What is a Subclass 491 Regional visa?

If you are seeking to settle in Australia long-term and you and your accompanying family members are prepared to abide by 491 visa conditions to live, work and study in a designated regional area of Australia (which is classified as most locations in Australia outside of the major cities of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane), then you may like to consider a Subclass 491 Skilled Work Regional (Provisional) visa. This new five-year points-based provisional visa was introduced only recently on 16 November 2019 as part of the new Skilled Regional Sponsored Visa programme, in the Government’s efforts to encourage more migrants to settle in regional parts of Australia.

Some of the benefits of the subclass 491 regional visa are:

  • eligible family members may be included as visa dependents, so that they may accompany you to Australia;
  • as a Subclass 491 visa holder, you (and your accompanying family members) are eligible for Medicare benefits, Australia’s public healthcare system; and
  • subclass 491 visa holders can travel freely to and from Australia on an unrestricted basis over the five-year visa term.

One of the most appealing aspects of the subclass 491 visa for potential applicants is the pathway it provides to permanent residence in Australia. From 16 November 2022, a new Subclass 191 Permanent Residence (Skilled Regional) visa will be introduced, which will enable subclass 491 visa holders to qualify for permanent residence in Australia after three years, provided certain requirements are met. This includes:

  • having earned at or above the minimum taxable income threshold for three years as the holder of the subclass 491 visa (this amount is currently set at $53,900), as evidenced by notices of assessment issued by the Australian Taxation Office; and
  • having complied substantially with their 491 visa conditions.

A migration professional like PAX Migration Australia can help by equipping you with the information you need to prepare a subclass 491 regional visa application to the highest standard. Contact us to book a no-obligation consultation today.

How does the Subclass 491 Visa work?

Key 491 regional visa requirements

You must be nominated or sponsored for the visa

A nomination by a State or Territory Government, or sponsorship by an eligible family member who is usually resident in a designated regional area of Australia, is required.

Lodge an Expression of Interest (EOI)

As a first step, you need to submit an EOI with the Department of Home Affairs (“The Department”). The process then varies, depending on whether you are being nominated or sponsored for the visa.

For sponsored applicants, each month, the Department issues a certain number of invitations (which can change) to successful applicants in what are called “invitation rounds.” Places are allocated based on the points score achieved by the EOI applicant in the Migration Points Test.

You can use our Points Test Calculator to work out your points score.

To this end, EOI applicants should aim to achieve the highest points score possible. Although the minimum points required to lodge an EOI is only 65 points, the score required to secure an invitation (which can change from month-to-month) is normally much higher. In the invitation round for January 2020, for example, the minimum points score that was required to secure an invitation was 90 points.

Pro-rated occupations can require an even higher points score to secure an invitation. These are occupations with the highest demand. To spread invitations out more evenly throughout the year, only a certain number of invitations are available to be allocated for these occupations each month.

To illustrate one such occupation, Electronics Engineers (ANZSCO code 2334) required a points score of at least 95 to secure an invitation for a subclass 491 visa in the January 2020 round. This was higher than the minimum score of 90 points in the January 2020 round.

All other points claims being equal, EOI applicants are also then ranked on certain characteristics based on whether they have a spouse or de facto partner, and their spouse/partner’s English language competency and skills.

In contrast, applications for State and Territory Nominations are decided by each relevant jurisdiction under a separate process, in which the points score is not necessarily the main deciding factor in the allocation of invitations. Each jurisdiction sets its own requirements for approving nominations. These other elements, which may include English language competency and/or work experience, are additional factors which are considered in issuing invitations. This means it may often be easier to secure an invitation for a subclass 491 visa by way of nomination (as compared with sponsorship) if the applicant is not able to achieve a high points score.

Be mindful that applying for State or Territory nomination means you need to meet two sets of requirements in this regard, namely, those that are set by the Department (for immigration purposes), and the requirements that are set by the relevant State or Territory to whom you apply (for nomination approval). You will need to complete a separate nomination application and lodge it with the relevant jurisdiction, in addition to submitting an EOI with the Department. This is not the case if you apply for sponsorship by an eligible family member, in which case you need only meet immigration requirements.

It is also important to point out that an added benefit of applying for a subclass 491 visa (whether by way of State nomination or Family Sponsorship) are the extra points you will earn in the Migration Points Test, which will help you to reach, or exceed, the minimum score quicker. Nomination by a State or Territory government agency or sponsorship by a family member will earn you an additional 15 points.

What do you need to lodge an EOI for a Subclass 491 visa?

The main requirements are:

  • be aged under 45 years at time of invitation;
  • nominate a skilled occupation on the prescribed 491 visa occupation list, and have a positive skills assessment in the nominated occupation at time of invitation;
  • have a minimum level of Competent English at time of invitation; and
  • declare a genuine intention to live, work and study in a designated regional area (this requirement also applies to visa dependents).

What happens next?

Subject to receiving an invitation to apply for the subclass 491 visa, you will then have 60 days in which to lodge your application for the visa itself. It is important to ensure that you meet valid application lodgement and visa grant requirements before you apply. The 491 visa processing time will change periodically. At this time, there are no standard processing times available for this pathway.

Get More Information

For further information on the subclass 491 visa, please see the following articles:

New Skilled Regional Visas to be introduced

Skilled Regional Sponsored Visa

Further Regulations released for the new regional sponsored visas to commence from 16 November 2019

Applications for the new provisional regional sponsored visas are now open

You will also find information on applying for State Nomination in the following articles:

State Sponsorship Options

Why should you consider SA skilled regional sponsorship visa as a pathway to live the Australian dream

Please be aware that the above articles on State Nomination refer to the Subclass 489 Skilled Regional (Provisional) visa, the predecessor to the current subclass 491 visa (it was abolished from 16 November 2019).

See also our Spotlight on South Australia article, for more information on what it is like to live in the State (whose entire area is classified as a designated regional area for the subclass 491 visa).

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