If you want to stay with your current employer – and they have agreed to sponsor you for a permanent visa – the best way might be to apply for a permanent employer sponsored visa (186 ENS or 187 RSMS) under the 'Temporary Residence Transition Stream'.
It's a bit of a mouthful, but what it basically means is that you have been with your current employer for 2 years on a 457, and therefore can get some concessions when applying for a permanent visa - if your employer agrees to sponsor you again.
Whether you go for a s/c 186 (Employer Nomination Scheme) or a s/c 187 (Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme) will depend on your employers circumstances. The s/c 187 is generally only available to certain postcodes, while the s/c 186 is available throughout Australia.
1. Nomination application
Similar to the 457, the application process for a permanent ENS or RSMS also requires your employer to nominate a position before you can apply for a visa.
The position has to be the same as previously (same company, same occupation, etc.). Promotions are fine, but you have to stay within the same occupation. This is important because if your employer wants you to move on to a different role, this visa won't work for you and you might be better off looking into other options.
The position has to be available to you for a minimum of 2 years, your employer needs to show that he can afford to hire you and that he really needs you in that position. You must be employed in a permanent and full time position and your work conditions cannot be less favourable than those of your Australian colleagues in the same role.
Your employer will also need to show that they have met the 'training requirement' for each year of the duration of the 457 sponsorship. In my experience this is where a lot of small and medium sized businesses struggle and since this is a requirement that has to be met continuously throughout the duration of the (existing) sponsorship, it's usually a good idea to speak with your employer about permanent sponsorship options early on to avoid having difficulties meeting this requirement later.
To meet the training requirement your employer will have a choice. They either can show that they spent at least 1% of their annual payroll on training their Australian staff. Or they can donate at least 2 % of their annual payroll to a relevant industry training fund.
2. Visa application
You don't have to wait for the nomination to be approved before you can apply for your visa, but the nomination application needs to be submitted before the visa application. In many cases it's advisable to wait for the nomination outcome before you apply for your visa, simply because IF something goes wrong at the nomination stage the visa will automatically also be refused and you loose the application fee.
However, this isn't always possible. In some cases you may have no choice but lodge both stages together, e.g. if your current visa is about to expire and you need to rely on a Bridging visa to stay in Australia and continue working. Again, the sooner you start thinking about your permanent visa options the easier you can avoid such a scenario.
Important: you're only eligible for a Bridging visa once the actual visa application is lodged. The nomination application alone will not suffice and you may end up unlawful if you make a mistake here.
ENS / RSMS Visa requirements:
Vocational English (unless you can apply for an exemption, e.g. if you're a top income earner)
- Age (need to be under 50 at the time you apply - unless you can apply for an exemption)
- Completed at least 2 years with the same sponsor who is sponsoring you now in the same occupation
- Hold any licenses or registrations you need in your occupation
- Health and Character criteria
If you're on a 457 and you would like to stay permanently in Australia, it's a good idea to start thinking about your options as soon as possible. Not always is a permanent employer sponsored visa the best option. The main advantage of this pathway is that you can avoid a skills assessment. If you already have a skills assessment, or wouldn't have an difficulties getting one, a skilled visa may actually more beneficial to you.