Employer Nomination Scheme (ENS) visas, or subclass 186 visas, are permanent residency visas for skilled workers. They are available both to applicants who are already living and working in Australia as temporary residents, and to those living outside Australia. To be eligible for this visa, a skilled individual must be nominated by an Australian employer.
This visa provides the holder with Australian permanent residency with no conditions. Dependent family members may be included. The holder can live and work wherever they like in Australia. Although the visa is granted based on the holder being skilled in a specific occupation, once granted, the visa doesn’t require you to seek or maintain employment in this occupation.
The subclass 186 visa has two streams, the Temporary Residence Transition (TRT) Stream and the Direct Entry (DE) Stream. Each stream has different criteria.
To apply in the TRT stream, you must be the holder of a subclass 457 visa, a 482 visa, or a bridging visa granted in association with one of these subclasses. To apply in the DE stream, you may be in or outside of Australia.
The Temporary Residence Transition Stream
There are two cohorts of applicants who may apply through the TRT stream; those who had applied for or held a 457 visa before 18 April 2017, and those who applied for a 457 or 482 visa after 18 April 2017.
If your 457 visas was applied for pre 18 April 2017 and subsequently granted, you can apply for the 186 visa once you have worked with your sponsor for a minimum of two years whilst the holder of this visa, on the basis of grandfathering arrangements set out by the Department of Home Affairs. In this situation, you must be under 50 years of age.
If your 457/482 visa was granted after 18 April 2017, you must have an occupation on the MLTSSL, and can then apply for the 186 visa once you have worked for your sponsor for three years whilst the holder of this visa. This cohort of applicants cannot apply for the 186 visa if they have an occupation on the STSOL. This cohort of applicants cannot apply for the 186 visa if they have an occupation on the STSOL, unless they are located in a regional area, and have worked for the nominating employer for three years whilst the holder of a 457 or 482 visa. Applicants in this situation must be under 45 years of age.
All applicants in this stream must demonstrate that they have earned the salary nominated in their 457/482 nomination in each relevant year.
The Direct Entry Stream
Applicants in the DE stream must have an occupation on the MLTSSL and must obtain a positive skills assessment in this occupation prior to application. At least three years of employment at the skilled level is required. Applicants in the DE stream must be under 45 years of age.
An employer nomination must be lodged on behalf of an applicant before a visa application can be made. This nomination will outline the nominated occupation, terms and conditions of employment, and the financial viability of the nominating business. Employers must also detail how the position came to be available and justify the need to nominate the applicant. The nomination must also be accompanied by the Skilling Australia Fund levy. A corresponding visa application can then be submitted.
In all cases, a competent English score (IELTS 6 or equivalent, unless exempt) is required, as well as evidence of meeting the health and character requirements.