In 2019, the Government introduced two new regional sponsored visas, namely, the Subclass 491 Skilled Work Regional (Provisional) visa and Subclass 494 Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional (Provisional) visa. They replaced the previous Subclass 489 Skilled Regional (Provisional) visa and Subclass 187 Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme visa programs. These changes came into effect progressively, commencing in November 2019, and later, in November 2022, as part of a targeted program designed to bring migrants to regional areas of Australia that are experiencing labour market shortages. They also aim to help ease congestion in highly populated cities such as Sydney and Melbourne.
The Government has set aside 25,000 places for these two provisional skilled regional sponsored visas out of an overall planned (permanent) skilled migration intake of 109,900 in the 2022/23 migration program year.
In this article, we take a closer look at the regional sponsored visa program, including the key requirements for regional sponsored visa and the costs to apply.
New Provisional Skilled Regional Visas
Commencing from 16 November 2019, a new points-based Subclass 491 Skilled Work Regional (Provisional) visa resulted in the closure of the previous subclass 489 Skilled Regional (Provisional) subclass 489 visa programme.
Also introduced on the 16 November 2019 was a new Subclass 494 Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional (Provisional) visa, closing the previous subclass 187 Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme visa. Both new provisional skilled regional visas will be granted for a period of 5 years.
Subclass 491 and 491 regional employer sponsored visa holders are also eligible for Medicare, Australia’s public healthcare system.
What Visa Conditions Apply To Provisional Regional Sponsored Visa Holders?
Provisional skilled regional sponsored visa holders are required to live and work in a designated regional area of Australia under visa condition 8579. Non-compliance with this visa condition may result in the Department cancelling the provisional visa and may prevent the applicant from being eligible for the new permanent skilled regional visa (discussed below).
Subclass 491 and 494 regional employer sponsored visa holders are also subject to more rigorous reporting obligations, requiring them to notify the Department within 14 days of changes to their circumstances (residential address, passport and contact details). Changes to their employer’s address and/or location of the nominated position must also be notified by subclass 491 visa holders (under visa condition 8578).
Other visa conditions that are imposed are 8580, which states that, if requested in writing, subclass 491 and 494 regional employer sponsored visa holders must provide their residential address, the address of their employer, the location where they are employed in their position and the address of any educational institution attended by the visa holder within 28 days.
Under visa condition 8581, subclass 491 and 494 regional employer sponsored visa holders visa holders may be required to attend an interview or provide supporting evidence to demonstrate that they are living and working in a designated regional area.
What Are The Key Requirements That Apply To A Regional Sponsored Visa?
The key requirements for regional sponsored visas are set out below.
Subclass 491 Visa
Primary subclass 491 visa applicants are required to satisfy the following main criteria to qualify for a subclass 491 skilled regional visa:
- have received an invitation to apply for the subclass 491 visa;
- be aged under 45 at time of application;
- meet the minimum points test pass mark (currently set at 65 points);
- have nominated a skilled occupation which is included in the applicable Skilled Occupation List and have a positive skills assessment in the nominated occupation;
- have a minimum level of Competent English at time of application; and
- declare a genuine intention to live, work and study in a designated regional area (this requirement also applies to visa dependents).
Health and character criteria also apply to the subclass 491 skilled work regional visa (including to visa dependents).
Subclass 494 Visa
The following key requirements for regional sponsored visa apply to the subclass 494 employer sponsored regional visa:
- be aged under 45 at time of application (unless an exemption applies);
- have a skills assessment for a skilled occupation on the relevant Skilled Occupation List (unless exempt from this requirement);
- have a minimum of three years employment experience in the nominated occupation (on a full-time basis and at the skill required for the occupation); and
- have a minimum level of Competent English.
Health and character criteria also apply (including to visa dependents). All family members must meet these requirements, which operates on a ‘one fails, all fail’ basis.
Employers who are seeking to sponsor overseas workers under the subclass 494 regional employer sponsored visa must also meet sponsorship and nomination requirements.
What About Further Applications For A Different Visa?
Provisional skilled regional sponsored visa holders (or if their last held substantive visa was either a subclass 491 or 494 regional employer sponsored visa) are restricted from being granted the following visas for three years (unless exceptional circumstances exist):
- Subclass 124/858 Distinguished Talent visa;
- Subclass 132 Business Talent visa;
- Subclass 186 Employer Nomination Scheme visa;
- Subclass 188 Business Innovation and Investment visa;
- Subclass 189 Skilled (Independent) visa;
- Subclass 190 Skilled (Nominated) visa; and
- Subclass 820 Partner (Temporary) visa.
This is to prevent provisional skilled regional sponsored visa holders from avoiding compliance with the requirement to live, work (and where applicable, study) in a designated regional area of Australia.
New Permanent Residence Skilled Regional Visa To Be Introduced
From 16 November 2022, a new Subclass 191 Permanent Residence (Skilled Regional) visa will be introduced for holders of subclass 491 and 494 provisional skilled regional visas. This delay in the start date is due to the requirement for the visa applicant to have held a provisional skilled regional sponsored visa for three years before being eligible to apply for the permanent subclass 191 visa.
To qualify for the subclass 191 visa, applicants will need to demonstrate that they have lived and worked (and studied, where applicable) in a designated area of regional Australia for at least three years as the holder of a Subclass 491 or 494 employer sponsored regional visa. Applicants will also be required to provide tax assessment notices to show that they have earned a minimum taxable income for 3 years (this amount is currently set at $53,900).
Only holders of either the Subclass 491 or 494 regional employer sponsored visas will be eligible for the new permanent residence visa. There will be no direct entry provision or eligibility from other visa subclasses.
Eligible family members of skilled regional visa applicants may also be eligible for a skilled regional visa as dependants of the primary applicant. To apply for a subclass 491 or 494 skilled employer sponsored regional visa, eligible family members can either make a combined application with the primary applicant, or after they have lodged their application (provided it has not been refused). Eligible family members can also apply as subsequent applicants once the primary visa applicant has been granted a provisional skilled regional sponsored visa.
For the subclass 494 skilled employer sponsored regional visa, de facto partners must provide evidence to demonstrate at least a 12-month relationship, unless there are compelling and compassionate reasons for the grant of the visa, or the relationship is a registered relationship (this means the relationship is registered by a State or Territory Government). Both the applicant and their partner must also be at least 18 years of age.
Family members who hold either a subclass 491 or 494 skilled employer sponsored regional visa will also be eligible to apply for a permanent subclass 191 visa by making a combined application with the primary visa applicant.
Family members who hold a subclass 491 or 494 skilled employer sponsored regional visa are required to live, work (and study, where applicable) in a designated regional area of Australia (as is the case with the primary visa holder) under visa condition 8579. This also means children of the primary visa holder must attend school/study in a designated regional area Regional visa holders may live in any designated regional area and can move between designated regional areas. Importantly, non-compliance with this requirement by either the primary or dependent visa holders can result in the provisional skilled regional visa being cancelled and/or not being able to qualify for a permanent residence subclass 191 visa.
As of 16 November 2019, only applications under the Second Provisional Visa stream of the subclass 489 visa will be accepted. The changes do not affect the Subclass 887 Skilled (Regional) visa permanent residence visa pathway, which is still available to eligible subclass 489 visa holders.
Applications for the subclass 187 visa are now closed for Direct Entry applicants. Existing Subclass 482 Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) and subclass 457 Temporary Work (Skilled) visa holders have access to transitional arrangements to enable them to continue to apply for permanent residence under the Temporary Residence Transition Stream (TRTS) on 16 November 2019 and thereafter.
What Are The Transitional Arrangements For Subclass 457 And 482 Visa Holders?
Holders of a subclass 457 visa as at 18 April 2017, or those who applied for a subclass 457 visa on 18 April 2017 which was later granted, continue to have access to the TRT stream of the subclass 187 RSMS visa program.
Applicants who held a subclass 482 visa in the medium-term stream as at 20 March 2019, or who applied for a subclass 482 visa in the medium term stream on 20 March 2019 that was subsequently granted, are not affected by the closure on 16 November 2019 of the TRT stream of the subclass 187 RSMS visa.
The changes also have no impact on the permanent residence status of current subclass 887 or 187 visa holders.
How Do These Changes Affect Subclass 189 And Subclass 190 Visas?
There are no changes to the Subclass 189 Skilled (Independent) or the Subclass 190 Skilled (Nominated) visas, or the EOI or visa application process, which continues to operate in its current form. This means that invitations can be issued, EOI’s can be submitted and visa applications for the relevant visas can continue to be lodged as of 16 November 2019.
How Do These Changes Affect Subclass 186 Visas?
There is no change to the Subclass 186 Employer Nomination Scheme (ENS) visa or to the nomination or visa application process, which continues to operate in its current form as of 16 November 2019.
What Happens To The Subclass 491 And Subclass 494 Visas?
Commencing from 16 November 2019, invitations for the new subclass 491 visa can be issued, EOI’s can be submitted, nominations can be made, and visa applications can be lodged.
Also commencing from this date, nominations for the new subclass 494 employer sponsored regional visa can be made and applications for this visa can be lodged with the Department.
How Much Does It Cost To Apply For A Skilled Regional Visa?
The visa application fees that are payable at time of application lodgement (first instalment) are listed in the table below (additional applicant refers to eligible family members who are applying as visa dependents).
Skilled Regional Visa class
Application lodgement fees –
Application lodgement fees –
Subclass 491 Work Regional (Provisional) visa
At least 18: $2,060
Under 18: $1,030
Subclass 494 Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional (Provisional) visa
At least 18: $2,060
Under 18: $1,030
Subclass 191 Permanent Residence (Skilled Regional) visa
At least 18: $210
Under 18: $110
Note that visa applicants aged 18 or over who are unable to demonstrate a functional level of English are subject to an additional fee (second instalment) before the visa can be granted in certain cases.
A payment surcharge may also be payable, depending on the method of payment.
Other additional costs may also arise (these will depend on the visa being applied for and the individual circumstances of visa applicants), including:
- English Language test;
- Skills Assessment;
- Health examinations (and specialist medical fees if issues are identified);
- Police certificates (costs and requirements will vary for each county);
- Official English translations for documents in a foreign language; and
- Professional fees if a registered migration agent or immigration lawyer is engaged by an applicant to assist with the application.
Changes To The Migration Points Test
As of 16 November 2019, changes to the points test were also introduced. The new points test applies to the following skilled visa subclasses:
- Subclass 189 Skilled (Independent) visa;
- Subclass 190 Skilled (Nominated) visa; and
- Subclass 491 Work Regional (Provisional) visa.
New rules were also introduced on that date which affected the order of ranking in which invitations are to be issued for all points-tested skilled visas (as listed above).
What Are The Benefits Of These Changes?
More Occupations Eligible For Nomination
One of the key benefits of the new skilled regional sponsored visa programm has been the introduction of an expanded skilled occupation list which applies to subclass 491 and 494 skilled employer sponsored regional visas. Regional employers are now able to access additional regional occupations to sponsor eligible overseas workers for the subclass 494 employer sponsored regional visa.
More occupations are also available to applicants seeking nomination by a State or Territory Government for the subclass 491 visa.
This change has resulted in more opportunities for prospective visa applicants to qualify for a skilled regional sponsored visa.
More Points Awarded To Subclass 491 Visa Applicants
As of 16 November 2019, 15 points are awarded for designated regional nomination by either a State or Territory government agency or sponsorship by a family member residing in regional Australia (an increase of 5 points compared with the previous rules).
More points mean more chances for prospective subclass 491 visa applicants to meet the minimum points threshold to be able to lodge an EOI. A higher points score also means more chances to be invited to apply for the visa.
Faster Processing Of Applications
Regional sponsored visas receive priority processing by the Department, which should result in quicker decisions being made on submitted applications (provided complete and correct applications are lodged).
What Do These Changes Mean For Prospective Skilled Regional Visa Applicants?
The existing subclass 489/887 permanent residence visa pathway requires subclass 489 visa holders to have lived and worked in a designated regional area of Australia for at least 2 years and to have worked full-time (35 hour per week) for 1 year to qualify for a permanent residence subclass 887 visa. From 16 November 2019, with the introduction of the new subclass 491 Work Regional (Provisional) visa, this requirement was extended, with prospective applicants required to demonstrate that they have lived and worked in a designated regional area for a minimum of three years before being eligible for the Subclass 191 permanent residence visa. Applicants also need to show that they have earned a minimum taxable income amount to qualify (which does not apply to the subclass 887 visa).
On the flip side, it is now easier for subclass 491 applicants to reach the minimum points score to be eligible to submit an EOI (which is currently set at 65 points), or to earn more points, with an additional 5 points to be awarded for nomination by either a State or Territory government agency or sponsorship by a family member residing in regional Australia from 16 November 2019.
Get More Information
Skilled Regional State Sponsorship Visa
For further information on the subclass 491 and 494 visas, please see the following articles:
Skilled State Sponsorship Visa
Also refer to our Australian Permanent Resident Visa Case Study article to read about a real-life case study where PAX Migration Australia assisted a client to apply for a subclass 190 visa and who, after a long migration journey, was finally granted permanent residence in Australia.
You can read a further case study example in our State Sponsorship Visas In Australia article which explains how a client successfully applying for a state sponsorship visa with PAX Migration Australia’s assistance.
To learn more about applying for a skilled visa, including the subclass 494 regional sponsor migration scheme visa, please see the following articles:
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Australia’s migration laws are complex, and each case is different. We recommend that you seek professional advice if you are interested in applying for a visa to Australia, including a regional sponsored visa or an employer sponsored regional visa and the requirements for regional sponsored visa, as being fully informed will give you the best chance of achieving a successful outcome on your case. A migration professional can help you to do this. Also be aware that several terms are defined in the migration provisions. It is vital to have a good understanding of these terms and how they apply in practice. Detailed advice about these is beyond the scope of this article and we would therefore recommend that you seek further information in this regard.
For up to date advice on applying for a visa, including a regional sponsored visa or an employer sponsored regional visa and the requirements for regional sponsored visa, contact PAX Migration Australia, a leading immigration service providing advice on a range of visas, including a regional visa sponsorship. Contact us for a no obligation discussion on how we may be able to assist you in achieving your migration goals in Australia.