Written References

Written Reference, Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

Written references are an important part of your documents for your Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa application. These are vitally important. The Department of Immigration will use these references to verify your employment history. They will also use these references to ascertain whether you have the correct skills and experience for your nominated occupation.

When asking for written references from previous employers you will need to make sure that you cover all relevant information. These written references need to contain more specific information and detail. Your reference could be refused by the Department of Immigration if it doesn’t contain all relevant information.

Who needs to write your written reference for the TSS Visa?

Your written reference must be:

  • From a current or previous employer
  • Written by someone who is authorised to write references within the organisation. This could be your manager, owner, director, etc

Some large organisations will only provide you with a standard reference, e.g. certificate of employment. This type of reference will not be detailed enough for your TSS application. This will therefore be rejected by the Department of Immigration. Alternatively, you could ask someone within the organisation whom you work closely with, e.g your direct manager, to complete your reference. They will need to be authorised to write this for you.

It may be a good idea to write the reference yourself. This will ensure it has all the correct information within it. You can then give it to your referee to check, amend, and sign it. Do make sure your referee is happy with what they have signed. The Department of Immigration may call them and ask extra questions.

How many written references do I need?

It is not a case of how many references you need but the period of time they cover. For the TSS visa, a minimum of two years of full-time work needs to be covered. Depending upon the occupation you are to be nominated for, you might need to show up to five years’ worth of experience. To check how many years’ worth of references you will need you can check your occupations requirements. So, the number of references depends upon how long you have been in each job, to cover the specific time frame required.

It is also important that at least two years’ worth of your references are from within five years directly prior to your application for the TSS visa. Basically, the more recent, the better.

What about part-time or casual work?

You can include part-time work. You are still gaining experience and it all counts. Any part-time work will count as half the full-time amount of work experience. For instance, two years of part-time work counts as one year of full-time work.

Casual work isn’t covered. This is because causal workers don’t receive the same benefits as someone who is formally employed, either part-time or full time. They won’t receive sick pay, annual leave, etc.

What needs to go into the written reference?

The written reference needs to be in English. If it isn’t in English, you will need to get it translated. The reference also needs to be on official company paper e.g. with company letterhead.

The following needs to be included in your written reference:

  • Employer’s full address, telephone number, e-mail or website address
  • The date the reference was written
  • Your full name
  • Your job title
  • If you were full-time or part-time
  • Your salary
  • Your start and finish date. This needs to be at least the month and year. If you are currently working there, the time will be calculated from the start date to the date the reference was written
  • Your main duties and responsibilities. Ensure there is a minimum of five, but 10 is recommended. Check the ANZSCO list of duties and responsibilities for your nominated job beforehand
  • Signed by the authorised person
  • The referee’s full job title
  • The referee’s direct contact telephone number and email address

Below are two examples of written references. The first examples is correct and contains all of the required information. The second is an example of the type of written reference employers commonly write. This example does not contain enough information and will not meet the requirements.

Example 1: Correct written reference

In this example you will see all the required information outlined in the previous section has been highlighted in blue or labelled with a speech bubble.

Correct Written Reference for the TSS VisaExample 2: Incorrectly written reference

This is a common example of what some people try to use for their written references. As you can see it is missing all of the important details so would not be usable.

How can I check my experience against government requirements?

The Department of Immigration uses the ANZSCO guidelines to help assess your application. They use this information to identify the level of qualifications and experiences that are required for your occupation. They will also use it to assess your duties. So, it is very important that your experience and duties from your previous roles are similar to those listed in the ANZSCO guidelines.

Here at Visa Jobs, we’ve listed the ANZSCO information for each occupation for you.

The duties and responsibilities part of your written reference is one of the most important parts. It’s important that you don’t just copy what is on the ANZSCO list, as it will not look truthful.

What if I can’t get a reference from a previous employer?

It is possible that you might not be able to reach an old employer to ask for a written reference. If that is the case, you might be able to provide a statutory declaration instead. It is recommended that you also provide as much supporting information as possible.

Supporting documents

The more supporting documents you can provide, the more you will be able to show the case officer that you match the requirements.

Some useful supporting documents include:

  • Letter of offer/contract from the employer
  • Certificate of employment
  • Payslips covering the time you worked in the role
  • Promotional letters
  • Annual income or tax summaries
  • Certificates from work courses or qualifications
  • Official work-related letters addressed to you

What if I have been self-employed?

Many people have been self-employed at some point. This means you can’t provide a written reference. Instead you should write a statutory declaration. This should explain the business, your duties and responsibilities, your role within the company, and the dates you owned the company.

Your statutory declaration will double up as your written reference. This means that you need to be as accurate as possible. All documents need to be in English. Useful supporting documents in this case include:

  • Company registration documents
  • Taxation documents
  • Audited financial statements covering the relevant period you were self-employed
  • Official letters from your accountant stating your details and what period they worked for you/your company
  • Letter or statements from the bank proving you had a business account, covering the period of being self-employed
  • Invoices
  • Evidence of contracts or subscriptions. This includes rented premises, utility bills, phone contract, leased vehicles in your company name
  • An official letter from suppliers regarding their relationship with you and your business
  • Letters from clients or customers stating what services or products you provided them with and what your company offered
  • A Statutory Declaration by yourself giving information about being self-employed
  • Examples of major contracts
  • Proof of membership to any business, societies or professional associations


Your written reference is without a doubt one of the most important parts of you entire TSS visa application. Always ensure that you cover as much detail as possible. Also ensure that everything is translated into English.

The ANZSCO will provide you with vital information in terms of what your nominated occupation requires you to have. Use this list as guidance for your written references. 


Visa Jobs is an independent company and has no association with the Australian Department of Immigration. The information in this article should not be used as legal advice. It is based on public guidelines available at The Australian Government – Department of Home Affairs’ website.

Every visa application is assessed on a case by case basis. We strongly recommend your documents and personal situation be assessed by a Registered Migration Agent who is bound by the MARA code of conduct before submitting any visa applications.

Updated on May 21, 2019

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