International air traffic controllers can now be sponsored for pathway to permanent residency after the Australian Government declared the profession a key frontline service.

Historically making the move to Australia has not been without its challenges. Australia’s points-based visa system has made it hard for people outside of key professions to be able to move and secure residency.

But in good news for adventure-seeking ATCs around the world, some positive change has been enacted. In early 2024, the Australian Government added controllers to the list of key professions that are needed in Australia, and they can now be sponsored for pathway to permanent residency.

As global air traffic recovers to pre-pandemic levels, and passenger numbers predicted to double by 2040, keeping our busy skies safe is an increasingly complex and important task. It’s no wonder that all around the world ATCs are in hot demand right now.

There’s always been movement of people in our industry with ex-pats working around the world to experience different opportunities, cultures and lifestyles. We spend our days moving other people around the skies, so it’s no great surprise that we are also interested in global opportunities for ourselves and our careers.

We talked to some ATCs who have made the move to Australia to find out what inspired them. For many, the drawcard is the place itself. As one ATC told us: “I recently moved from South Africa to Melbourne, Australia with my family. We feel very lucky to be able to call Melbourne home – it’s a terrific city that reminds me very much of being in Europe, but with a new world energy that is very exciting. There’s a real multi-cultural feeling about Melbourne, so it’s easy to fit in, and whether you love the idea of city living, surfing and wild beaches or rural idyll, Melbourne and surrounds has it all.”

Airservices Australia Talent Acquisition Manager Barry Harvey told us: “The changes to the visa rules are a really positive step for us and come at a great time as the demand for qualified ATCs here is soaring. For candidates with the right experience, we can help people relocate with financial support and also with pathways to permanent residency status.

“There are a number of steps to go through and some training when you get here to familiarise yourselves with our ways of working and systems, but once you’ve done that, there are heaps of opportunities here for you and your family.

“Our main ATC hubs are in Melbourne and Brisbane, but we also have towers across the country. It sometimes surprises people to learn that Australian airspace accounts for 11 per cent of the world’s air – so we’ve got everything from super busy metro regions like the airspace between Melbourne and Sydney, to the regional towers in Alice Springs, Darwin or Tasmania.

“At the risk of sounding like the Australian Tourist Board, it’s a very special corner of the world here. Whether your passion is escaping the city to camp in stunning countryside, enjoying our spectacular coastline, or the food, wine, music, sport and culture of great cities like Melbourne or Sydney, it really is a great place to live.”

Airservices Australia is currently recruiting ATCs from around the world. As Barry says: “it really is an exciting time to be in our industry. With the changes to the visa sponsorship conditions, it might just be the right time for you to make the move down under for a career and lifestyle change. We’re taking applications right now, so why not visit our website and have a read of what we have to offer – we’d love to hear from you.”