If you graduated from an Engineering Faculty which is recognized by the Washington Accord, you are eligible to work or study in Australia for 18 months under the 476 Visa category(Skilled — Recognised Graduate visa — subclass 476).
The official website located at https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/trav/visa-1/476- has a lot of information about this category. I highly recommend that you read through ALL OF IT. However, there were somethings I had to find the harder way when applying for the visa. Thus here I am trying to explain those things hoping that this will help someone. Please note that this guide is mostly intended for Sri Lankan engineering students.
As mentioned above, the first requirement is to have an Engineering degree of a recognized standard. If your university is not stated on the official website page mentioned above, the best way to find whether your degree is of such standard is to ask that from the university administration. Another way is to find it through the national body which oversees these matters. For instance, in Sri Lanka, IESL does that and shows the list here: http://www.iesl.lk/page-1823073.
However, the information shown online might be outdated and hence it is a good idea to double-check it with someone.
Additionally, as the official site says, you must be under 31 age and has to have graduated within 2 years past from the day you are lodging the application. Check your degree certificate or transcript to find the official graduation date.
Why 476 🤔
476 is a temporary visa. Thus if you plan to stay longer in Australia, you need to find some other means like Permanent Residency. However with this Visa, you can work full time in Australia and after working for 1 year, you get 5 points for applying for Permanent Residency. The points table can be found here: https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/visas/supporting/Pages/skilled/The-points-table.aspx
Another benefit of this is that, once you land in Australia, you have the opportunity to find more contacts which might help you find another way to stay longer. You can attend to thousands of meetups that take place all over the year to meet professionals who would invite you to exciting opportunities and to expand your online visibility. Most of these meetups are organized through Meetup.com (https://www.meetup.com/). For instance, you might get an invite to a company which offers TSS visa (https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/trav/visa-1/482-)
Before going into any other details, I will jot down a few caveats associated with this Visa category. Because, if you don’t plan things correctly, applying for this visa might end up being a huge mistake.
If you hadn’t noticed already, this visa is valid only for 18 months. After that, you either need to get a Permanent Residency visa or jump into another visa category. Both of these options are really hard.
Either way, it is quite crucial to find a job in the same stream as your degree as fast as you can. Remember, you need to work for 1 year to get the 5 points which will help you gain 5 PR points. Thus you need to find a job within 6 months of arrival.
On the other hand, even if you manage to collect the PR points as required, the PR applications can take a long time to process. I have heard from a few friends that it usually takes more than 6–8 months. Thus you might need to go back to your country or get a bridging visa after the 476 expires. Unfortunately, I am not crystal clear about that process.
Another thing I am not super clear about is how the skill assessment is done for Computer Science related engineers. Some people say that the first two years of their career are not counted as “experience”. If that is the case, there is a risk to come to Australia if you don’t have two years' experience in another country. Because then, the year you work in Australia will not add any points to the PR point calculation.
English Language Requirements 🇬🇧
IELTS and PTE are the most common ways to get your English skills assessed. I am not sure whether other methods like TOEFEL are accepted for Australian immigration.
Both PTE and IELTS assess language skills under 4 streams(known as bands); Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking. Marks are given out of 9 and an overall score is also given. However, this overall score doesn’t have a big impact as the immigration process considers the minimum out of the 4 bands as your score.
For IELTS, you only need an overall band score of 6 AFAIK for this Visa. However, since you might already be planning to apply for Permanent Residency later, it is recommended that you score 8 out of 9 for all bands. This secures you 20 points for the Permanent Residency points test. A score of 7 out of 9 will only secure 10 PR points.
I applied for the IELTS test via the British Council and it cost around RS.22000 back in 2017. Given that they provided a handy set of training materials including a test book and an audio CD, I think it was a fair price.
As far as I know, PTE is completely computer-based and will be easier if you are comfortable with computers. If you struggle with keyboard typing, I recommend you to try IELTS instead.
Application Process 📑
Before you apply for any Visa, you need to have a Passport. Sri Lankan Passport office (Department of Immigration & Emigration) is located at Suhurupaya, Battaramulla. The Passport application can be downloaded from http://www.immigration.gov.lk/web/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=127&Itemid=105&lang=en.
Download the Travel Document Application K 35A. Fill it and take it to the department with an Original Copy of your birth certificate. Make sure the birth certificate is clear and readable. Passport photos can be taken by a studio close to the department. They will know what you are looking for 😂. Get the passport in advance to save some money 🤑, as the one day service costs a lot more than the regular service.
Visa applications can be lodged through an authorized agent or by yourself. Going ahead with an agent is safer but costs a huge amount of money. When I last checked, an agent mentioned that they charge AUD2000 for the whole process. In my opinion, if you are thinking of moving to Australia, you better be able to do this by yourself.
You can, however, consult an agent at a cheaper cost just to get an idea of your circumstances. Some agencies do free consulting and some agents charge around AUD 30–100.
I will try to summarise this process in brief. If you need more clarifications, add a comment and I will update this section from my knowledge.
1. Create an immi Account
Go to https://online.immi.gov.au/ and create a new immi account. The whole visa application process is handled through this website.
2. Get your Health Declaration
You can get your health declaration before or after lodging your Visa application. However, the visa approval process will get faster if you get your health declaration beforehand.
Once you have created your account, you can create a new application. Choose, Health -> My Health Declarations. Fill in the forms as necessary and make an appointment with an authorized institute to get your health check.
For Sri Lankans, you can go to IOM Sri Lanka. http://srilanka.iom.int
Once you get your health check done, they will send the results to the Australian immigration department and your application will be updated online.
3. Lodge your application
Now you can lodge the actual visa application. Similar to the above, create a new application and choose Skilled Migration -> General Skilled Migration Visa. You may or may not see your university under the given list. If it is not there, you can manually enter the details.
4. Uploading Documents
Once you lodge an application, you will be redirected to a page where you are required to upload documents. The required checklist of documents can also be found here: https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/help-text/eplus/Pages/elp-h1050.aspx/. This checklist may change from time to time, so I will not mention the theme here.
An overview of the Quality and formatting requirements of the documents can be found here: https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/help-text/eplus/Pages/elp-h1470.aspx. There will be a small description for each document in the Attachments Page, against each entry. Read thoroughly through all these descriptions and make sure to upload the right document with the right description on the first go itself. You will not get a chance to edit or delete already uploaded documents.
Some documents are marked as required and some as recommended. I would personally recommend attaching all of them. Because… reasons 🤓.
Your visa application might get processed even if you don’t follow the exact guidelines given. However, the risk is not worth it. The process may get delayed and the application might even get rejected.
I got all my certificates and documents approved by a lawyer as necessary. If your documents(such as Birth Certificate) are in your native language, you will need to get them translated to English. The translations should be done by a sworn translator. Additionally, I got my NIC and Birth Certificates approved by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Sri Lanka.
5. Additional documents requested
Recently, I have heard that the applicants are required to submit additional documents after they have initially submitted the application.
Do as requested, and do remember to click on the button at the bottom of the attachments page which says something like “I have submitted the documents as requested” or something similar. This is very important. Pressing this button will change the status of your application from something like, “information requested” to “Further assessment”.
Next Steps 😋
Once you’ve been granted Visa, you can book your tickets 💪!!! The Visa is valid for 18 months starting from the day you land on Australia. That is, you don’t need to come to Australia as soon as the Visa is granted. You will have around 6 months to prepare before you come. However, there is a date mentioned before which you must visit Australia at least once.
If you are from the Software Industry, the easiest way to land on a Job is through LinkedIn and Stackoverflow Developer Jobs(https://stackoverflow.com/jobs).
For other industries, I’ve heard that Seek.com.au is the way to go. Seek has developer jobs too. But I personally didn’t find it that effective compared to LinkedIn and SO.
Also, when you have come to Australia, your big mission is to collect PR points. For the record, I am still doing that. My advice based on what I went through, is that don’t delay anything. Do PTE, Do NAATI CCL, Do a Professional Year if you can. Do them as soon as you can.
If you have more questions, please comment below. I will try to help you as I can. Cheers and Good Luck!!! 😎
Also, recently many people contacted me personally to seek advice. While I don’t mind, I encourage you to ask your questions as comments to this post. This way, others who have the same questions can benefit from that.