For a lot of overseas qualified electricians or other trades workers, it is very confusing to find what you need to do to work in your occupation in Australia.
This article is broken into 2 parts:
• What steps you must undertake to work in Australia
• What steps you must take to apply for a visa
Working as an electrician in Australia
Do I need Australian licensing to work in the trade?
To be able to work in many different trades in Australia, you are required to hold a license for the occupation.
Unfortunately there is not one single licensing body for all trades. This is due to the fact that licensing requirements vary throughout the different States of Australia.
Generally speaking any electrical work MUST be done by a licensed electrician.
It is common for many foreign trained electricians to work as a trade assistant for a construction or electrical company, however you are not allowed to undertake any electrical work if you are not licensed.
A trade assistant assists qualified tradesmen and is not qualified in the role.
What if I’m already in Australia on a student or working holiday visa, can I apply to get a license to work here?
Yes you can. The first step towards applying to work in Australia is that you apply for an Offshore Technical Skills Record (OTSR).
What is an offshore Technical Skills Record (OTSR)?
Many foreign trades workers are highly skilled in their trade, however there is often different requirements to work in a trade in Australia compared to their home country. The way their skills are applied are different in Australia to back home, this is a skills gap.
The skills gap of Australian and foreign trades practices stems from the different standards enforced in each country. There are different government regulators, different work place rules and different safety codes to follow. Even in Australia there is differences in each states regulations and practices. What might be acceptable in QLD is not acceptable in NSW.
An offshore technical skills record (OTSR) allows an assessor to determine which skills need to be addressed in the gap training. On successful completion of an OTSR, it allows a person to obtain a provisional license which allows them to work under the supervision of a licensed trade worker. The worker must then undertake gap training at a registered training organization and complete supervised work in order to obtain their full license.
What is the process to gain licensing?
Obtaining a full license in Australia can take a considerable amount of time. Below is a brief outline of the steps required to gain licensing for someone who is qualified in their trade in their home country.
1. Apply to have an Offshore Technical Skills Record (OTSR).
An OTSR is done through a registered training organization. There are numerous organisations eligible to provide an offshore technical skills record around Australia.
During an OTSR, the applicant must demonstrate that they have the technical skills required to work in the occupation in Australia. They do this by checking your previous education and experience with the technical competencies that are gained through an Australian qualification.
2. Apply for a Provisional License
Once you have completed an OTSR you can apply to the licensing body in your state for a provisional license.
A provisional license allows you to work in your trade under the supervision of a licensed tradesman. During your provisional license you will need to undertake additional training in order to be provided with the Australian qualification to work in your occupation.
3. Undertake additional training and work experience in your occupation
Whilst on a provisional license the holder must work supervised in Australia and undertake gap training, or Australian specific training. For example you will need to undertake a training course in Australian safety standards.
When you obtain your OTSR you are generally given a list of short courses or training that you must undertake in order to obtain this license, and a time frame in which you must complete this training (usually 12 months).
4. Obtain the Australian Qualification
Provided you have completed the required gap training and the required supervised employment, you can then apply to obtain an Australian qualification for your trade. This is done through the RTO. This is the same qualification that someone who completed an apprenticeship, or undertook the education in Australia obtained
5. Apply for a full license.
Once you have obtained your Australian qualification you can then apply for your full license. Please note having a full license to work in Australia does not guarantee you a work visa. You will still require an employer to sponsor your visa or apply through general skilled migration.
Provisional Licensing vs Full license?
A provisional license is often granted after you have completed your OTSR. On a provisional license you must work under the supervision of a licensed tradesman. However you can undertake gap training in order to obtain your full license.
What Australian Qualification do I need to work in the occupation in Australia?
Applicants are required to have an Australian Qualification Framework (AQF) III Qualification or equivalent to work in most trades. Some common Australian trade qualifications include:
• Certificate III in Electrotechnology Electrician
• Certificate III in Refrigeration and Air-conditioning
• Certificate III in Carpentry
• Certificate III in Joinery
• Certificate III in Painting and Decorating
• Certificate III in Bricklaying/Blocklaying
Applying for a visa as an electrician
Having a license to work in a trade does not mean you will qualify to obtain a work visa in Australia. Additionally, you may be able to obtain obtain a work visa to Australia without licensing (however you cannot work in the role until you obtain full licensing).
What are the most common visas to work as an electrician in Australia?
The most common visas for electricians or other tradesmen to work in Australia are:
- General Skilled Migration (189 or 190) – This is a permanent visa in Australia that does not require an employer to sponsor
- Employer Sponsored (457 or 187) – This visa allows the visa holder to work in their trade for the company in Australia. It may lead to PR after 2 years
What visa requires licensing?
• To apply for general skilled migration (189 or 190) licensing is usually not required for the visa to be granted.
• For employer sponsored visas (457, 187 or 186) licensing is usually required, however visas are often granted without a license in place. The applicant cannot start working in the role without a valid license.
• Students or Working Holiday Makers do not require a license for the visa, however may obtain a provisional license or work as a trade assistant to a qualified tradesman in Australia.
What visas require a skills assessment.
For most countries, only general skilled migration visas require a skills assessment. However certain countries require a skills assessment before they can obtain an employer sponsored (457 or 187) visa
Can I do an apprenticeship if I am an international student?
Unfortunately international students cannot undertake an apprenticeship in Australia. However there are many international colleges that offer course that allow you to become a qualified tradesperson in Australia. Most of these courses include at least 360 hour of work experience with a qualified trades person. Have a look through this link for some available courses in Aus.
What is the difference between licensing and a skills assessment?
A license allows you to work in the trade in Australia. By itself, a license does now mean you will qualify for a work visa. A positive skills assessment allows you to apply for general skilled migration (provided you can pass the other visa requirements.)
Most onshore skills assessments are done through Trades Recognition Australia.
Most offshore skills assessments are done through VetAssess
General Requirements for the skills assessments are:
• Have a trade qualification or education equivalent to Australian standards
• Have at least 3 years post qualification experience
• Have worked in the field for at least 12 months over the last 3 years
I have completed half my apprenticeship or trade qualification back home, can I get qualified in Australia?
If you have completed a partial qualification from outside Australia, you may be able to apply for partial credit transfer so you get credit for some components of an Australian qualification. A city and guilds level 2 from the UK, may be considered comparable to an AQF level 3 under certain circumstances. This is judged on a case by case basis depending on the content of the course studied.
Please note the above information is general in nature and you must consult the relevant skills assessor or migration agent for the correct information specific to your case.
Pathway to Aus has helped numerous tradesman from all over the world migrate to Australia. If you are interested in speaking with a registered migration agent concerning your situation contact Pathway to Aus on:
P: +61 07 55 327 000
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