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Australian employers have access to a range of visas to hire foreign workers. They can use these to fill a specialised position within the business. These visas can cover employees on a temporary or permanent basis. However, an important consideration for many businesses is the cost to sponsor an employee through this arrangement. There are different types of costs associated with sponsoring a foreign worker. These primarily depend on which visa option you choose. Further, as with all visa applications, you will need to pay some fees to the Department of Home Affairs (DOHA). This article will discuss the costs that you must pay when sponsoring a foreign worker under the three main types of employer-sponsored visas in Australia; the:

  • Temporary Skill Shortage Visa (subclass 482);
  • Employer Nomination Scheme (subclass 186); and
  • Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional (Provisional) visa (subclass 494).

Temporary Skill Shortage Visa (Subclass 482) (TSS visa)

The TSS visa is a temporary visa. It is the most common type of employer-sponsored visa in Australia. It allows you to sponsor a skilled foreign worker to fill a position that you cannot find a suitable Australian worker to fill. The worker may stay in Australia for anywhere between one to four years, depending on the occupation and stream they are eligible for under the visa (e.g. short-term or medium-term stream).

When applying for a TSS visa and other employer-sponsored visas, the application process involves three stages:

  • sponsorship;
  • nomination; and
  • visa application.

You must pay the fees involved at the sponsorship and nomination stage, whereas you can ask the applicant to pay the visa application fees.

TSS Fee Outline

The table below provides a guide on the government fees involved with each stage. All fees are in Australian dollars (AUD) and apply at the time of this article.

Fees (AUD)
$420 (paid by employer) This is the cost of becoming an approved sponsor under this visa.
$330 (paid by employer) This is the cost of nominating an applicant under this visa.
Skilling Australians Fund (SAF) levy – from $1,200 (paid annually by employer)

The purpose of the SAF levy is for employers to contribute to the broader skills development of Australians.

As the employer, you must pay the SAF levy to the government. You cannot transfer the cost to the applicant.

The levy that you are required to pay falls under two separate categories:

  • businesses with an annual turnover of less than $10 million – $1,200 per year (per worker); and
  • businesses with an annual turnover of $10 million or more – $1,800 per year (per worker).

Therefore, the amount of the SAF levy will depend on your business’ turnover and how long you intend to sponsor your worker in Australia.

For example, suppose you have a business turnover of less than $10 million and want to employ a worker for 2 years on this visa. In this case, your SAF levy would be $2,400 (2 years x $1,200).


$2,645 – for the primary applicant if the occupation is on the medium/long-term list ($2,645 for applicant over 18 and $660 for applicant under 18) 


$1,265 – for primary applicant if occupation is on the short-term list ($1,265 for applicant over 18 and $320 for applicant under 18)

The costs involved with preparing and lodging the visa application can be paid by the applicant and will vary depending on:

  1. which stream the applicant’s occupation belongs to; and
  2. whether there are additional applicants included in the application.

Further, the DOHA may charge a subsequent temporary application charge (STAC), depending on the applicant’s individual visa history. If the STAC is applicable, it is $700 per applicant.

Employer Nomination Scheme (Subclass 186) (ENS visa)

The subclass 186 visa allows businesses to employ skilled workers to live and work in Australia permanently. The ENS visa is a two-stage process, involving: 

  • nomination; and 
  • visa application.

The employer does not need to be an approved standard business sponsor. However, in many instances, they are. 

There are three streams available under this visa:

  1. direct entry;
  2. temporary residence transition; and
  3. labour agreement.

ENS Fee Outline

The table below outlines the fees for each stage when sponsoring an employee under the ENS visa.

Fees (AUD)
$540 (paid by employer) If the applicant falls within the labour agreement stream and the position is located in regional Australia, there is no nomination fee.
SAF levy – from $3,000 (once-off payment by employer) The SAF levy payable under this visa is as follows:

  • businesses with an annual turnover of less than $10 million – $3,000 one-off (per nomination);
  • businesses with an annual turnover of $10 million or more – $5,000 one-off (per nomination).

$4,045 – primary applicant

$2,025 – secondary applicant over 18

$1,010 – applicant under 18

You can cover these fees or pass the cost onto the applicant.

This amount will depend on the relevant stream and any additional applicants.

Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional (Provisional) Visa (Subclass 494) (SESR Visa)

The SESR visa replaced the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme visa (subclass 187) in November 2019. The SESR visa allows employers in regional Australia to sponsor skilled workers to fill positions they have been unable to hire locally. This is a temporary visa. However, there is a pathway to permanent residence via the subclass 191 (which will come into effect in 2022).

The process is similar to the TSS visa, as the SESR is a three stage process. 

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SESR Fee Outline

The table below outlines the fees for each stage when sponsoring an employee under the SESR visa.

Fees (AUD)
$420 (paid by employer) This is the cost of becoming an approved sponsor under this visa.
SAF levy – from $3,000 (once-off payment by employer)

There is no fee to nominate an applicant for either stream of this visa.

However, you will need to pay the SAF levy of $3,000 (turnover <$10 million) or $5,000 (turnover >$10 million).


$4,045 primary applicant

$2,025 – secondary applicant over 18

$1,010 – applicant under 18

These fees can be covered by the applicant/s or the employer

This amount will depend on the relevant stream and any additional applicants.

Other Costs

In addition to government fees, there may be other costs associated with sponsoring an employee. These include the professional fees of a Registered Migration Agent or lawyer to prepare and lodge the application on your behalf.

Further, the applicant may need to pay certain costs to assist with their application. This includes fees for:

  • an English test;
  • skills assessment;
  • police check;
  • health check; and
  • document translation.

Not all of these fees will apply. This will depend on your personal circumstances.

Am I Expected to Pay for All the Costs?

As the employer, you must pay for all costs associated with becoming a sponsor and nominating an applicant (i.e. the sponsorship and nomination stage). This includes the DOHA fees and costs involved with job recruitment and professional fees, for example. These cannot be passed on to the applicant.

You may also pay for some of the applicant’s costs. However, you are not obligated to do so.

Further, employers must not offer or receive a benefit in exchange for visa sponsorship, such as where the applicant pays the employer in return for sponsorship. This is illegal and serious consequences apply.

Key Takeaways

There are various costs involved when becoming a sponsor and nominating an employee to work for you in Australia. It is important to consider these costs from the start. This will help you understand whether employer sponsorship is a good option for your business. The costs will largely depend on the type of visa you choose. However, for all employer-sponsored visas, the employers must pay the fees associated with:

  • sponsorship; and
  • nomination.

It is illegal to transfer these costs to the visa applicant. You may pay for some of the applicant’s costs, such as the visa application fee. However, you are not required to do so. This should be discussed with the applicant before applying to avoid any issues or misunderstandings. For more information relating to the cost of sponsoring an employee, visit the DOHA website. If you need help in understanding the costs involved with sponsoring a worker in Australia, contact LegalVision’s immigration lawyers on 1300 544 755 or fill out the form on this page.

Frequently Asked Questions

Am I responsible for all of the costs of bringing a foreign employer to my business?

No. As the employer, you are responsible for any costs associated with sponsoring an applicant, as well as the costs for the nomination stage. You are not, however, responsible for the applicant’s individual costs. These costs may include the actual application costs. They may also include any additional costs that may be required due to the circumstances of the applicant. You can choose to pay these, but you do not have to.

What is the most cost-effective way to bring a foreign worker to Australia?

This will entirely depend on the individual circumstances of the worker and the position you are trying to fill. While cost is important to your business, it is critical that you select the correct visa for the circumstances. If you bring an employee to Australia on the wrong visa, this will lead to many negative consequences. For example, they may not be able to work in the correct position for you, or they may not have a pathway to permanent residency. These are all things you will need to consider before beginning the process.


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