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The Hitchhikers immigration guide to remote working in Australia (updated 10 May 2023)

By 10 April, 2019May 10th, 20232 Comments8 min read

remote working
In the words of the sagely Seekers, “the world is a a’Turnin’”. Long distance communication is simpler, cheaper and more accessible than ever before. The home telephone is a’Dyin’ and video conferencing is so vanilla. Truly, Sci-Fi channel style communication through Virtual Reality (VR) is just over the horizon. According to Jeremy Bailenson, founding director of Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab,  “VR takes all the gadgets away, it takes all the multitasking away and you actually feel like you’re with someone. We call this social presence — you see their emotions, you see their gestures and it feels just like you’re in the room with them. It takes what is typically seen as something that’s unemotional and distant and makes it feel like somebody’s right there with you.” A world where you can be in your underwear, pitching a critical project to Senior Execs is almost in our grasp.

It’s not surprising that the world’s workforce is becoming more mobile. “People joining the workforce now have a different mindset from the past,” says Andrew Brushfield, Director, Victoria and Western Australia at Robert Half. “People are looking for experiences and growth, and the need for stability is not so ingrained.”

Usually, the slow moving juggernaut of immigration bureaucracy (globally, not just in Australia) is tardy when it comes to keeping pace with today’s nimble footed employees.

We look at the visa limitations for remote work (defined in this piece as a situation in which an employee works mainly from home and communicates with an overseas employer by email and telephone) for non-Citizens in Australia.

Employer sponsored visas

Firstly, employer sponsored visas are for formal transfers of employees and not detailed in this article. If this is of interest to you, feel free to watch a fantastic video of our charismatic Partner Jordan Tew discuss this here. You can also refer to our dedicated page considering the various visa options here.

Visitor Visas / eVisitor / ETAs

For short term travel, the broader category of Visitor visas are generally the simplest visas to obtain to Australia. If you hold a passport from an ETA eligible[1] or eVisitor eligible[2] country, these visas can usually be granted in less than 1 day, and are valid for 12 months, have multi-entry facilities, and permit 3 month stay periods. Other passport holders can still apply for Visitor Subclass 600 visas, though they take more paper work and can be difficult to obtain as you must evidence that you are a “genuine temporary entrant”.

All of these visas are granted with Condition 8101 which states that “the holder must not engage in work in Australia”. Work also defined broadly to mean an activity that, in Australia, normally attracts remuneration.

Working remotely can still be work that would normally attract remuneration. Fortunately, the Department has a key piece of policy under the heading “Online work” (their term for what we call remote work): “Subclass 600 visa holders [or other visitor visas] undertaking limited work activities online (including social media influencers and bloggers) for an overseas employer, while in Australia, are generally not considered to be in breach of condition 8101. Digital nomads who use technology to work remotely while travelling between different locations (who are either self-employed or employed by a company without an office in Australia), may also be eligible for a Subclass 600 visa in either the Tourist stream or Business Visitor stream.”

What this means in simple terms:

You can work remotely for a foreign employer (not operating in Australia) for the duration of your visa even if it contains Condition 8101, as long as you comply with your other visa conditions. This includes remote workers, social media influencers, and bloggers.

Just bear in mind that you need to consider the duration of your stay independently of your right to work. Usually Visitor visas are granted for 3 month stay periods (though this period can restart on each entry). Making multiple entries to extend stay can lead to border officials questioning whether or not you are a genuine temporary entrant.

So, what’s the cost (as of writing)?

A Visitor visa application has a lodgement fee of $150 (if outside Australia).

An ETA application has a service fee of $20.

An eVisitor application has no lodgement fee.

Working Holiday Visas

The Working Holiday visa[4] and the Work and Holiday[5] visa lets eligible passport holders who are usually between 18 to 30[6] years old (inclusive) have an extended holiday in Australia and work here to help fund their trip.

These visas are granted with Condition 8547, which usually restricts a visa holder to 6 months of employment with any one employer whilst in Australia. Fortunately, immigration policy notes: “The employment limitation applies only to businesses operating in Australia. Australia regulates the rights of non-residents to work for companies operating in Australia. TZ-417 and US-462 visa holders may be allowed to work for a foreign business not operating in Australia. The work should be considered on a case-by-case basis, but could include online jobs and journalism. However, work for a foreign business for which the applicant must obtain a licence or registration to perform in Australia would be subject to condition 8547.”

What this means in simple terms:

You can work remotely full time for a foreign employer (not operating in Australia) whilst in Australia for the validity period of your visa without restriction, so long as you are not required to obtain a licence or registration to perform that work.

So, what’s the cost (as of writing)?

Both the Working Holiday and Work and Holiday visa applications have a lodgement fee of $510.

Other visas

The above are not the only visa options for people seeking to work remotely in Australia. Australia is always looking to bring in skilled talent and there are a number of visas (both temporary and permanent) for skilled individuals looking to relocate to Australia (particularly regional Australia). These visas usually have unlimited work rights which mean they also permit work for an Australian company. Reach out to us directly to consider alternative visa options, or review our services page here for an outline of options.

Any questions?

The above is general information only, and your specific situation may require a more thorough advice. If you have any questions about the above visas, or Australian immigration more generally, feel free to get in touch with us directly by email: [email protected] or telephone (03) 9016 0484. As the world keeps a’Turnin’, so do we.

[1] Brunei – Darussalam, Canada, Hong Kong (SAR PRC), Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Korea, Rep of (South), United States

[2] Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Republic of San Marino, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom – British Citizen, Vatican City

[3] Note that the Department will look at a number of factors in determining whether you are a genuine temporary entrant: (1) Whether you have a history of compliant travel (2) The length of each visit the person has made to Australia (3) The length of time spent outside Australia in between visits. Typically, a visitor would be expected to spend at least as much time out of Australia as in Australia (4) Your ability to support yourself without working while in Australia (5) The reasons for your travel and stay (6) Whether there are any other more suitable visa options (7) Whether you are maintaining ties to their home country such as a primary place of residence.

[4] Belgium, Canada, Republic of Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China (including British National Overseas passport holders),

Republic of Ireland, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Taiwan (other than an official or diplomatic passport), The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

[5] Argentina, Austria, Chile, China, People’s Republic of Czech Republic, Hungary, Indonesia, Israel, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Peru, Poland, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Thailand, Turkey, Uruguay, United States of America, Vietnam.

[6] Canadian and Irish citizens can be up to 35.

Mihan Hannan

Author Mihan Hannan

Formerly a Senior Associate in one of Australia’s most reputable immigration litigation and review practices, Mihan is solutions focused and well versed in all aspects of Australian immigration law. Mihan also has a subscription addiction, being obsessed with tools to improve the firms immigration work flow.

More posts by Mihan Hannan

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Esther says:

    Hi, I would like to inquire if Australian laws would allow the holder of a student family (subsequent entry) visa (subclass 500) to work remotely in Australia for a company that has an office outside Australia? I have a student visa (subclass 500), and is full-time studying. However, I plan to invite my husband (family subsequent entry visa) to join me. He has a remote job mainly in IT work that provides product support (web-based and app-based learning compliance support). He is being paid in a foreign bank account, is paying pension and is being taxed in a different country. Appreciate your advise if he can continue his remote work while being in Australia for the duration of his visa (1 year).

    • admin says:

      Hi Esther,
      Broadly speaking, online work for a company overseas is not going to be impacted by any work limitations on your husband’s visa, but there are nuances to this.
      Feel free to contact us at [email protected] if you’d like to discuss further.
      Kind regards,
      Hannan Tew

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