Expats Working in Australia

Author: Jim Newham
Submitted: January 2015

Permission to Work

The Australian immigration authorities use a points system to determine the suitability of potential immigrants. The most points are awarded for the skills and qualities currently required – being aged between 25 and 32, speaking English well and having higher qualifications will all earn you a lot of points. The more points you have, the more likely you are to obtain a work visa.

Many potential migrants can gain entry into Australia via the skilled migration programme. To enter the programme, you must first lodge an Expression of Interest using the Skill Select online service. This service helps the government to ascertain which skills are needed and where.

Hence, if you are planning on taking up residence in Australia, it will help if you are flexible about where you are prepared to live. The government is currently trying to encourage immigrants to work in less developed and underpopulated areas. Therefore, it has set up schemes such as the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme. In this scheme, an employer from a less developed area of Australia sponsors workers with the skills the employer needs to gain a permanent visa. The employer needs to offer a permanent contract valid for at least two years, and the employee should be under 45 and of sound character and good health.

Of paramount importance in this process is having qualifications and experience found on the Skilled Occupations List. As of 15 July 2014, this list is of 191 occupations, including a great number in the healthcare sector and, among others, engineering, science, finance, education and craftsmanship. To qualify for the programme, you must also:

To get paid in Australia, you will need to apply for a Tax File Number (TFN) from the Australian Tax Office. For more information, see section 10 of the government-issued document Beginning a Life in Australia. This PDF document also provides guidance on how to take out health insurance, open a bank account and register with social security, in addition to being a good all-round guide on how to start life in Australia.



Employment conditions are strongly underwritten by Australian labour laws, which are balanced between the needs of employers and employees. Among other things, your contract must state your pay, hours worked and annual leave. You are also free to join a union should you wish to. Overall, work conditions in Australia are at a very high standard. The minimum conditions of employment are regulated by the Fair Work Act 2009 and specified in the National Employment Standards.

Australian full-time workers are generally supposed to work a maximum of 38 hour per week and are entitled to a minimum of 4 weeks of paid annual leave or 5 weeks in case of shift workers. Reasonable overtime is permitted. Workers are also entitled to 10 days of paid sick leave per year in case of sickness.

In terms of parental leave, parents can take unpaid annual leave for up to 12 months. Parents might also opt for additional options, such as unpaid special maternity leave, a return to work guarantee or unpaid pre-adoption leave. For more information, see the fact sheet on parental leave.

Salaries vary greatly, depending on the sector, position and region where you work. The My Career portal offers a useful overview over average salaries according to industry – have a look at Average Australian Salary. Australia also has strict regulations regarding minimum payment. The current full-time minimum wage stands at A$16.37 per hour or A$622.20 per week. Regulations differ for trainees and junior workers, see: National Minimum Wage.

For more information on working conditions in Australia, see the National Employment Standards Factsheets on the Australian Government Website. Note that this page gives details on the working conditions, and immigration procedures necessary to obtain work in Australia. For more information on working in Australia, see our Employment and Business articles.




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