Employer Nomination Scheme (ENS) Subclass 186 Visas

The Employer Nomination Scheme (ENS) results in a permanent visa for the sponsored employee. It is a common way for 457 visa holders to qualify for permanent residence, but has a higher skill level than the 457 visa.

ENS Stages

There are two stages to the ENS subclass 186 application:

  • Nomination: involves review of the business’ operations as well as the position offered to the employee
  • Visa Application: there are three possible pathways which may require a skills assessment, English language testing and health and police checks


Application Pathways

There are three possible application pathways for an ENS visa:

  1. Temporary Residence Transition: where applicants have worked with the employer on a 457 visa for the last 2 years. In this case, no skills assessment is required and an English level equivalent to IELTS 5 is required.
  2. Direct Entry Stream: the employee will need to provide a formal skills assessment in their occupation, and show that they have worked in their occupation for three years. The required English level is IELTS 6 equivalent.
  3. Agreement Stream: where the employer has a Labour Agreement



There are two parts to a 186 Visa, the Nomination application and the Visa application. The Nomination application reviews the operations of the business, training expenditure and the details of the occupation and salary being offered to the visa applicant. The Visa application assesses the applicant’s skills, English language ability, health and character. The 186 Visa is a common way for existing 457 Visa holders to transition to Permanent Residence but it is also possible to apply for Permanent Residence directly with this visa.

You must be less than 50 years of age at the time you apply for this visa.

There are two distinct pathways that enable applicants to obtain this visa.

The Temporary Residence Transition Stream enables existing 457 visa holders who have worked for their sponsoring employer for 2 years to apply based on a further Nomination by their existing employer.

The Direct Entry Stream enables applicants who demonstrate 3 years relevant work experience and obtain a Skills Assessment to apply for this visa.

The processing time for the 186 visa can take from 5 – 6 months.

186 Nomination Application

The 186 nomination application determines the suitability of the employer and that of the nominated occupation. A nomination is valid for 6 months after approval.

Employer Nominated applications require a substantially higher level of documentation than that of the 457 visa.

Skills Assessment

For applicants applying under the Direct Entry Scheme they will be required to have their skills assessed as suitable for their occupation. There are a number of Skills Assessing Authorities appointed by the Australian government for this purpose. Importantly, Skills Assessing Authorities have different requirements and criteria that must be met depending on your occupation. There is a fee payable for a skills assessment.

Skill Requirement – Exceptions

There are limited exceptions to the Skill Requirement for the 186 Visa. If you fall within one of the categories below you will not be required to demonstrate that you have three years relevant employment experience and a successful Skills Assessment.

• Nominated in the occupation as a Senior Academic, Scientist, University lectures or Ministers of Religion
• New Zealand citizens who have worked for their sponsoring employer for at least two years in the nominated occupation.
• The Salary on offer to the visa applicant is above a certain threshold.
• The Visa applicant is applying on the basis of holding a 457 visa for at least two years (Temporary Residence Transition Stream) and is being nominated in the same occupation.