Are you considering applying for a skilled regional visa to Australia? The good news is that you can choose from three skilled work regional visa options, which were introduced by the Government with the aim of bringing skilled overseas workers to regional parts of Australia to support population growth and economic development in regional communities.
Be mindful that the regional work visa Australia program replaced the subclass 489 Skilled Regional (Provisional) visa and subclass 187 Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme visa subclasses. These changes also affected the points test and the ranking order in which invitations are issued for all points-tested skilled visa subclasses. The first of these changes came into effect as of 16 November 2019, with the final amendments due to be implemented by 16 November 2022.
In this article, we take a closer look at these skilled regional visa options, including the main eligibility requirements and conditions, dependents, changes introduced to the points test, the order of ranking of invitations, and the introduction of the Permanent Residence (Skilled Regional) visa later this year.
Let’s now explore the regional visa Australia options that are available as a result of these changes.
Skilled Regional Visa Options
Subclass 491 Work Regional (Provisional) Visa
Introduced on 16 November 2019, the points-tested Subclass 491 Skilled Work Regional (Provisional) visa replaced its predecessor, the subclass 489 Skilled Regional (Provisional), which closed to new applicants in the First Provisional Visa stream (commonly referred to as the invited pathway) as of that date.
The subclass 489 visa program remains open to Second Provisional Visa stream applicants (also known as the extended stay pathway). This visa stream is only available to applicants who already hold a subclass 475, 487, 495 or 496 visa (which are no longer being granted by the Department).
Eligible family members may also apply as visa dependents for the subclass 491 skilled work regional visa.
To be eligible for the subclass 491, applicants must either be nominated by a State or Territory Government or be sponsored by an eligible family member who is usually resident in a designated regional area of Australia. The sponsoring family member must also be at least 18 years of age, an Australian citizen or permanent resident, or eligible New Zealand citizen, and be related to the primary visa applicant (or to their spouse or de facto partner, if they are also applying for the visa). Related is a defined term in the migration provisions.
The sponsor for the subclass 491 regional visa Australia must provide a signed undertaking to assist their sponsored family member, to the extent necessary, financially, with accommodation and to participate in an Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP) English language program for two years.
Primary subclass 491 visa applicants are required to satisfy the following key criteria to qualify for this 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).
This temporary regional work visa Australia has a term of five years.
Applications may be lodged onshore or outside Australia. To apply in Australia for the subclass 491 skilled regional visa, the applicant must hold either a substantive visa, or a Bridging A, B or C Visa.
The subclass 491 skilled work regional visa may be granted either onshore or outside Australia.
Subclass 491 skilled work regional visa holders are also be eligible for Medicare, Australia’s public healthcare system.
Subclass 494 Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional (Provisional) Visa
The Subclass 494 Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional (Provisional) visa also commenced from 16 November 2019, replacing its predecessor, the subclass 187 Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (which closed to new applicants from that date). This employer sponsored skilled regional visa is designed to assist employers in regional Australia to employ skilled overseas workers and consists of two visa streams, namely, an employer sponsored and labour agreement stream.
Eligible family members may also apply as visa dependants for the suclass 494 employer sponsored regional visa Australia. 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.
Employers seeking to sponsor overseas workers under this skilled regional visa program in the employer sponsored stream are required to:
- be an approved Standard Business Sponsor (SBS) and an Australian business;
- nominate an overseas skilled worker for an eligible occupation;
- demonstrate that the nominated position is genuine, full-time and likely to exist for five years;
- the nominee must be engaged as an employee under a written contract of employment (unless an exemption applies);
- the nominated position must be located in a designated regional area;
- the occupation must be on the relevant Skilled Occupation List (SOL) and any applicable caveats must be met;
- Labour Market Testing (LMT) must be undertaken (unless an exemption applies) to demonstrate that the employer is unable to find an Australian citizen or permanent resident with the skills and experience needed to fill the nominated position;
- demonstrate that the Annual Market Salary Rate (AMSR) is at least equal to or greater than the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT) (which is currently set at $53,900);
- the nominated annual earnings must not be less than the AMSR (if the nominee will be paid an annual salary of less than $250,000), and must be equal to or greater than the TSMIT;
- a Regional Certifying Body (RCB) must confirm that the nominee will be paid at least the AMSR;
- the Skilling Australian Fund (SAF) levy will apply ($3,000 where business turnover is less than $10 million, and $5,000 payable for businesses with a turnover above this threshold); and
- terms and conditions of employment for nominated overseas workers must be no less favourable than for Australian employees.
Employers sponsoring workers under this skilled regional visa program are subject to the Sponsorship provisions of the Migration Act and Regulations. These include sponsorship obligations which aim to protect sponsored overseas workers and local employees, as well as maintaining the integrity of the migration program.
Overseas workers who are being sponsored under the employer sponsored stream of the subclass 494 regional visa Australia are subject to the following requirements:
- 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.
Subclass 494 visa holders have a maximum of 90 days to find a new employer if they cease employment in the nominated position.
Subclass 494 visa holders are also subject to condition 8579, which requires them to live, work and study only in a part of Australia that is a designated regional area at the time the nomination is made (see below for further details about this visa condition).
This new temporary visa has a term of five years.
Applications may be lodged onshore or outside Australia. To apply in Australia, the applicant must hold either a substantive visa, or a Bridging A, B or C Visa.
The subclass 494 skilled regional visa may be granted either onshore or offshore.
Subclass 494 visa holders are also eligible for Medicare.
Introduction Of A New Subclass 191 Permanent Residence (Skilled Regional) Visa
From 16 November 2022, a new subclass 191 Permanent Residence (Skilled Regional) visa will be introduced. This new permanent residence regional visa Australia will be available to applicants who hold a subclass 491 or subclass 494 visa and who have done so for at least three years. Among the eligibility requirements to qualify for this skilled regional visa, applicants will be required to meet a minimum taxable income threshold for three years as the holder of the subclass 491 or 494 visa (this amount is currently set at $53,900). Applicants must also have substantially complied with the conditions of their 491 or 494 visa and in particular, condition 8579, which requires the regional visa holder to live, work and study in a designated regional area of Australia (see below for further details about this visa condition). Health and character criteria will also apply (including to visa dependents).
Eligible family members may also apply as visa dependents.
This new permanent residence visa will allow the visa holder to travel to and enter Australia for a period of five years from the visa grant date.
Applications may be lodged onshore or outside Australia. A subclass 191 visa may be granted either onshore or offshore.
Changes Introduced To The Points Test
Asa result of the changes that were introduced, points are now awarded for the following:
- 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 a skilled spouse or de facto partner;
- 10 points for a Masters degree by research or a Doctorate degree from an Australian educational institution that included at least two academic years in a relevant Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) field;
- 5 points are awarded where an applicant’s spouse or de facto partner has a minimum level of Competent English and who is not eligible for Partner skill qualifications points;
- 10 points are awarded to applicants without a spouse or de facto partner.
Changes to the points test affect all points-tested skilled visa subclasses, as outlined below:
- Subclass 189 Skilled (Independent) visa;
- Subclass 190 Skilled (Nominated) visa; and
- Subclass 491 Work Regional (Provisional) visa.
Order Of Ranking Of Invitations
Invitations to apply for points-tested visas are issued based on the following order of priority (if all other points claims are equal):
Priority Level 1
- Primary applicants with a skilled spouse or de facto partner
- Primary applicants without a spouse or de facto partner
The above are ranked equally.
Priority Level 2
- Primary applicants with a spouse or de facto partner who can demonstrate Competent English, but who does not have the skills for skilled partner points (age and skills)
Priority Level 3
- Primary applicants who have a partner who is not eligible for either Competent English or Skilled partner points. These applicants will be ranked below all other priority levels where all other points scores are equal.
Designated Regional Areas
Subclass 491 and 491 regional work visa Australia holders are subject to condition 8579, which requires them to live, work and, where applicable, study, in a designated regional area of Australia. Visa holders are able to move between designated regional areas. Non-compliance with this visa condition can result in the visa being cancelled.
Most locations of Australia outside major cities (Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane) are classified as designated regional areas for migration purposes. Regional visa holders can live in any designated regional area and can also move between designated regional areas.
Restrictions On Applying For Certain Visas
Individuals who hold, or whose last substantive visa held was a subclass 491 or 494 regional work visa Australia, are not eligible to apply for the following visa subclasses, unless they have complied with condition 8579, for at least three years (except where exceptional circumstances exist):
- Subclass 858 Distinguished Talent visa;
- Subclass 186 Employer Nomination Scheme visa;
- Subclass 189 Skilled (Independent) visa;
- Subclass 190 Skilled (Nominated) visa; and
- Subclass 820 Partner (Temporary) visa.
This restriction aims to prevent individuals who are granted a temporary regional work visa Australia on the basis of agreeing to comply with condition 8579 avoiding this commitment by seeking to apply for another type of visa which is not subject to this condition.
Subclass 489 Skilled Regional (Provisional) visa
Subclass 489 Skilled Regional (Provisional) visa holders continue to have access to the permanent residence subclass 887 Skilled (Regional) visa pathway.
As of 16 November 2019, only applications in the Second Provisional Visa stream can be lodged.
Subclass 187 Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme Visa
Transitional arrangements apply to existing Subclass 482 Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa and Subclass 457 Temporary Work (Skilled) visa holders to apply for permanent residence under the Temporary Residence Transition Stream (TRTS).
Get More Information
Skilled Regional State Sponsorship Visa
For further information on the subclass 491 and 494 visas, please see the following articles:
To learn more about applying for a skilled 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 skilled regional 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 skilled work regional visa, contact PAX Migration Australia, a leading immigration service providing advice on a range of visas including regional work visa Australia. Contact us for a no obligation discussion on how we may be able to assist you in achieving your migration goals in Australia.