In a further development, the Government has announced that Perth and the Gold Coast will be added to the list of cities in which migrants can settle under the new regional sponsored visas, which will commence on 16 November 2019. This now means only Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane will be ineligible regional areas for this purpose. Additionally, the Minister has announced that applications for the new regional visas will be subject to priority processing (the Department is aiming for one to three months), meaning a quicker turnaround time to decision. There will also be 2,000 extra places allocated to the new regional visas (1,000 additional for each), bringing the total to 25,000 this year.

Skilled Regional Sponsored Visa

Overview on all new skilled regional visas and their sub classes (491, 494,191) AND Skill Select invitations (ongoing)

Legislation has been released for three new Skilled Regional Visas to replace the current Skilled Regional (Provisional) subclass 489 and Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme subclass 187 visa programmes. These changes, which will come into effect progressively, commencing in November 2019 and later in November 2022, are part of a targeted programme 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 announced that it will set aside 23,000 places for two new provisional skilled regional sponsored visas out of an overall planned (permanent) skilled migration intake of 108,682 in the 2019/20 migration programme year.

New provisional skilled regional visas

Commencing from 16 November 2019, a new points-based Subclass 491 Skilled Work Regional (Provisional)  visa will result in the closure of the existing Skilled Regional (Provisional) subclass 489 visa programme. There will be 14,000 places allocated for this visa subclass in 2019/20.

Also to be introduced on the 16 November 2019 will be a new Subclass 494 Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional (Provisional) visa, closing the current Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme subclass 187 visa. A total of 9,000 places will be available to be filled for this visa subclass in 2019/20.

Both new provisional skilled regional visas will be granted for a period of 5 years.

Subclass 491 and 491 visa holders will also be eligible for Medicare, Australia’s public healthcare system.

What requirements will apply to holders of the new provisional skilled regional sponsored visas?

Holders of these two new provisional skilled regional sponsored visas will be required to live and work in a designated regional area of Australia (excluding Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane and the Gold Coast) 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 visa holders will be 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 will also need to be notified by subclass 491 visa holders (under visa condition 8578).

Other visa conditions to be imposed are 8580, which states that, if requested in writing, subclass 491 and 494 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 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.

Additionally, provisional skilled regional sponsored visa holders (or if their last held substantive visa was either a subclass 491 or 494 visa) will be restricted from being granted the following visas for 3 years (unless exceptional circumstances exist):

  • Distinguished Talent Subclass 124/858 visa;
  • Business Talent Subclass 132 visa;
  • Employer Nomination Scheme subclass 186 visa;
  • Business Innovation and Investment subclass 188 visa;
  • Skilled (Independent) Subclass 189 visa;
  • Skilled (Nominated) Subclass 190 visa; and
  • Partner (Temporary) Subclass 820 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

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 3 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 3 years as the holder of a Subclass 491 or 494 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 figure has not yet been announced).

Only holders of either the Subclass 491 or 494 visas will be eligible for the new permanent residence visa. There will be no direct entry provision or eligibility from other visa subclasses.

Family members

Eligible family members of skilled regional visa applicants may also be eligible for a new skilled regional visa as dependants of the primary applicant. To apply for a subclass 491 or 494 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 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 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 visa will be 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 temporary skilled regional visa being cancelled and/or not being able to qualify for a permanent residence subclass 191 visa.

What happens from now until the new visas are introduced in November 2019, and later in November 2022?

Visa applications for the existing subclass 489 visa can continue to be lodged before 16 November 2019. From 16 November 2019, only applications under the Second Provisional Visa stream will be accepted. The changes will not affect the Skilled (Regional) subclass 887 visa permanent residence visa pathway, which is currently available to eligible subclass 489 visa holders.

The provisional subclass 489 visa, which comprises of State Sponsored and Family Sponsored visa streams, provides a pathway to permanent residence after 2 years. New opportunities for nomination in South Australia have also recently been announced. Please refer to our detailed guides on Regional state sponsorship and 489 Visa SA (South Australia) for further information on this visa subclass.

The subclass 489 visa is part of the General Skilled Migration (GSM) visa programme, which operates by way of invitation to apply for the visa. As a first step, eligible applicants must submit an Expression of Interest (EOI) with the Department. When an invitation is received, applicants may then apply for the subclass 489 visa itself. The last day to submit an EOI will be 10 September 2019. Applications for the subclass 489 visa will close at 11:59pm on 15 November 2019.

Invitations are issued once each month under the family sponsored stream, and throughout the month for State and Territory Government nominations. The Department publishes the results for each invitation round. Please refer to our summary of the latest round results in May 2019 and a more detailed outline of how the EOI process works.

10 September 2019 will be the last day for states and territory governments to nominate and for invitations to be issued under the subclass 489 visa programme.

The existing subclass 187 visa will also remain open to new applications lodged before 16 November 2019. Applications will close for Direct Entry applicants at 11:59pm on 15 November 2019. Existing Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) subclass 482 and Temporary Work (Skilled) subclass 457 visa holders will 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.

The permanent residence subclass 187 visa is an employer nominated visa suitable for eligible applicants who are prepared to remain with their nominating employer for at least 2 years from visa grant. This visa subclass comprises of 3 streams, namely, a Direct Entry, TRTS and Labour Agreement stream. Under the TRT stream, eligible TSS subclass 482 visa holders may qualify for permanent residence after 3 years (transitional arrangements are also in place for holders of the Temporary Work (Skilled) 457 visa, the predecessor to the subclass 482 visa). A permanent residence pathway is also available under the Labour Agreement stream in certain instances. Alternatively, eligible applicants may automatically qualify for permanent residence under the Direct Entry stream.

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, will continue to have access to the TRT stream of the subclass 187 RSMS visa programme.

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, will not be affected by the closure on 16 November 2019 of the TRT stream of the subclass 187 RSMS visa.

The changes will also have no impact on the permanent residence status of current subclass 887 or 187 visa holders.

What happens to Skilled independent (Subclass 189) and Skilled Nominated (Subclass 190) Visas as a result of these changes?

There will be no change to these visas or the EOI or visa application process, which will continue 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 throughout the period leading up to, and after, 16 November 2019.

What happens to Employer Nomination Scheme (ENS) (Subclass 186) Visas as a result of these changes?

There will be no change to this visa or to the nomination or visa application process, which will continue to operate in its current form throughout the period leading up to, and after, 16 November 2019.

What happens to the new Skilled Work Regional (Provisional) visa (Subclass 491) and Employer Sponsored Regional (Provisional) (Subclass 494) visas from 16 November 2019?

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 visa can be made and applications for this visa can be lodged with the Department.

How much will it cost to apply for a Skilled Regional Visa?

The visa application fees that will be 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 –

First instalment

Main Applicant

Application lodgement fees –

First instalment

Additional Applicants

Work Regional (Provisional) subclass 491 visa

$4,045

At least 18: $2,025

Under 18: $1,010

Subclass 494 Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional (Provisional) visa

$4,045

At least 18: $2,025

Under 18: $1,010

Permanent Residence (Skilled Regional) subclass 191 visa

$385

At least 18: $195

Under 18: $100

Visa applicants aged 18 or over who are unable to demonstrate a functional level of English will be subject to an additional fee (second instalment), as follows:

Skilled Regional Visa class

Application lodgement fees – Second instalment

Main Applicant

Application lodgement fees – Second instalment

Additional Applicants

Work Regional (Provisional) subclass 491 visa

Not applicable as primary applicants must have Competent English

At least 18: $4,890

Under 18: $Nil

Subclass 494 Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional (Provisional) visa*

$9,800

At least 18: $4,890

Under 18: $Nil

Permanent Residence (Skilled Regional) subclass 191 visa

$Nil

At least 18: $Nil

Under 18: $Nil

* A $Nil second instalment applies to nominations in the occupation of Minister of Religion

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.

Other changes to be introduced

From 16 November 2019, the points test will also change. The new points test will apply to the following skilled visa subclasses:

  • Skilled (Independent) subclass 189 visa;
  • Skilled (Nominated) subclass 190 visa;
  • Skilled Regional (Provisional) subclass 489 visa applications that have been lodged but are yet to be assessed as at 16 November 2019; and
  • The new Work Regional (Provisional) subclass 491 visa.

New rules will also be introduced on this date which will affect the order of ranking in which invitations are to be issued for all points-tested skilled visas (as listed above).

On 16 November 2019, points will be recalculated for all skilled visas subclasses for which an EOI has been submitted.

What are the benefits of these changes?

More occupations eligible for nomination

One of the key benefits of the new skilled regional sponsored visa programme will be the introduction of an expanded skilled occupation list which will apply to subclass 491 and 494 visas.  Regional employers will be able to access additional regional occupations to sponsor eligible overseas workers for the new subclass 494 visa (there will be 673 eligible occupations, with over 450 more occupations that can be nominated compared with those that are available under the equivalent non-regional employer nominated visa programme).

More occupations will also be available to applicants seeking nomination by a State or Territory Government for the new subclass 491 visa, with 504 eligible occupations and over 70 more occupations available for nomination from 16 November 2019.

This change will result in more opportunities for prospective visa applicants to qualify for a skilled regional sponsored visa.

More points awarded to subclass 491 visa applicants

From 16 November 2019, 15 points will be 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 current 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

All new regional sponsored visas will 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 Work Regional (Provisional) subclass 491 visa, this requirement will be extended, with prospective applicants required to demonstrate that they have lived and worked in a designated regional area for a minimum of 3 years before being eligible for the permanent residence subclass 191 visa. Applicants will 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 will be 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.

These are just some of the factors that prospective skilled regional sponsored visa applicants need to consider when deciding the best way forward based on their own circumstances. Prospective applicants who are eligible for the existing subclass 489 visa would be advised to carefully consider their options, which may mean applying for the subclass 489 visa before applications close on 16 November 2019.

Prospective skilled regional employer sponsored visa applicants and their sponsoring employers will also need to think about how best to proceed considering the impending changes to be introduced from 16 November 2019. There are several factors to take into account, depending on the visa stream being applied for and the individual circumstances of both the prospective visa applicant and sponsor. It is therefore important for prospective applicants to act now to maximise their chances of achieving the most effective outcome.

Further information

Please refer to our guide on the New Skilled Regional Visas to be introduced which provides further details on the new skilled regional visa programme and the key eligibility requirements that will apply, as well as changes to the points test and the new order of ranking in issuing invitations for all points-based visas.

In closing, it is important to point out that there are still more details to be released, including the new skilled occupation lists that will apply and the postcodes to be included as designated regional areas. We will update our website with further information as it becomes available.

Australia’s migrations laws are complex, and each case is different. We recommend that you seek professional advice before you proceed with applying for a skilled visa, as being fully informed about the process and requirements that apply will give you the best chance of achieving a successful outcome on your application, and thus lessen the chance that it will be refused. A migration professional can help you to do this.

For up to date advice on these changes to the skilled regional visa programme, and all other skilled visas, book your confidential consultation with a migration agent in Adelaide. PAX Migration Australia is a leading immigration advice service based in Adelaide.

References/Links:

Media Release, 20 Mar 2019, A plan for Australia’s future population

Prime Minister, Minister for Cities Urban Infrastructure and Population, Minister for Immigration Citizenship & Multicultural Affairs, Minister for Regional Services Sport Local Government and Decentralisation, Minister for Education

https://www.pm.gov.au/media/plan-australias-future-population

Department of Home Affairs – Migration program planning levels

https://immi.homeaffairs.gov.au/what-we-do/migration-program-planning-levels

Department of Home Affairs – News

https://immi.homeaffairs.gov.au/what-we-do/regional-migration/news/new-regional-visas