186 ENS Visa

The Subclass 186 ENS visa (Employer Nomination Scheme visa) is one of a number of permanent residency permits, with a prerequisite that the applicant must have been sponsored by a nominating employer.

Applications for the 186 visa can be made under three distinct streams: the Transition stream, the Direct Entry stream, and the 186 Agreement stream.

In order to be eligible:

  • your occupation must be specified on the 186 Visa Occupations list
  • you must score at least IELTS level 6 (or equivalent) for each component of the English language requirements
  • you must be aged no more than 45 when applying to the Direct Entry stream, or 50 for the Temporary Residence Transition stream

Please note recent amendments to the ENS and RSMS visas, including the addition of a requirement to prove the authenticity of the nominated position, and the removal of the English language requirements providing that the applicant would earn over $180,000.

The subclass 186 Employer Nomination Scheme (ENS) is intended to give employers in Australia the opportunity to bring suitably skilled workers into the country to take up highly skilled positions when they are unable to do so by relying solely upon the Australian labour market.

Guidance for Employers

Businesses intending to sponsor applicants for a 186 visa must:

  • be actively and lawfully operating in Australia
  • have a legitimate need to fill the position they intend the 186 applicant to fill
  • be able to employ applicants in the sponsored position for a minimum of 24 months

Employer Nomination Scheme (Subclass 186)

What is a Subclass 186 Visa?

  • Subclass 186 visas provide permanent residence for skilled employees who have been nominated for a specific role by their employer.
  • The Employer Nomination Scheme (ENS) is the name for the wider program that enables Australian employers to bring in skilled workers from abroad on 186 visas.
  • Applications for 186 visas require the submission of sponsorship by the potential employer and an application from the foreign worker.
  • Applications for a 186 visa can be submitted from inside or outside of Australia, though applicants already in Australia must either hold an existing valid visa or a bridging visa A, B, or C.

Eligible Positions

The position intended to be filled by the overseas worker must:

  • be a full-time job lasting for a minimum of 24 months from the point the visa is granted
  • have been offered a role with a minimum salary of $70,000 per annum AND no less than the market rate for that type of role
    • Applicants are exempt from the market rate requirement if their salary is greater than $250,000 per annum
  • be in a qualifying occupation from Australia’s Medium and Long-term Strategic Skills List (MLTSSL)
    • NB: Applications on the basis of certain occupations from the list will be subject to supplementary requirements such as salary or type of business
  • be taking up employment under conditions that are as favourable to the employee as would be offered to an Australian undertaking similar work for the same employer and in the same location
  • prove (unless exempt) they have sufficient English language skills, either by being a citizen of certain majority English-speaking countries, or by holding one of the following qualifications (no older than three years):
    • IELTS test with a minimum score of 6 in every component
    • OET test with a minimum score of B in every component
    • PTE test with a minimum score of 50 in every component
    • CAE test with a minimum score of 169 in every component
    • TOEFL iBT scores of at least 21 in writing, 18 in speaking, 13 in reading and 12 in listening

In addition, applicants must:


Stage 1: Nomination Application

Applications are first registered on behalf of your employer with Australia’s Department of Home Affairs (the DOHA). Your employer will be required to provide the DOHA with documents to support the application and pay a Skilling Australians Fund (SAF) levy for EACH subclass 186 nomination. The exact fee will depend on the turnover of the sponsoring business.

Note: In the event that the nomination is approved before the actual visa application, the prospective employee must submit their application within no more than six months of the nomination’s approval.

Stage 2: Visa Application

Separate to the nomination, the prospective employee must submit their visa application to the DOHA. This can be done at the same time as the nomination application or within six months of the nomination’s approval. Applications must still meet the eligibility criteria above even if the nomination has already been approved by the DOHA.

Once both the nomination and visa application have been approved by the DOHA, a permanent subclass 186 visa will be issued to the applicant.

Skills Assessment Application

NB: Before a visa application is made to the DOHA, applicants must submit a request to an appropriate assessment authority to have their skills, qualifications and/or work experience assessed.

Each type of occupation on the MLTSSL has a specific assessing authority that applicants must approach before their application for a 186 visa can be approved. These authorities are the only ones authorised by the DOHA to consider 186 applicants’ skills and experience for a sponsored role.

We can assist with an application for a skills assessment if you have not already submitted a request for one. We will help identify the correct authority for the role you intend to fill, specify what documents and certificates you require to be assessed, and lodge the application itself on your behalf. We charge an additional fee for this service – this is on top of the assessing authority’s own fees.