Migration lingo made simple

When applying for visas, applicants encounter words or phrases that they have never seen before or they might struggle understanding.  This article intends to provide basic definition of common migration terminologies which are relevant in the visa application process.


  1. Onshore/Offshore/Overseas

These are terms that can be confusing to applicants when asked if they applied for a visa onshore or offshore.  Since the application is for an Australian visa, the point of reference will always be Australia.  This means that if you applied while in Australia, then you applied onshore. If you applied outside of Australia, then you applied offshore.

In some visa categories, there is a subclass for onshore applications (for example, Partner Visa 820/801 and Child visa 802 are both onshore subclasses) and a different subclass for offshore applications (for example, Partner Visa 309/100 and Child visa 101 are both onshore subclasses).

Similarly, when asked for your overseas work experience (when claiming for work experience under the migration points test), this is your work experience outside of Australia (this can be from the Philippines or any country).


  1. Nominated occupation

This is the applicant’s role that matches one of the occupations on the Skilled Occupation Lists (see item 3 below).  Applicants are required to determine their nominated occupation when applying for Permanent Residency visas under the General Skilled Migration stream (subclass 189, 190, and 491 visas) and Employer Sponsored visas (subclass 482, 186, and 494 visas).

Applicants can check the required qualification and work experience for their chosen nominated occupation to see if it matches their role.   Skills assessing bodies’ websites are good sources of information to determine the suitability of the applicant’s role versus the nominated occupation or in most cases, applicants will have to apply for skills assessment to confirm their nominated occupation.  Examples of skills assessment bodies are Trades Recognition Australia (TRA) for Cooks, Chefs, and other trade roles, The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Accreditation Council (ANMAC) for Nurses, and Australian Computer Society (ACS) for some IT roles.

  1. Skilled Occupation Lists

This is a list of occupations published by the Department of Home Affairs where occupations are categorised under the Medium to Long Term Strategic Skills List (MLTSSL), or under the Short-Term Skilled Occupation List (STSOL), or under the Regional Occupation List (ROL).  Recently, the Department also published the Priority Migration Skilled Occupation List (PMSOL) to help Australia’s economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.

When applying for state sponsorship, each state also determines the types of roles they are looking for and most of the time, the states publish the nominated occupations under their state occupation list.  During this pandemic, some states have published a specific occupation list under a specific visa subclass (for example, NSW’s and QLD’s occupation list for 190 visa state sponsorship) and some have published a set of industry sectors (for example, VIC states’ 491 state sponsorship).

For Permanent Residency visas under the General Skilled Migration stream (subclass 189, 190, and 491 visas) and Employer Sponsored visas (subclass 482, 186, and 494 visas), the applicants’ nominated occupation should be on the applicable skilled occupation list for each visa subclass.


  1. Professional year

Some PR (GSM) stream applicants claim points for this under their migration points test without fully understanding what this terminology means.   Professional year does not mean merely working as a professional.  This terminology is defined via a legal instrument and should not be taken at its literal English meaning.   You can only claim for Professional year (worth 5 points) if you graduated in Australia from an IT, Accounting or Engineering course and completed a professional year program from ACS, CAANZ, CPAA, IPA, and Engineers Australia.


  1. Member of family unit

When applying as a combined visa application or subsequent entrant visa application, there will be questions about member of family unit.   A family unit consists of the primary applicant, the primary applicant’s spouse/partner, and the primary applicant’s child/ren.

It is important to understand this as some applicants think that they can include their siblings or cousins or parents on their visa application.  For example, in a Skilled Independent 189 visa application, the primary applicant can only include his/her spouse/partner and children as his/her dependents on a combined application and not his/her parents or brother or sister or cousins.

Another example is for TSS 482 visa, the TSS 482 visa holder’s mother or aunt cannot apply for a

subsequent TSS 482 visa as they are not part of the TSS visa holder’s family unit.

There are many more migration terminologies that visa applicants might misconstrue for their plain literal English meanings.  This can lead to providing misleading information and may also lead to a visa refusal.

It is suggested that you seek advice or assistance from a Registered Migration Agent or an Immigration Lawyer if you stumble upon visa application words or phrases that you are unsure of,  to see if you are on the right track with your application.