This is interesting to hear. I'm in the process of applying for an Australian visa (no CS degree). To get an independent visa, I need 2 more years of work experience, before I qualify to apply to have my skills tested by ACS in very specific (and almost esoteric) programming knowledge.
And this is only the first step to apply for an 'invitation to apply' for a visa.
What are my job prospects as a US software developer seeking to emigrate to Australia? How often do Australian companies sponsor visas for overseas workers?
> What are my job prospects as a US software developer seeking to emigrate to Australia?
Frankly, assuming you have the right to live in the US, you are much better off staying in the US if you want to maximize your opportunities as a software developer vs. moving to Australia.
I say this as a Canadian who worked as a software developer in Southern California for 4.5 years but moved to Australia two years ago, largely to escape the restrictions of US work visas and try my hand at doing my own startups.
Sydney and Melbourne are the only two cities in Australia with sizable markets for software developers. Compare that to multiple regions in the US with large software industries (SV, SoCal, Texas, Research Triangle, NYC).
There are very few pure technology companies in Australia so the vast majority of software development is in-house development for banks, insurance companies etc. Australian companies also tend to be relatively conservative in terms of technology platforms so PHP, .NET and Java are the norm vs. Python or Ruby.
Certainly there are very talented and capable software developers in Australia, but the software industry is so small and under-valued (compared to e.g. mining or real-estate development) that there's very little opportunity to advance professionally.
My boyfriend lives in Melbourne; hence the motivation to move. ThoughtWorks has an office in Melbourne, and Google in Sydney, but it was hard to find other pure tech companies in the area.
It's a shame that there isn't a well-defined exchange program between countries like the US and AU. In all other aspects I meet the visa criteria head-on, yet the fact that I don't have a degree will slow me down by 2-3 years.
IIRC you don't need your skills tested if you have at least 5 years experience and can find someone to sponsor you on a 457 visa. After 2 years you can enter the transition stream for PR. You might find that easier than direct entry if you don't have a relevant degree. It's worth talking to an immigration lawyer even if you have to spring a couple of hundred bucks for the privilege.
As for your job prospects, they're excellent in Melbourne or Sydney, and good to fair elsewhere.
I haven't talked to an immigration lawyer; and I think that they will be able to clear up quite a bit for me. Mostly I've been working through this on my own, with some help from the Australian Embassy as well. I will get in touch with one. Thanks for the tip!