Immigration basics

US nationals can enter Australia for up to ninety days without any form of Visa, although the usual restrictions apply to this. You will not be permitted to perform any kind of work for the duration of your stay, and you’ll have to supply proof that you have a return flight booked within this three-month period.

If you’d like to stay longer, there are two major Visas that be applied for – a Work and Holiday Visa, which will permit you to stay down under for up to a year (flying back and forth between Oz and the USA throughout this period should you wish to do so) and seek casual and seasonal work, or a Skilled Migrant Visa, which will allow you to seek a permanent role in the country – if your occupation qualifies as Highly Skilled, according to parameters set by the Australian government. Sponsorship from an employer is arguably the easiest way of obtaining the latter Visa.

A middle ground is a Tourist Visa, which will allow you stay in Australia for up to six months – but as the name suggests, you will not be permitted to work throughout that period. This may be suitable if you have family in the country that you are visiting and would like to investigate potential work opportunities, but that’s about it.

What you’ll need to apply

This will vary depending on what Visa you are applying for, but at he very least you’ll require:

  • Your Passport
  • Information on any Previous Visa Applications to Australia
  • Proof of Private Healthcare Insurance
  • Details on Where You Will Stay Upon Arrival in the Country

If you are applying for a Student Visa you will also need proof of your acceptance onto a university course, and if applying for a Sponsored Skilled Migrant Visa have all information pertaining your job offer to hand.

Short stay visas

One of the most popular options for young Americans free of ties that wish to work in Australia for a short period of time is a Work and Holiday Visa.

You will only be eligible for this if you are aged between 18 and 30 and do not have any dependents, but upon being granted the Visa you will be entitled to stay in the country for up to a year. Your choices of vocation will be limited to casual and seasonal work such as short-term bartending positions or manual labor in the construction or agricultural industries, but if you manage to hold down a position with the same employer to three months or more you may be eligible to apply for an extension, and stay in Australia for a further year. Just be warned that the same person can only ever be granted a Work and Holiday Visa once in their lifetime.

After this, however, you will need a Highly Skilled Migrant Visa – more on that below.

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Work visas

Australia has cracked down somewhat on workplace Visas in recent years, which is not ideal for US nationals as it was a little tricky to obtain a work permit in the first place!

In order to qualify to work in Australia, you’ll need a Skilled Migrant Visa, which is so named because the authorities will only permit individuals with experience in particular vocations to enter the country for work. You’ll find a full lost of what the Australian government deems to be a skilled occupation – you’ll find the latest list of these positions here, but be vigilant about checking this list as it changes regularly. Indeed, some 200 occupations were dropped in 2017 alone.

If you qualify for an individual Visa based on your work experience you can make an online applicable, and typically these will last between two and hour years. If you have an job offer on the table from an Australian employer, however, they can sponsor you which will greatly enhance your chances of having your application accepted.

Expect to be tied into a contract with your employer if this is the case as they will incur a number of expenses during this process, but very few people that enter Australia are in any hurry to leave! If you decide that you’d like to apply for permanent residence, you’ll be eligible to do so after four years – provided you have spent at least twelve consecutive months in the country.

Student visas

Australia has a number of reputable universities, especially in the country’s largest city of Sydney, making it a great destination for anybody looking to further their education abroad. Should you wish to study in Australia, however, you’ll need a Student Visa.

If you plan to apply for a Study Visa, you’ll first need to ensure that you have a guaranteed placement on a course in an Australian university – the permit will not issued if you plan to land in the country and then sign up. You’ll also be asked to provide proof of your private healthcare insurance policy, and may be asked for evidence of your financial solvency (ensuring that you will be able to pay your tuition fees and support yourself throughout your stay in the country), evidence that your spoken and written English Language skills are of a high standard (you will be asked to take a test online, with a minimum passing score), and you may be asked to prove that you only intend to stay in Australia temporarily as a student.

One way around this if you’d like to ‘try before you buy’ is to use a Work and Holiday Visa, which will entitle you to study at an Aussie university for up to four months – enough time for you to get a feel for the place, and decide whether it’s somewhere that you’d like to make a permanent arrangement. Just remember that this will prevent you from ever taking out a Work and Holiday Visa again though, so think carefully as to whether this is the best use of your single application.

The good news is that there are no restrictions on the work that you can undertake on a Student Visa in Australia, which could work in your favor once you’ve graduated; if you can find an employer that’s willing to sponsor you for a Skilled Migrant Visa, you will find it much easier to stay in the country. Alternatively, if you have not already done so, you could apply for a Work and Holiday Visa if eligible and spend another twelve months looking for a job.

Applying online

You can apply for any and all Visa that may be required for entry into Australia on the country’s Department of Immigration and Border Protection website, which will guide you through which permit you should apply for based on your personal circumstances.