Australia’s new regional visa program has been launched

Posted on November 22, 2019 by Benson Shi

Introduction of the Skilled Work Regional Visa

Earlier this year, the Department announced that the 491 Visa (Skilled Work Regional) is due to replace the current Skilled Regional (Provisional) visa (subclass 489). This has been active as of November 16, 2019. New Skilled Regional visas will be the Skilled Work Regional (Provisional) subclass 491 visa and the Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional subclass 494 visa. The new permanent visa pathway will be changed to Permanent Residence (Skilled Regional) subclass 191 visa. The 191 visa will be introduced in November 2022 to accommodate new applications commencing later this year. The main changes to the Skilled Regional visa will be increasing the number of eligible occupations, redefining regional Australia, and changes to the points test.

Eligible Occupations

Over 450 new eligible occupations will be introduced.[i] In addition to this, the Australian Government has announced that it will be introducing new tertiary scholarships to incentivise international students to study in regional Australia. A more detailed list will be made available.

Redefining Regional Australia

The Australian Government has narrowed the definition of regional Australia across all skilled visas, which officially cameinto effect in November 16, 2019. Newcastle, Wollongong and the NSW Central Coast will now be defined as ‘regional’ Australia. All of Australia will be considered regional except for the following metropolitan areas:

  • Sydney
  • Melbourne
  • Brisbane

An updated and detailed list of postcodes are now available under the Migration (LIN 19/217: Regional Areas) Instrument 2019. Prospective applicants for the Skilled Work Regional Visa need to be made aware that specified regional areas are subject to change. This depends on the economic and population growth across different areas in Australia. Current specified regional areas are available on the Department’s website.[ii]

Revised Points Test

The changes to the points system will be:

  • 15 points (currently 10 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 (currently 5 points) for a skilled spouse or de facto partner. Additional points are being awarded to acknowledge main applicants who have skilled dependant spouses or de facto partners as they will have greater employability and contribution to local regional communities and the Australian economy more broadly;
  • 10 points (currently 5 points) for specialist (STEM) qualifications. The increase in points for this is due to the STEM skills shortage within Australia, particularly in regional areas;
  • 5 points (new) for a spouse or de facto partner with ‘competent English’. This is to incentivise applicants and their dependant partners to acquire adequate English language prior to migrating to Australia;
  • 10 points (new) for applicants without a spouse or de facto partner. This is a new incentive for any prospective single applicant, ensuring a fair selection process for skilled migrants.

SkillSelect will automatically update EOIs in ‘Submitted’ status to attribute any additional points, where the information was held in SkillSelect prior to 16 November 2019.

There are two sections of SkillSelect that intending migrants who have submitted an EOI will need to amend in order to claim additional points. These are if:  they now wish to claim regional study points, due to the change in definition of Designated Regional Australia and/or if they wish to claim points for having a spouse or de facto partner with ‘Competent English’.  It should be noted that if these are changed in the EOI this will change the ‘date of effect’ for this EOI.

Impact of the Skilled Work Regional Visa

The Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme Visa (subclass 187) and the Skilled Regional (Provisional) Visa (subclass 489) are no longer  available to new applicants from November 16, 2019.  For any applications that are pending an outcome, transitional arrangements will be made.

RSMS TRT nominations or visa applications will only be able to be lodged if the nominee is either:

  • a transitional 457 worker, or
  • a transitional 482 worker.

Please check with us for any updates and changes on this.

Eligibility for Permanent Residency

Prospective applicants will need to live and work in regional Australia for at least three years in order to be eligible for permanent residency (this has increased from two years). The visa validity period will also increase from four (4) years to five (5) years. To be eligible for permanent residence, applicants need to show that they have lived and worked in regional Australia whilst holding a new skilled regional provisional visa.

Permanent Residence (Skilled Regional) visa (subclass 191)

Regulations for the Permanent Residence (Skilled Regional) visa (subclass 191) do not commence until 16 November 2022. Procedural Instructions (PI) will be developed for this visa in due course.  New PI’s have been registered that detail the nomination and visa application process for the new skilled employer sponsored regional visas.

Conclusions – Similarities to the 489 Visa

For the most part, the 491 visa is similar to the current 489 visa. Applicants must still be nominated by an employer, reside and work in regional Australia while meeting the minimum age, English language, skills assessment, work experience, character and health requirements. The introduction of the 491 visa will provide better opportunity for prospective applicants who wish to migrate to Australia. An estimated 47,000 job vacancies[iii] are in regional areas alone. The introduction of these changes is to incentivise skilled migrants to live and work in regional Australia. Due to the increasing congestion in cities, and booming population in suburban areas, the changes to the Skilled Regional (Provisional) visa will channel skilled migrants into occupations that will boost the regional Australian economy. More information regarding the Permanent Residence (Skilled Regional) subclass 191 visa will be released later this year.

Please contact us should you need any further information or assistance.

Disclaimer: The information provided is not legal advice and is not intended to serve as legal advice. Immigration Solutions Lawyers do not accept any liability for any damages suffered by persons who rely on the general information provided on this website. Liability limited by a scheme approved under Professional Standards Legislation.