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  • Writer's pictureZmarak Zhouand

Pathways to Permanent Residency – Visa Options for International Students Studying in Australia

If you are an international student studying in Australia and wish to stay permanently there are several options available. This article will discuss the most popular visas and options.

The most sought-after visa is the Skilled Independent Visa (subclass 189) because you do not need to be sponsored by an employee. However, it is a difficult visa to obtain because there are only limited places available, there is lots of competition from highly skilled people, the process can be difficult to navigate, and it can take up to 3 years to be granted.

The alternative option to extend your stay after graduating from study is one of several Temporary Graduate Visas. These visas allow you to stay between 1 and 4 years in Australia and are based on your level of study. They are much cheaper than the permanent residency visa, are much easier to attain and can build a stronger application for permanent residency later.

Finally, it is possible to extend your stay in Australia by continuing to study on a Student Visa (subclass 500). But applying for multiple extensions of your student visa may hurt your chances of being granted other visas later, including permanent residency.

Get accurate advice before considering a course of study because some pathways can lead

to permanent residency while others do not. It's difficult to know which visa is right for you and which will give you the best chance of getting permanent residency.


General Skilled Visas

These permanent residency visas allow you to live and work permanently in Australia if you meet eligibility requirements. The General Skilled Migration visas include the Skilled Independent Visa (subclass 189) and the Skilled Nominated Visa (subclass 190).

Most important, to be eligible to apply for skilled visas you must have completed a course of study on the Skilled Occupation List. This is because certain occupations are needed in Australia. A current list of eligible skilled occupations can be found in a legislative instrument for the visa program.

Under the General Skilled Migration (GSM) stream, applications are awarded points based on specified factors such as age (you must be younger than 45), English language skills, educational qualifications and work experience inside and outside Australia.

Applicants must meet a threshold pass score of 65 points to be eligible to apply for these visas. But 65 is the minimum score. Each invitation round has a different applicant pool and the process is competitive. For example, in January 2021 the intake score was at least 90 for the Skilled Independent Visa and 80 for the Skilled Nominated Visa.

Studying in a “regional area” is one easy way to earn added points to improve your chances of gaining permanent residency and to get residency faster. Here, “regional” refers to any part of Australia aside from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. The Gold Coast, Perth, Adelaide and Canberra are all considered “regional areas”.

Points table for Skilled Independent visa (subclass 189)

Source: current as at 6 May 2022


Applicants for points based visas must register an expression of interest on the Department of Home Affairs SkillSelect website. To submit an expression of interest, an applicant must submit a range of personal information including nominating a skilled occupation from the Skilled Occupation List. An applicant must also complete a formal Skills Assessment regarding that occupation.

Skilled Independent Visa (subclass 189)

To be eligible for this visa you must have:

  • a relevant occupation on the Skilled Occupation List

  • a suitable skills assessment for the occupation,

  • meet the points threshold of 65 points,

  • be aged under 45 years, and

  • meet English language requirements.

This is a points based, permanent residency visa that allows skilled workers to live and work in Australia with no sponsorship (for example, by a family member, employer or state or territory government). Holders of this visa can sponsor eligible relatives for permanent residency and, if eligible, can become Australian citizens.

Skilled Nominated Visa (subclass 190)

This visa has the same features and requirements as the Skilled Independent Visa (189), except that it requires you be ‘nominated’ by an Australian state or territory government. After you lodge your ‘expression of interest’ for this visa, Government agencies throughout Australia may nominate you, according to that agency’s criteria.

The Skilled Nominated (190) visa is processed faster (between 4-10 months) than the Skilled Independent visa (189) (between 23-39 months).

Regional Nominated Work Visa (subclass 491)

You must be nominated by a state or territory government or be sponsored by an eligible relative and also be willing to live and work in a regional area (i.e any area outside of Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane).

Willingness to study, work and live in regional areas increases visa options. The city of Perth in Western Australia is classified as regional.


Temporary Graduate Visa (subclass 485)

If you cannot fulfil the General Skilled Visa requirements, then a Temporary Graduate Visa offers a great opportunity for you to stay in Australia to improve your English Language ability or gather skilled work experience. This can improve your chances of gaining permanent residency after some time has passed. Most Temporary Graduate Visas will allow the holder to stay in Australia for at 18 months and up to five years.

On this visa you may work, live and study in Australia. The time depends on the level of study (for example, longer for a master’s degree than a bachelor’s degree) and the country of origin

There are 3 ‘streams’ of Graduate Visas:

Graduate Work Stream

This category of visa stream is, , a temporary visa available to applicants who have:

• completed at least 2 years of study in Australia,

• held a student visa in the last 6 months,

• a qualification to an occupation on the Skilled Occupation List, and

• applied for a skills assessment in their nominated occupation.

On this visa you may work, live and study in Australia. The time depends on the level of study (for example, longer for a master’s degree than a bachelor’s degree) and the country of origin..

Unlike the permanent skilled visas, Graduate visas are not points tested; but there are other eligibility requirements. Applicants must also be under the age of 50 years, provide evidence of adequate health insurance and a character check with the AFP. Applicants must also provide evidence of the required level of English with their application.

Your course must relate to a position on the Medium and Long-Term Strategic Skills List (MLTSSL) (for example: a bachelor of nursing), or studied the appropriate course at a vocational level (for example: Certificate III in Carpentry). If you studied a course not related to the MLTSSL – for example: a bachelor of arts – you will not be eligible.

A current list of eligible skilled occupations can be found in a legislative instrument for the visa program. There are 212 occupations in the MLTSSL.

Post-Study Work Stream

This visa is for international students who have recently graduated with a degree (at least Bachelor or above) from an Australian institution. This visa enables eligible international students to live and work in Australia temporarily after completing their studies. It lets you live, work and study in Australia, temporarily. The length of stay depends on your level of study. For example, a bachelor degree graduate will be allowed to stay for two years, a masters graduate 3 years and a doctoral degree graduate 4 years.

Second Post-Study Work Stream

This visa is for holders of a first Temporary Graduate visa in the post-study work stream who graduated with a degree from an Australian institution in a designated regional area. This visa essentially allows you to extend your Temporary Graduate visa by a further one or two years if you studied and lived in a regional area.

Knowing your visa options lets you plan ahead


Professional assistance

Getting accurate advice as early on as possible from your lawyers or other professional advisers will ensure that you have the best chance at a seamless transition from a temporary student visa to permanent residency, that you will shorten the duration of time to gain your permanent residency and that you will avoid costly mistakes that can prevent you from applying for certain visas or having your visa application rejected.

  • We can assist you by accurately calculating your points before you apply, and advising on the likelihood of visa grant.

  • We will gather and review all documentation for your application and ensure that it is processed quickly.

  • We can identify and correct errors that might render your application invalid and rectify problems with previous visa applications.

  • We can seek waivers for previous conditions imposed.

  • We can help you deal with your education provider, the Department of Education and the Department of Home Affairs.

Contact us for a free consultation to discuss your options and how we can assist.

Zmarak Zhouand, Principal Solicitor, | (e) | (w) | (t) Brisbane 07 3726 9559 | (t) Sydney 02 9121 6281 | (t) Mobile 0478 393 502 | is the registered business name of Zhouand Pty Ltd ACN 630 717 976, an incorporated legal practice registered with the Queensland Law Society in Queensland, Australia and the Law Society of New South Wales in New South Wales, Australia.

Individual liability limited under a scheme approved under the professional standards legislation.

This document sets out general information. It is not a legal advice and should not be relied on for any reason. We assume no liability to anyone who relies on the content of this document. We encourage you to seek professional advice from a qualified legal practitioner or other suitably qualified person in relation to your specific circumstances.

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