Free Trade Agreement promises new visa pathways for workers

What’s new?

A new free trade agreement between Australia and the UK was signed on 17 December 2021. It provides a number of opportunities for holiday workers and skilled workers in high demand sectors to access Australian visas with fewer requirements, and will make it easier for businesses to transfer talent across borders.

However, it will be a long process before the provisions of the agreement come into effect. 

What happens next?

The Australia-UK Free Trade Agreement (A-UKFTA) will need to go through a number of domestic legislative procedures, including being tabled in both of Houses of the Federal Parliament. It will then undergo consideration by the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties (JSCOT). Further legislative changes that need to be made must then be passed by both Houses.

After all procedures have been completed, it will still take 30 days (or any other mutually agreed upon date) for the provisions to take full effect.

What provisions are in the agreement?

The A-UKFTA comprises several components, some of which will be take between two to five years from the 'entry into force' (EIF) of the agreement to be fully implemented. Those relevant to potential visa applicants from the UK and Australia include:

Benefits for:

Agreement provisions

Students and recent graduates

  • Within two years of ‘entry into force’ of the agreement, Australian Working Holiday Visa makers will have expanded rights and will be able to stay in the UK for up to three years with an increased cut off age of 35.

  • The same commitments will apply to UK nationals coming to Australia, including no requirements on the type of work they can do to extend their stay.

Managers and specialists

  • Guaranteed access for managers and specialists across all sectors to undertake three-year intra-corporate transfers

  • Graduate trainees to have one-year transfers

Tech entrepreneurs and innovators

  • An Innovation and Early Careers Skills Exchange Pilot is being piloted for UK nationals involved in innovation to enter Australia through a workplace exchange.

  • Numbers will be capped at 1000 in the first year, rising by 1000 for the second year.

  • The visa will be implemented within one year of ‘entry into force’ of the A-UKFTA.

  • It is likely this pathway will be work in tandem with the Global Talent visa

Agricultural workers

  • A joint Declaration on Agriculture and Agribusiness Workers detailing available pathways for workers in this sector will be made.

  • UK workers have been invited to participate in the Australian Agriculture Visa, which is under development.

Service suppliers and professionals

  • UK service suppliers including architects, scientists, researchers, lawyers and accountants will be able to access Australian visas without being subject to the occupation skilled lists.

  • Support for recognition of professional qualifications between Australia and the UK

Who will benefit?

As the table above shows, the A-UKFTA will benefit a broad range of potential visitors and visa applicants, including holiday workers, tech specialists, business executives and skilled professionals.

The A-UKFTA is especially good news for UK citizens whose visa applications are still subject to occupation skilled lists (the Short-Term Skilled Occupation List, STSOL, and Medium and Long-Term Skilled Occupation list, MLTSSL), or do not have an occupation currently listed on the Priority Migration Occupation Skilled List (PMSOL).

For more information about the free trade agreement, visit the DFAT website.

Are you a UK national who wants to find out more about living and working in Australia? Our immigration experts can help.

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