457 or Permanent Residency (186 visa)?

Australia introduced some new rules about visas in July 2012 so this is a brief review of where we’re at in terms of what is the best visa for you to go to Australia with.

Registration and VisasOver the past few years, the majority of doctors have gone to Australia with a 457 temporary business visa. Is this still the right way or is it possible to apply for Permanent Residency via the Direct Entry 186 route?

On the surface, the 186 visa looks promising. It gives you rights to reside in Australia long term and you get access to schooling and healthcare on an equal footing to Australian citizens.  It also looks to be possible to apply for this visa while you’re still in the UK or Ireland and move to Australia once it’s been granted. For those looking to go to Australia for the long term, it looks ideal. The main conditions are that you must have a job offer for more than 2 years as an employee and that you have practised within your specialty  here in the UK or Ireland for more than 3 years (ie you’ve had your MRCGP for over 3 years)


We’ve looked at it in detail and it’s not so straightforward. These are the problems we’ve come up against:

a)  Employee status. Most GP jobs in Australia are for you to be a self-employed contractor.  So, you would need to work in one of the few practices where there are a number of GPs working as employees. (N.B. The employer would need to show that they are giving equitable pay and conditions to you as a new employee compared to their other employees. If all other GPs are self-employed, they won’t be able to do this. Equally, the salary you’ll be offered will be substantially below the amount of “expected earnings” you’d get as a self-employed contractor – though you might be able to make up the amount with “bonuses”).

b)  Employer needs to be a registered 186 sponsor. This isn’t in itself a show stopper but it is a bit more hassle for the practice to set up. Plus it takes a couple of months to sort out

c)  Length of time. This is the real issue. The direct entry 186 visa route is new and while there isn’t a lot of information on how long it will take, the expectation is between 5 to 10 months (and possibly longer). The issue is not the time scale per se – though most employers in Australia are looking for GPs to come within a 6 month time frame. It is that the visa application timescale may conflict with granting of “Fellowship ad eundum gradum” by the RACGP. Once you’ve got your RACGP approval (effectively when you get your “Fellowship ad eundum gradum”), you’ve got 6 months to take up a job as a GP in Australia. If you don’t then, the fellowship lapses. It is very difficult to get an extension. Although you might be able to run the visa application and AMC / RACGP alongside each other, there is no guarantee on the time scales

d)  Cost. It’s quite expensive – typically $4,000 for the visa plus you’ll need the help of a visa agent at a cost of around a further $3,000

So, in our view, it is back to the 457 visa as the best way to go to Australia. And this chimes in with the general view on emigration to Australia. Australia is really keen to bring in skilled people from the UK & Ireland BUT they want you to come via a temporary 457 visa. Permanent residency is something they want you to apply for once you’ve been there for a bit

The service I received from both Paul in the UK and from Monique and Martina in Australia was excellent. Initially I mainly was in contact with Paul whilst I was getting organised with registration which he helped with. He was extremely patient in answering all my questions. When I first arrived in Newcastle I was really pleased that Martina came to meet me there whilst she was visiting New South Wales (despite being based in Melbourne) and took me to my practice to meet everyone. I found this particularly helpful as I moved out here on my own knowing no-one so I was grateful to meet a friendly face. I’ve been here 5 months now and its definitely been one of the best things I’ve ever done.
Dr S. G.