The problem with travelling is that the more places you see, the more places you want to see. Every time you tick a destination or experience off the wishlist, you find yourself hearing about and adding three more in the process. The result of this is that whatever visa you’re on, you increasingly notice the tick tock at the back of your head as your Aussie visa edges towards its expiry date. But this need not be a problem, as extending your visa isn’t as hard or costly as you might think it is.

If you arrived in Australia on a three-month tourist visa, it’s relatively easy to get another three months as a tourist. You can lodge the 676 visa within Australia, but remember it’s illegal to work on a tourist visa.

Likewise, if you’re on a student visa and your course is nearing its end, you can apply for a tourist visa, a working holiday visa or sign up to another course and get another student visa. Being a student in Australia is one of the quickest routes to gaining permanent residency, skipping the sponsorship stage, under the Skilled Migration Scheme.

There are several options for students hoping to gain residency (notably the 885 and 886 visas), but take note that generally you need to have completed two years of study in Australia and you must be qualified to do a job that is on the government’s Skilled Occupation List. The list, which basically covers all the professions for which Australia has a shortage of workers, includes a wide range of roles, from accountant to carpenter, social worker to teacher.

The vast majority of travellers Down Under, however, arrive on a working holiday visa. This can be extended for a second year by completing 88 days of “specified work” in a “regional area”. Most commonly this is fruit-picking or volunteer work but can also include some construction and mining roles. Make sure you look at the government’s immigration website to check that the post code of where you’re planning to work is classified as “regional”.

If you’re hoping to extend your Aussie stay by a much longer period, then thing get more complicated, but are still far from difficult. The easiest and most common route is to find a company to sponsor you. Due to only being able to work with one firm for six months on a working holiday visa, this will mean acting fairly fast once you get a job you like.

The most common sponsorship visa is an employer-nominated 457 visa. To qualify, you must be in a job that pays at least $49,330 (excluding superannuation) and is on the government skills list. Sponsorship will let you stay in Australia for up to four years, but only if you stay in that job. If you quit, you’ll have just 28 days to leave the country or find another employer willing to sponsor you.

Beyond sponsorship, the next step is permanent residency, which means you can stay in Oz for the rest of your life (unless you leave for an extended period) and can do any job, or none at all.

February 24th, 2012