186 Visa Australia – Employer Nomination Scheme (ENS)

April 24, 2024
Iain MacLeod

The Employer Nomination Scheme, known as the Subclass 186 Visa, represents a pivotal facet of Australia’s immigration framework, designed specifically for skilled workers from outside the country. This permanent residency pathway allows Australian employers to nominate foreign national employees, facilitating their move to work and live in Australia on a long-term basis. The scheme aims to address labour shortages within the Australian economy by enabling employers to fill gaps in their workforce with qualified individuals from a global talent pool.

Under the Subclass 186 Visa, there are a few distinct streams available, each catering to different situations and addressing the diverse needs of the Australian labour market. One such stream is the Direct Entry stream, which requires applicants to complete a skills test and be nominated by an approved Australian employer. They must also meet the qualifications and experiences stipulated for their nominated occupation. The scheme underscores Australia’s commitment to fostering a diverse and skilled workforce, with strong emphasis placed on the critical need for a continuous influx of expertise in various sectors of the economy.

Migrate to Australia

Our immigration lawyers and registered migration agents in Melbourne will be able to find you the best visa for your unique situation. You’ll be in good hands.

186 Visa Streams

Employer Nomination Scheme Visa (Subclass 186) Streams
Visa Stream Direct Entry stream Labour agreement stream Temporary Residence Transition stream
Description Skilled workers nominated by an employer live and work in Australia permanently. Skilled workers nominated by an employer under a labour agreement live and work in Australia permanently. Skilled workers nominated by an employer with a 457, TSS or related bridging visa live and work in Australia permanently.
Key Requirements – Nominated by an Australian employer

– Occupation on relevant skilled occupation list

– At least Competent English
– Employer has a labour agreement – Hold a 457, TSS or related bridging visa A, B or C

– Worked for nominating employer full-time for at least two years
Stay Permanently Permanently Permanently
Cost From AUD 4,640.00 From AUD 4,640.00 From AUD 4,640.00

Temporary Residence Transition Stream

This stream is for individuals who have held a Temporary Work (Skilled) visa (subclass 457) or a Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa (subclass 482) and have worked for their employer for at least three years. The employer must have a genuine need for the worker to fill a position in their business and must offer them a permanent role.

Direct Entry Stream

The Direct Entry Stream caters to applicants who have not necessarily worked in Australia previously or have only briefly worked there. They must be nominated by an Australian employer and possess the qualifications and skills necessary for the occupation listed in the relevant skilled occupation list.

Labour Agreement Stream

Lastly, this stream is available for workers whose employers have entered into a labour agreement with the Department of Home Affairs. It allows the nomination of workers in accordance with the terms of the agreement, which is typically established when a genuine skill or labour shortage is identified in a certain sector or region.

186 visa

Eligibility Criteria

To qualify for the Employer Nomination Scheme (subclass 186) visa, applicants must meet precise requirements outlined by the Department of Home Affairs. These include assessments of skills, work experience, English proficiency, and health and character standards, each critical for a successful visa application.

Skills Assessment

Applicants must have their skills assessed by the relevant authorities to ensure they match an eligible skilled occupation that is nominated by an approved Australian employer. The skills assessment should affirm that the applicant’s qualifications and professional abilities correspond to Australian standards.

Work Experience

Individuals need to demonstrate a history of employment in their nominated occupation. Generally, at least three years of relevant work experience is required, although this may vary based on the visa stream being applied for.

English Language Proficiency

A command of English is essential, with applicants needing to meet minimum English language requirements. Testing through approved assessments such as IELTS, TOEFL iBT, PTE Academic, or OET is usually necessary unless the applicant holds a passport from an English-speaking country or can provide evidence of having completed certain English-medium studies.

Health and Character Criteria

Applicants must meet health and character requirements to protect public health and safety in Australia. This involves a health examination and a character assessment, including police checks to ensure that the individual does not pose a risk to the Australian community.

American African Foreman builder woman at construction site. Foreman construction and Engineer working at construction site

Nomination Process and Requirements

The Employer Nomination Scheme (subclass 186) visa necessitates a stringent nomination process where Australian employers must demonstrate the legitimacy of their business and the genuine need for a foreign worker to fill a position. This ensures that the visa upholds the integrity of the Australian labour market.

Nomination by Employer

An Australian employer must nominate a position within their business for it to be filled by an overseas worker. They must ensure that the nomination adheres to several stringent criteria set by the Department of Home Affairs, including the need for the role which cannot be filled by an Australian worker. The employer must submit an accurate and detailed nomination application that reflects the genuine need for an overseas worker.

Position Criteria

The position nominated must meet specific position requirements. It should be relevant to the nature of the business and consistent with other similar positions in an Australian context. The full-time role must be available for at least two years and come with terms and conditions of employment that are no less favourable than those provided to Australian workers performing similar roles.

Australian Business Requirements

The nominating Australian employer must be lawfully operating in Australia. They must provide evidence of their financial stability and operational need for the nominated position. Furthermore, if applicable, an employer must also have a Labour Agreement in place, which dictates terms and employment conditions for overseas workers. This agreement must be adhered to for the nominated position.

The employer must ensure that their business practices are totally compliant with Australian immigration and labour laws. This includes meeting training requirements for existing Australian employees or contributing to the Skilling Australians Fund (SAF), demonstrating a solid commitment to the Australian workforce.

Cheerful group of coworkers outdoors in a corporate office area resting

Application Procedure

Applying for the Employer Nomination Scheme (subclass 186) visa is a methodical process that requires careful preparation of the necessary documentation and a clear understanding of the associated costs and evaluation criteria.

Gathering Necessary Documents

To begin, applicants must compile a Document Checklist, ensuring that all personal identification, work experience evidence, and any relevant qualifications are accurate and up to date. This includes obtaining any necessary skills assessments and English language proficiency tests.

  • Personal Documents: Passport copy, birth certificate, and other forms of ID.
  • Work Documents: Employment references, skill assessments, and job offer documents.
  • Additional Information: Health and character checks, as necessary.

Submitting the Visa Application

Once the documents are prepared, the visa application can commence. Applicants will be required to pay an Application Fee, which is subject to change and non-refundable. Upon payment, the applicant will receive a Transaction Reference Number (TRN), which is essential for tracking the application status.

  • Online Application: Through the Department of Home Affairs’ portal.
  • Fee Payment: Fees vary based on individual circumstances and are paid during submission.

Application Assessment

The Department of Home Affairs assesses the visa application, considering all the provided documentation and the nation’s migration standards. Processing Times can vary based on the complexity of the application and the volume of applications received.

  • Waiting Period: Applications undergo a thorough assessment process.
  • Decision: Applicants receive notification of the outcome from the Department.

Applicants should stay informed on current processing times and any changes in migration law that could affect their eligibility or the assessment of their application.

186 Visa Processing Time Estimates

Visa Stream 25% of applications 50% of applications 75% of applications 90% of applications
Direct Entry stream 4 Months 10 Months 11 Months 13 Months
Temporary Residence Transition stream 7 Months 10 Months 11 Months 14 Months
Labour Agreement stream 4 Months 7 Months 11 Months 11 Months

Family Membership

When applying for the Employer Nomination Scheme (subclass 186) visa, applicants have the option to include their family members in the application. This includes partners, dependent children, and stepchildren, who can apply to join the primary applicant in Australia.

Including Family in Application

Family members who can be included in the subclass 186 visa application are:

  • Partner: The applicant’s spouse or de facto partner.
  • Dependent Child: A child or stepchild not yet aged 18, or a child who is over 18 but still dependent on the primary applicant.
  • Stepchild: A stepchild can be included provided they meet the dependent criteria.

The primary applicant’s visa application must list all family members, whether they are migrating or not. This ensures that any non-migrating members will be eligible for subsequent visa applications based on their relationship to the primary applicant.

Eligibility for Family Members

Each family member included in the subclass 186 visa application must meet certain criteria:

  1. Health and character requirements: All family members must pass health examinations and character assessments.
  2. English language proficiency: Family members aged 18 or over may need to demonstrate functional English. Additional fees apply if they do not possess functional English.

It’s essential for applicants to provide evidence of their relationship to their family members, such as marriage certificates or birth certificates. Failure to substantiate these relationships may result in unsuccessful applications for family membership under the subclass 186 visa.

Costs and Financial Requirements

When applying for the Employer Nomination Scheme (subclass 186) visa, applicants need to be prepared for the primary fee as well as additional costs that might incur during the application process.

Visa Fees and Charges

  • Visa Application Fee: The primary cost is the visa application fee, which varies depending on the stream applied for. This fee must be paid when the applicant submits their visa application.

Additional Costs

Other expenses to consider may include, but are not limited to:

  • Health Examination: Applicants are required to undergo health examinations to meet the visa health requirements. The cost of these examinations varies depending on the type of medical tests required and the country where they are conducted.
  • Police Certificate: Police checks are mandatory to satisfy the character requirements of the visa. Applicants must bear the cost of obtaining police certificates from every country they have lived in for 12 months or more during the past 10 years after turning 16.

The costs mentioned above are non-refundable, even if the application is unsuccessful or withdrawn. It’s crucial for applicants to check the latest fees on the Department of Home Affairs’ official website, as these can change over time.

Migrate to Australia

Our immigration lawyers and registered migration agents in Melbourne will be able to find you the best visa for your unique situation. You’ll be in good hands.

Post-Visa Grant Information

Once an individual is granted the Employer Nomination Scheme (subclass 186) visa, they acquire the status of a permanent resident with access to certain rights and potential pathways to Australian citizenship.

Rights and Privileges

The subclass 186 visa confers various rights to its holders. Individuals are allowed to work and study in Australia without restriction. Furthermore, they have access to Medicare, Australia’s health care scheme, which provides a range of medical services at little or no cost. Permanent residents can also sponsor relatives for permanent residency, given they meet eligibility criteria.

Visa holders have the privilege to travel to and from Australia as they please for five years from the date the visa is issued. After this period, if they wish to continue travelling to and from Australia as permanent residents, they will need to consider obtaining a Resident Return visa or explore options for citizenship.

Pathways to Citizenship

The subclass 186 visa is a step towards obtaining Australian citizenship. To be eligible for citizenship, one typically must have lived in Australia on a valid visa for four years, including a year as a permanent resident. This period as a permanent resident begins on the day the subclass 186 visa is granted.

Meeting additional requirements such as passing the citizenship test, demonstrating English language proficiency, and adhering to the values of the Australian community, are pivotal in the citizenship process. They pave the way for visa holders to transition into fully-fledged Australian citizens, with the ability to vote, hold an Australian passport, and work for the Australian Public Service or Defence Force.

Speak to our Registered Migration Agents in Melbourne to arrange a consultation.

Learn more about other Australian work visas in the following guides: 482 Visa, 476 Visa, 190 Visa, 186 Visa, 400 Visa

iain macleod immagine immigration


Iain MacLeod

Iain has been working as an Immigration Adviser since 1988 and has been running his own practice since 1990. In 1998 he merged his practice with Myer Lipschitz leading to the creation of Protea Pacific Limited which was rebranded in 2008 to IMMagine New Zealand Limited...

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