The Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) was first established as the Department of Citizenship following World War II in a rush to “populate or perish”, and it has gone through many incarnations since. Today the Department is headed by the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship and it is responsible for border control, ethnic, and multicultural affairs and citizenship, as well as the Migration Program.

Today there are 90 visa classes and 149 visa subclasses under which potential migrants may enter Australia, although a mere 25 subclasses amount for some 97 per cent of visa finalisations. The subclasses might be further categorised as belonging to either temporary or permanent groupings, and within tourist, work, student, family or humanitarian visa types.

The Migration Program is capped at a certain number at each annual budget, and individual visa classes can also be capped at the Minister’s discretion. This allows the Department to tweak and adjust the make-up of the Migration Program according to skills needs, community views, political realities and other indicators, and is also a cause of confusion and distress for migrants and potential migrants.

In recent years there has been an increased emphasis on the so-called Skill Stream of visas, especially permanent migrants sponsored by Australian employers and state or territory governments whose occupation is listed on the Skilled Occupation List (SOL). Skilled workers generally qualify for temporary or permanent residency under the Subclass 457 – Business (Long Stay) visa, the Employer Nomination Scheme (ENS), the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (RSMS) or within the General Skilled Migration (GSM) program.

Potential migrants may lodge their own visa applications, nominate a non-fee charging sponsor, family member or diplomatic officials to submit applications on their behalf or use a Registered Migration Agent (RMA). RMAs are qualified migration advice professionals registered with the Office of the Migration Agents Registration Authority (OMARA). They are required to possess the relevant knowledge and appropriate insurance, and abide by a Code of Conduct, among other requirements.

Each RMA is assigned a Migration Agent Registration Number (MARN), the first two digits of which indicate the Agent’s year of initial registration.

The official OMARA website, www.mara.gov.au, serves as a register for all RMAs. The Migration Institute of Australia (MIA), the peak body for migration advice professionals, represents about 40 per cent of RMAs. The MIA maintains higher professional standards than the statutory requirement, and it also provides a ‘Find an Agent’ function on its website, www.mia.org.au.

Guide to Visa Classes

Potential migrants who wish to work in Australia have a number of sponsored and independent, on- and offshore options. Should they find sponsorship in Australia, they would potentially be eligible to migrate as temporary (Subclass 457) or as permanent workers (Subclasses 121/856 and 119/857) or under a Labour Agreement.

Other workers may be eligible for Skilled or Professional visas. The Residence (Subclasses 885, 886 and 887) and Migrant (Subclasses 175 and 176) visas are among the most popular, along with several other sponsored, temporary and provisional options. Investors, short-term business visitors, executives, carers, specialist entry and others are also eligible for different Subclasses of work visas.

Australia also has many types of student visas available, ranging from school-aged children (Subclass 571) to postgraduate researchers (Subclass 574), and visitor visas for holiday makers, retirees, those needing medical treatment and people who would like to work while they travel (Subclasses 976, 410, 675 and 417, respectively, among many others).

Family members, including partners (Subclasses 801, 100 and 300), parents (Subclasses 804, 103 and others), children (Subclasses 802 and 101 and others), returning residents (Subclasses 151 and 155) and others are potentially eligible for a range of visa types, as are refugees and other humanitarian entrants.

VISA Types


Employer Sponsored Workers

  • Temporary Visas
  • Subclass 457 – Business (Long Stay) Visa
  • Permanent Visas
  • Employer Nomination Scheme – ENS (Subclass 121/856)
  • Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme – RSMS (Subclass 119/857)
  • Labour Agreements

Professionals and other Skilled Migrants

  • Onshore
  • Skilled – Independent (Residence) Visa (Subclass 885)
  • Skilled – Sponsored (Residence) Visa (Subclass 886)
  • Skilled – Regional (Residence) Visa (Subclass 887)
  • Skilled – Regional Sponsored (Provisional ) Visa (Subclass 487)
  • Skilled – Graduate (Temporary) Visa (Subclass 485)
  • Offshore
  • Skilled – Independent (Migrant) Visa (Subclass 175)
  • Skilled – Sponsored (Migrant) Visa (Subclass 176)
  • Skilled – Regional Sponsored (Provisional) Visa (Subclass 475)
  • Skilled – Recognised Graduate (Temporary) Visa (Subclass 476)

Business People

  • Business visits
  • ETA (Business Entrant) Subclass 956 and 977)
  • eVisitor (Subclass 651)
  • Business (Short Stay) (Subclass 456) Visa
  • Sponsored Business Visitor (Short Stay) (Subclass 459) Visa
  • APEC Business Travel Card
  • Business Development – Provisional
  • Business Owner (Provisional) (Subclass 160)
  • State/Territory Sponsored Business Owner (Provisional) (Subclass 163)
  • Senior Executives (Provisional) (Subclass 161)
  • State/Territory Sponsored Senior Executive (Provisional) (Subclass 164)
  • Investor (Provisional) (Subclass 162)
  • State/Territory Sponsored Investor (Provisional) (Subclass 165)
  • Investor Retirement Visa (Subclass 405)
  • Independent Executive Further Application Onshore (Subclass 457IEFAO)
  • Business Development – Permanent
  • Business Talent (Migrant) (Subclass 132)
  • Business Owner (Residence) (Subclass 890)
  • State/Territory Sponsored Business Owner (Residence) (Subclass 892)
  • Established Business in Australia (Subclass 845)
  • Regional Established Business in Australia (Subclass 846)
  • Investor (Residence) (Subclass 891)
  • State/Territory Sponsored Investor (Residence) (Subclass 893)

Specialist Entry

  • Distinguished Talent Visa (Offshore) (Subclass 124)
  • Distinguished Talent Visa (Onshore) (Subclass 858)
  • Domestic Worker (Diplomatic/Consular) Visa (Subclass 426)
  • Domestic Worker (Executive) Visa (Subclass 427)
  • Exchange Visa (Subclass 411)
  • Entertainment Visa (Subclass 420)
  • Foreign Government Agency Visa (Subclass 415)
  • Media and Film Staff Visa (Subclass 423)
  • Religious Worker Visa (Subclass 428)
  • Special Program Visa (Subclass 416)
  • Sport Visa (Subclass 421)
  • Visiting Academic Visa (Subclass 419)

Doctors and Nurses

  • Subclass 422 – Medical Practitioner (Temporary) Visa
  • Occupational Trainee Visa (Subclass 442)

Air and Sea Crew

  • Maritime Crew Visa
  • Superyacht Crew (Subclass 488)


Family Members

  • Partner Category
  • Partner temporary Visa (Subclass 820)/permanent visa (Subclass 801) – onshore
  • Partner temporary visa (Subclass 309)/permanent Visa (Subclass 100) – offshore
  • Prospective Marriage Visa (Subclass 300)
  • Parent
  • Aged Parent (Residence) Visa (Subclass 804)
  • Contributory Aged Parent (Residence) Visa (Subclass 864)
  • Contributory Aged Parent (Temporary) Visa (Subclass 884)
  • Contributory Parent (Migrant) Visa (from Subclass 173 to Subclass 143)
  • Parent (Migrant) Visa (Subclass 103)
  • Contributory Parent (Migrant) Visa (Subclass 143)
  • Contributory Parent (Temporary) Visa (Subclass 173)
  • Child
  • Child (Permanent) (Subclass 802) – onshore
  • Child (Permanent) (Subclass 101) – offshore
  • Orphan Relative (Permanent) (Subclass 837) – onshore
  • Orphan Relative (Permanent) (Subclass 837) – offshore
  • Dependent Child Visa (Subclass 445)
  • Adoption (Permanent) (Subclass 102)
  • Other Family
  • Remaining Relative (Subclass 835) (Permanent)
  • Age Dependent Relative (Subclass 838) (Permanent)
  • Carer (Subclass 836) (Permanent)
  • New Zealand Citizen Family Relationship Visa (Subclass 461) (Temporary)
  • Remaining Relative Visa (Offshore) (Subclass 115)
  • Age Dependent Relative (Subclass 114)
  • Carer Visa (Offshore) (Subclass 116)

Returning Residents

  • Five Year Resident Return visa (Subclass 155)
  • Former Resident visa (subclass 151)


  • ETA (Visitor) (Subclass 976)
  • eVisitors (Subclass 651)
  • Tourist visa (Subclass 676)
  • Sponsored Family Visitor Visa (Subclass 679)
  • Working Holiday Visa (Subclass 417)
  • Work and Holiday Visa (Subclass 462)
  • Retirement Visa (Subclass 410)
  • Medical Treatment Short Stay Visa (Subclass 675)
  • Medical Treatment Long Stay Visa (Subclass 685)
  • Transit Visa (Subclass 771)


  • English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students (ELICOS) (Subclass 570)
  • Primary or secondary school course (Subclass 571)
  • Vocational education and training (Subclass 572)
  • Higher education (Subclass 573)
  • Postgraduate research (Subclass 574)
  • Non-award (Subclass 575)
  • AusAID and Defence (Subclass 576)


  • Refugee Visa (Subclass 200)
  • In-country Special Humanitarian Program Visa (Subclass 201)
  • Global Special Humanitarian Program Visa (subclass 202)
  • Emergency Rescue Visa (Subclass 203)
  • Woman at Risk Visa (Subclass 204)