Are you considering applying for a skilled visa to Australia? Did you know that there are a range of options available, depending on your individual circumstances, goals and needs? One type of skilled visa on offer is a state sponsorship visa, which requires sponsorship by a state or territory government.
So, what state sponsorship visa options are available?
Well, there is the Subclass 190 State (Nominated) visa, a permanent residence points-tested state sponsored visa, which grants automatic permanent residence in Australia.
There is also a regional state sponsorship visa option on offer, with the Subclass 491 Skilled Work Regional (Provisional) visa requiring sponsorship by either a state or territory government, or by an eligible relative. This is a temporary visa with a term of five years. Subject to meeting prescribed requirements, subclass 491 visa holders may be eligible to apply for a Subclass 191 Permanent Residence (Skilled Regional) visa after three years (this new visa will be introduced on 16 November 2022).
With the range of skilled visa options available, which also includes an independent skilled visa, and employer sponsored and employer nominated visas in addition to the above, why would you select a state sponsorship visa?
In this article, we examine the state sponsorship visas on offer, including what is meant by state sponsorship, the Migration Points Test and how it applies to a state sponsorship visa, the application process and key immigration eligibility requirements, We also take a look at a real-life case study to illustrate how it can be easier to obtain state sponsorship approval compared with other points-tested skilled visas in certain circumstances.
Let us begin by discussing the meaning of state sponsorship.
What Does State Sponsorship Mean?
State sponsorship means that a State or Territory Government sponsors you for a visa to Australia. Each state and territory government in Australia has a separate system to facilitate this process, with their own requirements for sponsorship approval. You need to apply for state sponsorship approval to the relevant state or territory government agency in your chosen jurisdiction.
Be aware that State Sponsorship is also often referred to as a State Nomination (these terms are interchangeable). To avoid confusion, in this article, we refer to State Sponsorship.
You can apply to one of the following States for state sponsorship approval:
- New South Wales (NSW) state sponsorship;
- Western Australia (WA) state sponsorship;
- Queensland (QLD) state sponsorship;
- Victoria (VIC) state sponsorship;
- South Australia (SA) state sponsorship; and
- Tasmania (TAS) state sponsorship.
You may also be able to apply for sponsorship to a Territory government, namely, the Northern Territory (NT) or the Australian Capital Territory (ACT).
You need to check the requirements for the relevant state or territory where you are seeking to apply for sponsorship approval. There may be times when a particular jurisdiction is not accepting sponsorship applications, or only for a specific type of application. This is why it is very important that you confirm this information before proceeding to apply.
For ease of reference, state and territory sponsorship is often simply referred to as ‘state sponsorship’ or ‘state nomination’ as a catch-all phrase (even if it also applies to a territory jurisdiction).
State Sponsorship Visa Points
To be eligible to apply for a subclass 190 or 491 visa, you must attain at least 65 points in the Migration Points Test. Points are allocated based on various attributes, including employment experience, age and qualifications.
One of the main benefits of applying for a state sponsorship visa is the fact that you will be granted additional points on account of the sponsorship.
The subclass 190 visa grants an additional 5 points. For the subclass 491 visa, 15 extra points are granted for the sponsorship.
This can be a significant benefit to your application as extra points help you to attain a higher overall points score, making it easier to potentially receive an invitation to apply for the visa.
You can use our Points Test Calculator to work out your points score.
State Sponsorship Is A Multi-Stage Process
It is also important to be aware that the state sponsorship requirements are in addition to the Immigration requirements that must be met for a state sponsorship visa to be granted. So, you need to apply under two tranches if you will, that being to the relevant state or territory government for state sponsorship, as well as a separate application to the Department of Home Affairs (the Department).
In some cases, the state sponsorship criteria are a higher threshold than those that apply for Immigration purposes. For example, the level of English language competency may be at a higher standard for state sponsorship approval. There are also often additional employment and/or residence requirements in the particular state or territory jurisdiction where you are applying. So, you may need to have a certain amount of work experience, at a specified skill level in the state or territory. Or, you may need to demonstrate a period of residence in that particular state or territory for a certain period of time before being eligible for state sponsorship. In some cases, the state or territory may specifiy a minimum points score that is required for a particular occupation, to receive nomination approval. There can also be different requirements for certain types of applicants, such as for those who are applying from offshore. The state or territory may offer various concessions to certain applicants, such as to high performing international students.
So, different requirements may apply for approval of a NSW state sponsorship, WA state sponsorship, QLD state sponsorship, VIC state sponsorship, SA state sponsorship or TAS state sponsorship, ACT or NT sponsorship. There can also be similarities and common elements across the jurisdictions.
It is vital that you have a full understanding of the requirements that apply in order to ensure that you submit a complete and correct application (both for state sponsorship, and for visa grant from the Department) to give yourself the best chance of a successful outcome on your case.
Immigration Requirements For A State Sponsorship Visa
The subclass 190 and 491 visas share common key eligibility criteria, which include the following:
- your skilled occupation must be included on the relevant skilled occupation list, and you must have the minimum qualifications and/or employment experience as specified for your selected occupation;
- you must be aged under 45 years at the time the invitation is received;
- a positive skills assessment for your nominated occupation is required;
- a minimum points score of 65 must be achieved in the Migration Points Test; and
- you must have Competent English.
An important point to note is that although the subclass 190 visa grants you immediate permanent residence in Australia, you must commit to living in your nominating State or Territory for two years following visa grant.
As a subclass 491 visa holder, you must abide by visa condition 8579, which stipulates that while in Australia, you must live, work and study only in a part of Australia that was a designated regional area at the time the visa was granted. Remember, this is a temporary visa, which provides a pathway to permanent residency after three years, provided all specified requirements are met. You must comply with the requirements of condition 8579 for the period that you hold the subclass 491 visa to be eligible to be granted permanent residence under the subclass 191 visa.
Also be aware that among the eligibility requirements to qualify for the subclass 191 visa, applicants will be required to meet a minimum taxable income threshold for three years as the holder of a subclass 491 visa (this amount is currently set at $53,900).
How Do You Apply For A State Sponsorship Visa?
As noted above, to apply for a state sponsorship visa, you need to apply via two avenues, namely, to Immigration and to your selected State or Territory Government.
This involves a three-step process:
- submit an Expression Of Interest (EOI) application with the Department. All EOIs must be completed online using SkillSelect. An EOI is not a visa application and there is no fee to create or submit an EOI. In order to lodge an EOI for a subclass 190 or 491 visa, you must attain at least 65 points in the Migration Points Test. Points are allocated to various attributes on a sliding scale, including your age, qualifications and employment experience;
- submit an application for state sponsorship approval to your selected state or territory government, in line with their requirements. This is normally lodged at the same time as the EOI is submitted, but you should check this before you apply as each state and territory has its own set of requirements and processes;
- provided that your application is successful, you will receive an invitation to apply for the visa. From here, you may proceed to apply to the Department for the relevant visa within 60 days of receipt of the invitation. At this point, immigration requirements apply.
Once you have completed your EOI, it will remain in SkillSelect for two years. You can access your EOI and update your information at any time if your circumstances change. You cannot update an EOI after you have received an invitation.
Your EOI may be updated if:
- you have gained new work experience;
- you have gained a higher qualification;
- you have improved your English language ability; or
- your family composition has changed.
These changes could affect your points score, and may improve your ranking in the invitation allocation process.
How Are Invitations Allocated?
State Sponsorship Visas
Invitations are issued by each individual state and territory, based on their unique needs and requirements. Each jurisdiction will identify and select skilled workers that they wish to nominate.
So, it might be the case that 65 points, which is the minimum required points score to submit an EOI, is sufficient to receive an invitation for state sponsorship approval (provided that you meet all the other state sponsorship requirements). Be mindful, however, that this may not necessarily be the case, with certain states and territories potentially requiring a specified higher score for a particular nominated occupation, for example.
This means that state sponsorship approval criteria may vary across the different jurisdictions, be that a NSW state sponsorship, WA state sponsorship, QLD state sponsorship, VIC state sponsorship, SA state sponsorship, TAS state sponsorship, ACT or NT sponsorship, based on their unique characteristics, priorities and needs.
Independent And Family Sponsorship Visas
In contrast, if you were to apply for a subclass 491 visa under the family sponsored stream, or for a subclass 189 Skilled (Independent) visa, then you would be subject to a different invitation allocation process. In this case, periodic invitation rounds are conducted (they are currently run quarterly). The number of invitations issued, and to whom they are issued (i.e. points balance, occupation, etc.), normally varies from round to round.
Invitations under this process are issued automatically by the SkillSelect system to the highest ranking EOIs, subject to occupation ceilings (this means that there are a limited number of EOI’s that can be issued for each occupation). The highest ranked applicants are the first who are invited to apply for the relevant visa. Applicants with equal scores are invited in order of when they reached their points score.
The number of points that are required to secure an invitation may be (and often is) higher than 65 points (this also usually changes each invitation round). Be aware that the process of allocating invitations is competive, and you should strive to attain as high a points balance as you can, to maximise your chances of being issued with an invitation.
It is for this reason that it may generally be easier to secure an invitation under the state sponsorshop process, as compared with the invitation round process by the Department (although this will depend on the individual case). We discuss this further below with a case study example.
To see the latest invitation allocations, please see our article on the Skill Select Invitation Round.
Why Choose A State Sponsorship Visa?
As disccused above, in some cases, it may be easier to obtain state sponsorship approval, compared with the invitation round system that applies to the subclass 189 and subclass 491 visa (under the family sponsored stream).
Also consider the fact that additional points are granted on account of the state sponsorship, making it easier to secure an invitation with a higher points balance.
And another point to consider is the fact that there are multiple states and territories to choose from when applying for a state sponsorship visa. Provided that you meet the relevant requirements, you may find that you meet the sponsorship approval criteria for more than one jurisdiction, which gives you more options than you may otherwise have if applying for an independent or family sponsored skilled visa. Given that there are six states and two territories to choose from, this opens up more potential opportunties for you to qualify for a state sponsorship visa. There can also be similarities and common elements across the jurisdictions.
So, you might choose to apply for NSW state sponsorship, WA state sponsorship, QLD state sponsorship, VIC state sponsorship, SA state sponsorship, TAS state sponsorship, ACT or NT sponsorship. The good news is that there are lots of opportunities to explore!
But be mindful that when it comes to applying for a state sponsorship visa, it is best to formulate a plan in advance, as it may be the case that you must have lived in a certain state or territory for a specified period of time, or have a certain amount of work experience in that state or territory, to qualify for state sponsorship. This is why it is very important to plan ahead, so that you can be prepared and make any necessary adjustments to enable you to qualify at a later date.
And adding to that, just be mindful that you need to think carefully when making a decision about which state or territory to choose, as you will need to commit to living, working and/or studying there for a certain period of time to either qualify for the visa, or as a visa condition or committment.
Let us now illustrate with a real-life example why you might choose a state sponsorship visa.
Real Life Case Study
John had submitted an Expression of Interest into SkillSelect for the 189 visa. His occupation was on the prescribed Skilled Occupation List (SOL) and he had the required points. And so, he believed, that he was eligible, and would be receiving an invitation to apply for the visa shortly.
What Happened To John?
John submitted his EOI and waited and waited and then waited some more. There was no invitation and he was starting to worry as his current visa would be ending soon. If he did not receive the invitation, he would have no other option but to leave Australia, the place he had called home for close to eight years now (having completed his High School Certificate and all tertiary study in Australia).
He contacted PAX Migration Australia wondering whether he had any other options, or if he had done anything wrong.
What Did PAX Migration Australia Determine?
After completing a consultation with John and assessing his case, we identified a number of issues. The most important of these was that John did not have:
- a positive skills assessment for his occupation; or
- sufficient points to secure an invitation for the subclass 189 visa (at that time, the cut off score was 60 points, however applicants were not receiving an invitation unless they had a minimum score of 70 points – as discussed above, this is a highly competitive process, and the number of points needed to secure an invitation can be substantially higher than the baseline score).
In order to validly lodge a subclass 189 visa application, you must nominate a skilled occupation that is included in the applicable Skilled Occupation List (SOL), and for which you must declare in your application that your skills have been assessed as suitable by the relevant assessing authority (the assessment must not be for a Subclass 485 Temporary Graduate visa).
To qualify for visa grant, at the time of invitation to apply for the visa, the relevant assessing authority must have assessed your skills as being suitable for your nominated skilled occupation.
John had submitted an EOI for a subclass 189 visa without having received a positive skills assessment for his nominated occupation, and her therefore did not meet the requirements.
Migration Points Test
As noted earlier in this article, to submit an EOI, you need to have scored a minimum of 65 points in the Migration Points Test. But having 65 points is not usually a high enough score to secure an invitation for a subclass 189 visa (or for a subclass 491 visa under the family sponsored stream). The process of allocating invitations to EOI applicants is a competitive one, and so you should be aiming to achieve as high a score as possible to improve your chances of receiving an invitation. Note that the points score that is required normally varies each invitation round, and will depend on a number of factors, including the demand for places versus the number of invitations that are available to be issued for the various occupations.
Another point to be aware of is that an occupation ceiling applies to invitations issued for the subclass 189 visa and the subclass 491 visa under the family sponsored stream. This means that there are a limited number of EOI’s that can be issued for each occupation. As an aside, this is another aspect to consider when looking at a state sponsorship versus a skilled visa that is based on invitation rounds conducted by the Department. States and Territories may be less restrictive in this regard (although it will depend on each jursisdiction’s needs and polices).
How Did PAX Migration Australia Assist John?
We were able to resolve the issue of the skills assessment by first, ensuring that John was eligible for a skills assessment, and then applying to the relevant skill assessing body (luckily he was eligible and was able to attain this relatively quickly). However, we knew that he was unlikely to be receiving an invitation for the subclass 189 visa anytime soon, simply because his points score was not high enough.
We began to explore other options, namely, state nomination. We examined all the requirements for the various states and territories, and identified that he was eligible for state nomination for South Australia, as he was an international graduate and was fortunate enough to be working in his nominated occupation (he was also able to attain the 12 month work experience requirement as he was a graduate from a South Australian institution). We applied to Immigration SA (now called Skilled and Business Migration South Australia), and his application was approved in 10 days.
We then lodged his visa application, which was granted by the Department.
John, after many years of residence in Australia, was granted permanent residency.
What Could Have Happened If John Had Continued Waiting?
Taking this course of action could have had potentially significant ramifications for John and his ability to remain in Australia.
Well, an important point to be aware of is that when you submit an EOI, you will not be granted a Bridging Visa (as is the case when you apply for a visa application onshore). The purpose of a bridging visa is to ‘bridge the gap’ between one visa to another, to ensure that you remain lawful in Australia whilst you await a decision on your visa application.
Unlike a visa application, the EOI does not provide for a bridging visa to be granted, which means that if you want to remain in Australia whilst you await an invitation, you must hold a valid visa to remain in Australia lawfully. Otherwise, you must depart Australia and wait for an invitation to be issued to apply for the visa.
Whilst John was waiting for an invitation to come through, time was ticking on his visa. As things stood, it was likely to have continued to tick along, and his visa would have expired, requiring him to leave Australia.
But potentially a more serious problem for John could have been that if he had continued to wait, and eventually secured an invitation, whether that be onshore or outside Australia, the fact is that he did not meet the requirements to either lodge a valid application, or for the grant of a subclass 189 visa (as was outlined above). He did not have a positive skills assessment for his nominated occupation, which means his visa application could not have succeeded in any event.
This would have meant lost time and money, and potentially, being subject to the section 48 bar, which could have had serious ramifications for John, including limiting his ability to apply for a visa onshore in Australia.
And The Take Home Message?
It is important to be aware of all the requirements that apply, and to assess your eligibility for all visas thoroughly. John was not aware of state nomination, or of the requirements of each state for sponsorship approval. This is an example of how being unaware of all options that are available, of not understanding the requirements that apply, and simply lodging an EOI and waiting for an invitation to come can have dire consequences if not done accurately. For full advice about your eligibility for a skilled visa, contact us to book your consultation today.
Get More Information
Skilled State Sponsorship Visa
For more information on the subclass 190 visa, please see our article on the Subclass 190 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.
Skilled Regional State Sponsorship Visa
For further information on the subclass 491 visa, please see the following articles:
To learn more about applying for a skilled visa, please see the following articles:
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Contact us to book a no-obligation consultation to find out more about applying for a skilled visa, including a state sponsorship visa for any State or Territory. This includes a NSW state sponsorship, WA state sponsorship, QLD state sponsorship, VIC state sponsorship, SA state sponsorship, TAS state sponsorship, ACT and NT sponsorship.
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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 skilled visa, including a state sponsorship visa in any State or Territory in Australia, 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. You will also note that several terms mentioned in the above article 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 skilled visa, including a state sponsorship visa in any state or territory, including NSW state sponsorship, WA state sponsorship, QLD state sponsorship, VIC state sponsorship, SA state sponsorship, TAS state sponsorship, ACT or NT sponsorship, contact PAX Migration Australia, a leading immigration service providing advice on a range of visas including state sponsorship visas. Contact us for a no obligation discussion on how we may be able to assist you in your migration goals in Australia.