The number of South Africans enquiring about Australian visas has more than doubled in the past two years, and as immigrants flock to the country applicants are finding it much harder to qualify for a visa, says Sable International’s Australian immigration expert, Sam Hopwood. We asked him what the visa options are, and who qualifies for what.
“There are a plethora of Australian visa options, but the application criteria are highly selective and rigorous, and applicants should have their eligibility assessed to understand what their options are more fully, before they embark on the application process, say Hopwood.
“I find a lot of clients come to me after having done their own research and potentially starting their own applications and representing themselves and they’ve gone down a road for a particular visa, which they actually have no chance of getting.”
Hopwood explains that the visas basically cover a person who wants to study, an entrepreneur who wants to establish or buy a business, a skilled person who aims to be employed, a spouse, or a parent of an Australian resident.
Business Innovation Visas
“If you’re a business owner here in South Africa and if you’re under the age of 55, the business innovation visa (Sub-clause 188) is a good option for you. You’ll need to demonstrate that your business in South Africa has a turnover of at least AUD500 000 and that you or you and your partner combined have net assets of at least AUD800 000. This will eventually give you a visa which will allow you to come to Australia to either establish a new business or buy into a business. The visas are temporary visas, so you are a temporary resident of Australia for the first 4 years. You can convert that visa to a permanent residency visa after your business has qualified and has hit certain thresholds in terms of turns over a certain amount of money and has a certain amount of Australian employees within the business.”
“There are a lot of successful business owners in South Africa who are now looking to move their businesses and their assets to Australia, so the business innovation visa is becoming more popular with South African residents,” says Hopwood.
“The visa allows you to bring your own business and establish that business in Australia, which for some people if that business is what they have done all their life and if that’s where their skills are, it makes sense that they bring that business over and replicate it in Australia.”
Hopwood says that the business innovation visa allows you to walk into Australia and shop around, and it allows you to buy an established business. “Some business people who are not bound to a particular skill set, may simply want to run a business, and if they have enough wealth to purchase a business, it’s an easier option to purchase into a business than to start from scratch.”
“This means they can hit the financial thresholds they need to achieve quite quickly – The visa gives you 4 years to establish or buy into a business and to meet the thresholds.”
The most common or traditional route of migration into Australia for South African citizens has been what we refer to as general skilled migration. This is when you work in an occupation and you’re skilled in a particular occupation which is on our medium to long term skilled lists. Those types of occupations are, for example, accountants, secondary school teachers, IT specialists, trades, engineers.
“Civil engineers and construction project managers are really hot occupations at the moment in Australia. There are a lot of civil works happening in Australia, a lot of construction projects, we’re building a lot of roads and rails, so engineers are in really high demand,” says Hopwood.
“If you’re working in an occupation which is considered to be high in demand and if you’re under the age of 45, then potentially you might qualify for a skilled visa. It is a points based visa, and you need to score a certain number of points in according to age, qualifications, work experience and most importantly the English language test, which requires you have a high competency of the English language to score enough points to qualify for the visa overall.”
For South African in relationships with Australians, there are a number of Australian Partner Visas available. They are divided into various subclasses, and classification is dependent on whether the visa is temporary or permanent as well as where the application is made.
For South Africans aiming to emigrate to Australia with their spouses, they can apply for spousal visas via a number of routes: The Partner (Provisional) visa (Subclass 309 or Partner (Migrant) visa (subclass 100) which must be applied for outside Australia. Alternatively, there are partner visas (subclasses 820 and 801) which can be applied for in Australia. If you are engaged you have to apply for a Prospective Marriage Visa (Subclass 300). Those with new Zealand partners can apply for the Subclass 461 visa.
Australia offers a number of parent visas that enable immigrant children to bring their parents over to live in the country permanently. There are a number of criteria that have to be met, but according to Hopwood: “The most important criteria of the parent category visa is the ‘balance of family test’ – this states that the parent, who is still living in South Africa, must have at least 50% of his/her offspring living in Australia and they must be permanent residents or citizens of Australia; So if you have two children, one of them must be in Australia as a permanent resident for you to apply for the Parent Visa.”
“Once this criteria has been met, you have to consider which visa category you will apply for. Within the parent category there are several sub-categories to choose from, such as a contributory parent visa or a non-contributory parent visa,” says Hopwood.
Hopwood says that there are very few options for young South Africans wanting to go and work in Australia. Australia has reciprocal Working Holiday Visas agreements with a number of different countries but South Africa does not make the list. Student Visas are available but the upfront costs for international students are prohibitive, starting at $20,000 per year.