of working visas:

skilled migrants: for professionals and other skilled migrants who are not sponsored by employers

employer sponsored: for Australian and overseas employers to employ skilled workers with recognised qualifications and skills/experience in particular occupations

working holiday visas: for people between 18 and not yet 31 years of age from arrangement countries.

skilled migration program

The Skilled Migration Program helps overcome skills shortages within the Australian workforce and identifies individuals who can bring valuable economic benefits to the Australian economy. The General Skilled Migration Program (GSM) is for professionals and other skilled migrants who are not sponsored by an employer and who have skills in particular occupations required in Australia.

Since July 2012 the skilled migration visa regime includes points-tested skilled migration visas and amendments to the skilled migration points test. The Department of Home Affairs website lists the main categories.

employer sponsored visas

The Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa is the most commonly issued visa type. This allows skilled workers to travel to Australia to work in their nominated occupation for their approved sponsor between three months and four years. A business can sponsor someone for this visa if they cannot find an Australian citizen or permanent resident to do the skilled work. Depending on the business, this can also include unskilled work under a regional program.

Other visas commonly used by Australian businesses include subclass 186, a permanent visa for nominated occupations, and working holiday visas for students and young people to work with one employer for up to six months. Students working on a student visa are restricted to working a maximum of 20 hours per week. For more information, visit the Department of Home Affairs website.

New Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa 

In March 2018, the Temporary Work (Skilled) visa (subclass 457 visa) was abolished and replaced with the completely new Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa (subclass 482).

The TSS visa program is comprised of a Short-Term stream of up to two years and a Medium-Term stream of up to four years. It supports businesses in addressing genuine skill shortages in their workforce and contains a number of safeguards, which prioritise Australian workers.

This new visa is part of the government’s significant reform package to strengthen the integrity and quality of Australia’s temporary and permanent employer-sponsored skilled migration programs.


This service helps Australian employers find skilled workers who want to migrate to Australia. Employers can search SkillSelect using a range of criteria such as the skilled worker’s occupation, qualifications or English language ability. Employers are able to view details of skilled workers and then make contact with them to discuss sponsorship and employment.

People wanting to migrate as a skilled worker to Australia first have to submit an Expression of Interest (EOI) with their skills and experiences. On their EOI, they can indicate an interest in employer sponsorship and the states and territories of Australia where they are willing to live and work. They will also be able to indicate if they are willing to work outside capital cities, and in regional areas.

employer sponsorship

Employers who identify people through their own selection processes will still be able to sponsor them without using the SkillSelect process. The employer-sponsored migration program is available to lawfully operating Australian and overseas employers to sponsor and employ skilled workers who have recognised qualifications, skills or experience in particular occupations required in Australia. For a full list of employer-sponsored visa options visit the Department of Home Affairs website.

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