How to work as a Plumber in Australia

This article explains how an overseas trained plumber can work in Australia.

This article is broken into 2 parts:

• What steps you must undertake to work in Australia
• What steps you must take to apply for a visa

There are 2 very different processes.

Working as a Plumber in Australia:

Do I need Australian licensing to work in the trade?
In Australia, Plumbers and Electricians are generally speaking the only 2 trades that require you to have a license to work in Australia. Additionally, there is not one governmental licensing body for all trades, you need to be licensed in the state that you are performing the work. So for example, if I am licensed to work in QLD, I still need to apply for a license if I want to do any plumbing work in NSW. Because it can take some time in order to apply for your license, it is common for many foreign-trained plumbers to work as a trade assistant for a plumbing or construction company. A trade assistant assists qualified tradesmen and is not qualified for the role.

What if I’m already in Australia on a student or working holiday visa, can I apply to get a license to work here?
Yes, you can. The first step towards applying to for a license is varies depending on which state you would like to apply to work in. However, most states require you to apply for an Offshore Technical Skills Record (OTSR) or to obtain an Australian qualification.

You can find out more about what it requires to hold a license in each state here:

  • QLD
  • NSW
  • Victoria
  • Western Australia
  • South Australia


Can I apply for a license if I am overseas?
Yes, you can. The first step towards applying to work in Australia is that you apply for an Offshore Technical Skills Record (OTSR).

What is an Offshore Technical Skills Record (OTSR)?
Many foreign trades workers are highly skilled in their trade, however, there are often different requirements to work in a trade in Australia compared to their home country. The way their skills are applied are different in Australia to back home, this is a skills gap.
The skills gap of Australian and foreign trades practices stems from the different standards enforced in each country. There are different government regulators, different workplace rules and different safety codes to follow. Even in Australia, there are differences in each state’s regulations and practices. What might be acceptable in QLD is not acceptable in NSW.
An offshore technical skills record (OTSR) allows an assessor to determine which skills need to be addressed in the gap training. Upon successful completion of an OTSR, it allows a person to obtain a provisional license which allows them to work under the supervision of a licensed trade worker. The worker must then undertake gap training at a registered training organization and complete supervised work in order to obtain their full license.

What is the process to gain licensing?
Obtaining a full license in Australia can take a considerable amount of time. Below is a brief outline of the steps required to gain licensing for someone who is qualified in their trade in their home country.
1. Apply to have an Offshore Technical Skills Record (OTSR).
An OTSR is done through a registered training organization. There are numerous organisations eligible to provide an offshore technical skills record around Australia.
During an OTSR, the applicant must demonstrate that they have the technical skills required to work in the occupation in Australia. They do this by checking your previous education and experience with the technical competencies that are gained through an Australian qualification.
2. Apply for a Provisional License
Once you have completed an OTSR you can apply to the licensing body in your state for a provisional license.
A provisional license allows you to work in your trade under the supervision of a licensed tradesman. Under your provisional license, you will need to undertake additional training in order to be provided with the Australian qualification to work in your occupation.
3. Undertake additional training and work experience in your occupation
Whilst on a provisional license the holder must work supervised in Australia and undertake gap training, or Australian specific training. For example, you will need to undertake a training course in Australian safety standards.
When you obtain your OTSR you are generally given a list of short courses or training that you must undertake in order to obtain this license and a time frame in which you must complete this training (usually 12 months).
4. Obtain the Australian Qualification
Provided you have completed the required gap training and the required supervised employment, you can then apply to obtain an Australian qualification for your trade. This is done through the RTO. This is the same qualification that someone who completed an apprenticeship or undertook the education in Australia obtained
5. Apply for a full license.
Once you have obtained your Australian qualification you can then apply for your full license. Please note having a full license to work in Australia does not guarantee you a work visa. You will still require an employer to sponsor your visa or apply through general skilled migration.

Provisional Licensing vs Full license?
A provisional license is often granted after you have completed your OTSR. Under a provisional license, you must work under the supervision of a licensed tradesman. However, you can undertake gap training in order to obtain your full license.

What Australian Qualification do I need to work in the occupation in Australia?
Applicants are required to have an Australian Qualification Framework (AQF) III Qualification or equivalent to work in most trades. Some common Australian trade qualifications include:
• Certificate III in Electrotechnology Electrician
• Certificate III in Refrigeration and Air-conditioning
• Certificate III in Carpentry
• Certificate III in Joinery
• Certificate III in Painting and Decorating
• Certificate III in Plumbing

Applying for a visa as a Plumber

Having a license to work in a trade does not mean you will qualify to obtain a work visa in Australia. Additionally, you may be able to obtain a work visa to Australia without licensing (however you cannot work as more than a trade assistant until you obtain full licensing).

What are the most common visas to work as a Plumber in Australia?
The most common visas for Plumbers or other tradesmen to work in Australia are:
General Skilled Migration (189 or 190) – This is a permanent visa in Australia that does not require an employer to sponsor
Employer Sponsored (457 or 187) – This visa allows the visa holder to work in their trade for the company in Australia. It may lead to PR after 2 years

What visa requires licensing?
• To apply for general skilled migration (189 or 190) licensing is usually not required for the visa to be granted.
• For employer-sponsored visas (457, 187 or 186) licensing is usually required, however, visas are often granted without a license in place. The applicant cannot start working in the role without a valid license.
• Students or Working Holiday Makers do not require a license for the visa, however, may obtain a provisional license or work as a trade assistant to a qualified tradesman in Australia.

What visas require a skills assessment?
For most countries, only general skilled migration visas require a skills assessment. However certain countries require a skills assessment before they can obtain an employer-sponsored (457 or 187) visa.

Can I do an apprenticeship if I am an international student?
Unfortunately, international students cannot undertake an apprenticeship in Australia. However, there are many international colleges that offer a course that allows you to become a qualified tradesperson in Australia. Most of these courses include at least 360 hours of work experience with a qualified tradesperson. Have a look through this link for some available courses in Aus.

What is the difference between licensing and a skills assessment?
A license allows you to work in the trade in Australia. By itself, a license does now mean you will qualify for a work visa. A positive skills assessment allows you to apply for general skilled migration (provided you can pass the other visa requirements.)

Most onshore skills assessments are done through Trades Recognition Australia.
Most offshore skills assessments are done through VetAssess

General Requirements for the skills assessments are:
• Have a trade qualification or education equivalent to Australian standards
• Have at least 3 years post qualification experience
• Have worked in the field for at least 12 months over the last 3 years

I have completed half my apprenticeship or trade qualification back home, can I get qualified in Australia?
If you have completed a partial qualification from outside Australia, you may be able to apply for partial credit transfer so you get credit for some components of an Australian qualification. A city and guilds level 2 from the UK, may be considered comparable to an AQF level 3 under certain circumstances. This is judged on a case by case basis depending on the content of the course studied.

Can I study to become a plumber in Australia?
Yes, you may be able to become a qualified plumber in Australia. Have a read through here for more information on the different trade courses on offer in Australia.

Can Foreigners do a trade apprenticeship in Australia?
Generally speaking, the answer to this question is no. Just because it is very difficult to obtain a valid work visa to undertake an apprenticeship in Australia. Find out more info here.

Please note the above information is general in nature and you must consult the relevant skills assessor or migration agent for the correct information specific to your case.

Pathway to Aus has helped numerous tradesman from all over the world migrate to Australia. If you are interested in speaking with a registered migration agent concerning your situation contact Pathway to Aus on:

P: +61 0755 265 900
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