New Skilled Regional Visas

New Skilled Regional Visas

On 16 November 2019, two new skilled regional visas, Skilled Work Regional (Provisional) Visasubclass 491 and Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional (Provisional) Visasubclass 494, will become available to promote regional migration and replace two existing subclasses. Those visas set for replacement are the Skilled Regional (Provisional) visa (subclass 489) – first provisional stream and Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme visa (subclass 187) Direct entry scheme. Upon effect of the new visas, new applications for the 187 and 489 subclasses will cease.

Why the change?

The introduction of these visas is part of the government’s push to incentivise migration into regional areas, giving regional employers greater access to labour. Like the subclasses these visas are replacing, as regional visas they will be given priority processing by the Department.

Five additional points for regional nomination or sponsorship will provide an extra incentive for potential migrants to consider settling in regional Australia. This will benefit not only single people but couples as well. 

Benefits:

  • priority processing of regional applications – this will be expanded to include all visa applications sponsored by regional employers as well as other visa applicants who will live and work in regional Australia 
  • incentives for migrants to stay in regional areas longer term as they build ties at work and in the community
  • easier application for permanent residence
  • lower cost to employers with only one SAF levy stage (for the 494 visa)
  • broader range of occupations available – employers in regional Australia, as well as state and territory governments, who sponsor regional skilled migrants will have access to more occupations than equivalent non-regional visas. 

Notably, the skills occupations will be broadened beyond what is currently listed in the Medium and Long-term Strategic Skills List (MLTSSL), the Short-term Skilled Occupation List (STSOL) and the Regional Occupation List (ROL). Based on these current lists, the 491 and 494 visa will have access to over 450 and 70 more occupations, respectively, than closest non-regional equivalent visas. Further information will be available upon release of the legislation defining the act list. 

The new visas will also allow eligible applicants to apply for permanent residence through the subclass 191 visa. Migrants will be required to live and work in a regional area of Australia for at least 3 years before they are eligible to apply.

‘Regional Australia’ definition

The definition of ‘regional Australia’ will be simplified and expanded to include anywhere outside of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, the Gold Coast and Perth.

Changes to existing visas

In the lead up to the introduction of the new Skilled Regional visas, it is important to note that the last date to lodge an application of an existing subclass is 15 November 2019. 

The introduction of the two new visas will not impact people who already hold existing visas. Any applications lodged prior to November 2019 will be processed as normal, and current permanent visa holders will not be impacted in any way. 

How long does the visa last for?

The 491 and 494 visa have a validity period of up to 5 years.

Skilled Work Regional (Provisional) Visa – subclass 491

The 491 visa will allow eligible skilled workers and their dependant family members to live, work and study in designated regional areas of Australia for up to 5 years. 

Applicants for this visa must be sponsored by an eligible relative or state authority.

Some things to note: 

  • 45 year age limit;
  • competent English at time of application;
  • points tested; and
  • requires a positive/suitable skills assessment 

Points test

More points will be available to 491 visa applicants. New points for age, qualifications, overseas and Australian work experience, Australian study and English points will apply. The new points details are as follows: 

  • 15 points for nomination by a State or Territory government agency or sponsorship by a family member residing in regional Australia, to live and work in regional Australia
  • 10 points for certain Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) qualifications 

Partner points – 10 points if one of the following apply:

  • skilled spouse or de facto partner (skills assessment and competent English); or
  • Applicants without a spouse or de facto partner; or
  • 5 points if your partner has competent English. Your partner can be over 45 years of age, and does not need a Skills Assessment. 

Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional (Provisional) Visa – subclass 494

The 494 visa requires employer sponsorship in regional Australia. Employers interested in nominating overseas workers under this visa need to be an approved Standard Business Sponsor (SBS). Existing Standard Business Sponsors can sponsor workers under the 494 visa from 16 November 2019. 

As such, there will be two streams of the visa: 

  • Employer Sponsored stream – the person is a standard business sponsor other than an overseas business sponsor; or
  • Labour Agreement stream – the person is a party to a work agreement 

Some things to note:

  • 45 year age limit;
  • competent English at time of application;
  • requires a positive/suitable skills assessment; and
  • at least 3 years’ skilled employment on a full time basis in the nominated occupation 

The visa validity period is up to 5 years.

Permanent Residence (Skilled Regional) Visa – subclass 191

Eligible holders of the new skilled regional provisional visas will be able to apply for a Permanent Residence visa which commences 16 November 2022. Holders of the new 491 and 494 visa will need to show they have lived and worked in regional Australia while holding the respective visas. To be eligible, the following requirements will need to be met:

  • hold a regional provisional visa subclass 491 or 494 and have held that visa for at least 3 years;
  • earned a minimum taxable income ($53,900) for at least 3 years as the holder of a regional provisional visa; and
  • complied with the conditions of the regional provisional visa 

The visa validity period is up to 5 years.