Neither the Chicken Nor the Egg. Just Grit, Pure Fighting Grit

Hi there!
I read your blog and I must say it's very informative and refreshingly honest. I'm Singaporean, 28, with a Bachelor's degree in English Language from UniSIM and years of writing and corporate communications experience. Like many others, I'm hoping to get a job in Australia - Melbourne to be specific. But I'm not looking for migrate there. I would just like to work in Australia for some time, perhaps 2 years, then get a Australian PR I suppose.

I wanted to ask your advice on this - how does it work - must I get a working visa first before going to Australia to look for jobs? Or is it the other way around - go to Australia, look for a job and then get the employer to sponsor a visa?
I know I can't expect to get a high flying job there, must eat the humble pie..that's why I'm also wondering..for things like part-time work/cafes/fruit picking, do we need a working visa first before applying for even these jobs?

Appreciate your advice, thanks so much!

Hi Stephanie,

If you have no intention to migrate, you don't need a permanent resident visa. All you need is a working visa. As far as I know, the common working visa (Subclass 457) is an option for employers to hire skilled foreign workers under certain conditions, such as difficulty in finding workers with certain skills in the local market. Under such criteria, there will be hardly employer who will be successful in applying a work visa for 'casual' role such as a cafe helper or fruit picking staff. These jobs are normally filled by people who prefer casual jobs, students, backpackers or young travelers under the Working Holiday visa - which available to many countries but not Singapore.

Though it is difficult to get a job while you are not physically in Australia, it can be done by sheer determination and stroke of luck. There is a saying that goes, "The harder you work, the luckier you get." Another goes, "Fortune favours the bold." I came to know three people (at least) who gain their entrance to Australia this way. Coincidentally, all three of them are female. They applied for jobs (probably like mad), impressed in their phone/video interviews and the next thing they knew, they were on the plane down south. You'll need plenty of optimism, confidence and be street smart enough to find a niche of your own.

I'll share an inspiring story of a Singaporean man with you. Let's just call him Ah Lim.

Ah Lim is a Singaporean son, who is a few years older than me. When Ah Lim first contacted me online, I was only a few months into Perth. He told me he was heading to Melbourne from China where he had a stint. If I remember my facts well, his plan was to complete a photography diploma. I recall telling myself, "This guy is a goner, photography how to find a job, let alone survive?" If Ah Lim fails his attempt to stay in Australia after his graduation, he'll do much worse in Singapore, where all of us know there is little future for arts talent.

As I stay in Australia longer and know more about the country, I learnt that the society here embraces diversity. The range of vocations one can explore is genuinely wide, unlike the lip service we get back home. (what are the bio-science graduates enticed by big promises doing now?) Along the years, I got to know Ah Lim better through our occasional online chats. I got to know he is a special person. In terms of migration feats, I'll crown him as the Special One. He has a unyielding spirit, an attitude that he will literally hold the sky if it falls on him. Each time I worry for his situation, he'll tell me, "If A doesn't work, he'll try B."

As the story goes, Ah Lim needs no Plan B because his relentless attitude simply magnetise success to him. Two years later, Ah Lim graduated from his course. With a bridging visa, he had only a limited time to find a job in Australia or he would have to go home. It was easy for a fresh diploma graduate in photography at the wrong side of 30 with no working experience (local experience) in Australia to feel hopeless in finding a job and justifiably so. He found out that to find an employer to sponsor his visa, he will need a degree in photography or at least 5 years of experience (which he had neither) We can say he had a Mission Impossible.

That brilliance of the story began from this part onward. Knowing his clear disadvantage, Ah Lim targeted news agencies instead of photography companies. Not just any news agencies but local Chinese news agencies. He sent his CV to several Chinese news agencies and one responded.

The rest is history. A legend is born.

I believe many Singaporeans who isn't researched into migrating to Australia wouldn't understand how tiny Ah Lim's margins were and why that makes his story a truly incredible one. For me who followed his progress since his Day 1 in Australia, his story inspired me immensely.

As for the rest of you, your fates are in your own hands. You can create your own piece of history. It is how much you want it. 

So who is the protagonist in my story? He is none other than Mr Thomas Lim. In regards to migration stories, he is twice the man I am.


  1. I do not think Stephanie will be able to come to Australia to work on a 457. 457 is for skilled temporary worker and is mostly offered to people who have unique skills to offer. (There are people who rort the system though.)

    Her other options that allows her to go to Australia to work is the working holiday visa or student visa.

    The working holiday visa is not available to Singaporeans just yet. But according to TRS, the Singaporean government is negotiating for it to happen. It allows you to work for 1 year and extend it by another year if you work in the rural location in the desired area of work for a number of weeks. (Farming, constructions, etc...) And you can only stay with an employer for 6 months. Sorry, I do not remember the exact number of weeks you have to work since I'm not using it.

    The student visa allows you to work 20hrs/week and unlimited hours on your school holidays. There are several student visa available. Please take your own time and look it up.

    My personal advice for her is to go over to Australia and study for 1 year masters to 'test the water' and see if she likes it or not before she returns to Singapore. And after graduating, she can apply for the 485 Visa. Students who studied masters in Australia are allowed to stay up to 4 years working full time under the 485 visa.

    1. Guest worker are usually not welcome except those on Work Holiday Visa. Strangely Singaporean are not eligible? Even Malaysian can apply for one!
      If you still want to come start from here:
      That is your bible and read it often as it changes from time to time. The website helped me to come to Australia. This is not Singapore so feel free to think out of the box. Marry an ang mo or refuse to go home, it is up to your creativity.

    2. Hi slmonk,

      I'm a PR in Australia. Those advice are meant for the poster, Stephanie.

    3. Oops!
      High error rate. Certified ozzie.

  2. Special one, Chosen one, Lucky one, they are too big for me, I'm just an Ordinary one.

    I seldom reply or post on this blog although now and then I posted on his Facebook Page, but since our Singaporean Son mentioned me, I will maybe talk a little, just a little.

    I'm no expert in migration's information, whether for work or permanent, so I can't tell you what visa to apply or what website to check, I believe there are heaps on the internet. I will be very direct, apologise in advance if I sound offensive.

    Back to Stephanie's case, you need to understand where is your strongest and weakest point, your advantages and disadvantages. From your email, I can see that you are uncertain about what you actually want. You want a job in Australia, but you didn't specified what job? You doesn't want to migrate here but you want to apply for a Permanent Residency. You have a Bachelor's degree in English Language, doesn't matter where you got it from, what kind of work field do you want to enter with this degree? And I'm interested to know, without knowing which career path you want to choose, why come to Melbourne? You love winter or coffee?

    For an employer to sponsor your working visa, they need to prove to DIAC that they couldn't find any local to fill that position and why you are the best candidate for the job. So analyse this, a degree in English language and years of writing and corporate communications experience, can the employer find someone in Australia to fulfil that requirement? If yes, forget about working in Australia, not even MacDonald. If no, you can skip the working visa part and come straight as a PR.

    What Singaporean Son mentioned is right, without stepping into Australia, it is very hard to find a job, even some Singaporean (PR) here had a hard time finding one, let alone someone 8 hours away. But once you are here, there are plenty of casual jobs available, don't have to go fruit-picking (thank god winter is almost over).

    So decide on your career path, what job you want to work in, look through DIAC website on the list of skilled migrant worker list if they are in it, give yourself more options, so when you hit a wall, there is another way around it. Consider other states, NT, SA or QLD, the chances might be higher. You can also consider doing a two years course here, forget about Master, a Diploma is enough and cheaper, so you are physically here for job-hunting after you graduate (local qualification an advantage). You can have your humble pie at work/cafes/fruit picking, 20h/w on paper, but who cares when it's cash job. You will understand how Australian work, their slang, their culture and the stupid weather in Melbourne. Don't tell me you are too old to study, I got my diploma at 39 and my highest qualification in SG was just N level (not enough to proceed to O level).

    Be street smart, nothing is impossible. I didn't rort the system, I used it to my advantage. If I were to follow law by law, I will be sitting in SG sending email to our Singaporean Son for advise as well. If there is a will, there is a way. Have a chat with migration or education agents, they are specialist in this field. Pay special attention around May and June because every July, there will be new immigration policy. (I last heard that DIAC are reconsidering some of the requirement for 457 visa making it easier for employers to employ foreign workforce. Don't say I never tell!)