Saturday, 12 October 2013

Migrating to Oz: PR or work permit?

Hey everyone!

It's been quite a while since our last post. We've returned from beautiful Sabah as PADI Divemasters after a month-long internship! There's so many things we can and want to blog about (our experiences, observations, diving, dive gear, and migration), but I guess the most pressing issue should be what NRSC has largely come to represent - a "true blue Singaporean" couple emigrating from Singapore.

A common question which crops up every time we mention that we are migrating is this: Do you have a job in Australia?

To which our answer is "no", and we are in no real hurry or need to start work proper the moment we reach Melbourne, thanks to prudent financial planning.

However, there is another sub-question which often goes unasked, and we feel that we have yet to address adequately in our blog. A has mentioned this before in Migration Chapter 2, under Myth 4, but I feel we can further emphasize this issue.

How do you migrate there without even having lived or worked there?

Fact: You don't need a current job in Australia or to have lived in Australia to get the PR. You do, however, need to be qualified as a professional in an occupation listed on Australia's SOL. Having a job there/studying in Australia before can help by giving you more points in the application process. However, working in Australia does not automatically qualify you to apply for a PR visa. At the end of the day, it boils down to whether your existing (or prospective, as the case may be) job is on the SOL. Which brings you back in a roundabout manner, back to the migration process we have detailed in our blog thus far.

Yes, it sounds counter-intuitive, like putting the cart before the horse, but that's how it is. For better or worse, that's how Australia attempts to attract and retain suitable candidates for permanent residency.

A 'work permit' (or generally known as temporary work visa subclass 457) means a lot more uncertainty, as it is dependent on one having and keeping a job in Australia. Should one lose his or her job and be unable to find another (as a foreigner, Australian employers would have to make the extra effort and expense to apply for a work permit to hire this person), it's bye-bye Australia, and you have no legal means to prevent being effectively repatriated back to your home country within a specified period after you leave the job.  This is a pretty risky option especially if you are married with kids.

Job first?

To be honest, we feel that there aren't many reasons to choose to apply for a job in Australia first, unless you meet the following criteria:

1. Your skills/qualifications are highly sought-after by Australia

We currently have a friend who works in Melbourne as a Research Fellow. Australia seems to prioritize academics in general, and thus as a PhD holder, she is offered a carte blanche. Be it a PR visa in the future or a work permit at present, she would likely have no problems obtaining either.

In her case, most Universities there would be happy to pay her top dollar and go through the relatively easy process of applying for her work permit. In addition, she doesn't have to pay for the work permit. The process for her employer would be relatively easy because Australia needs/wants more academics. It's difficult to find a suitable local to fill the post because there is a nationwide shortage of qualified academics.

2. You are not in it for the long run i.e. you wish to work in Australia temporarily and intend to return to your home country eventually

DUH, then applying for a work permit through getting a job in Australia first is definitely the option for you. The application fee for subclass 457 is a lot less than the PR, the process is generally a lot quicker and the application costs may be covered by your employer. Do note that Australia has recently clamped down on the issuance of 457 visas though, possibly because of several cases of identity fraud

Are you in it for the long run?

3. You really can't afford to migrate unless you have a job waiting for you over there.

Quite self-explanatory... But if you are in such a situation, a work visa could be a stop-gap measure provided you can take the risk of being repatriated should your 457 visa be cancelled. We can't really see how such a scenario would end well, but in theory at least, this is possible.

If the high cost of living in Oz is of concern, it would probably be better to obtain the PR first (assuming you are eligible), take a short holiday in Australia to validate the visa within the first year, then apply for jobs in Australia from your home country (or wherever you are based) in the meantime. This way, you have the PR in your pocket, have access to a wider spectrum of jobs in Oz, and have the flexibility in terms of when you have to enter Australia while keeping your current job in your home country. Don't take too long though, as you have the two year residency requirement ticking away. But I'm sure three years is plenty of time to find a job!

PR first?

In contrast, being a Permanent Resident first (before going over to find a job) comes with other benefits which are not available to work permit holders, such as:
  • eligibility for Housing Grant
  • eligibility to register for Centrelink / welfare (after a waiting period)
  • eligibility to register for Medicare
  • eligibility to apply for citizenship in the future
  • ability to live and work anywhere in Australia and New Zealand
  • paying domestic instead of international rates for tertiary education
  • free / subsidized public education for children of Permanent residents up to Secondary Level
At the end of the day, if you are in it for the long run (like we are), the decision is pretty straightforward. However, there's nothing to stop one from applying for a job first if you fit the above criteria, whether you are in for the long haul or not. It's really up to the individual - there is no one-size-fits-all.

To all our regular readers, we will be starting our new life in Melbourne soon in November, so stay tuned for more posts when we begin our next chapter there! Cheers!

One-way ticket bought!


  1. Any advice on Canada...if you have friends who told you something..Thanks..

  2. Hi.. I would recommend that you check out this blog called Winking Doll. She's a Singaporean nurse who emigrated to Canada


  3. Just to add that as a new PR, you are straightaway entitled to claim family tax benefits if your child is under age 18 and in Australia.

  4. Wonderful to read your new post. Congrats on the new certification. I am sure diving factors in your plans when you move there;)
    One qn..
    If let's say one wants to be a teacher there, does the acceptance from AITSL prior to pr application help in the teacher registration? Must there be another round of tedious paperwork like what we have to do for the AITSL application?

    1. Hi Iniana,

      I think it depends on which state in oz you want to teach in. For Victoria, the process for teacher registration is repeating the aitsl application and it is even more tedious cos there are more details involved. Not sure abt the other states as I've not checked them out.

      Another thing u shd note is that teacher registration requires paying a reg fee and annual fees in order to retain the right to teach in oz.

      All the best,