On 16 November 2019, the Australian Government will introduce two new regional visas for skilled migrants who want to live and work in regional Australia. These are the: 

  • Skilled Employer-Sponsored Regional (Provisional) visa (subclass 494); and
  • Skilled Work Regional (Provisional) visa (subclass 491).

These new visas will replace the Subclass 187 (RSMS) and Subclass 489 visas, respectively. This article will discuss the critical requirements of these new regional visas and explain how they may affect existing visa holders.

Key Features of the New Visas

These two new regional visas allow you to live, work and study in regional Australia. Under these visas, the definition of regional Australia will include all of Australia except for: 

  • Sydney;
  • Melbourne;
  • Brisbane;
  • the Gold Coast; and 
  • Perth.

A list of postcodes defining what these regional areas are will soon be available on the Department of Home Affairs (DOHA) website.

These new visas also allow you to:

  • stay in Australia for up to five years; and
  • apply for the Permanent Residence (Skilled Regional) visa (subclass 191) after it commences on 16 November 2022.

To be eligible for permanent residence, you must demonstrate that you: 

  • have lived and worked in regional Australia for at least three years while holding one of the new regional visas; and
  • have met minimum taxable income requirements.

Both new regional visas will offer priority processing and an additional five points in skilled visa points.

Subclass 494 Visa

The new subclass 494 visa will replace the current Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme visa (subclass 187). While the new subclass 494 visa is not a permanent visa, there is a pathway to permanent residence through the Permanent Residence (Skilled Regional) visa subclass 191.

The Subclass 494 visa largely mirrors the Subclass 482, in that it is a three-stage process: 

  1. sponsorship;
  2. nomination; and 
  3. visa application. 

Your employer can nominate you under two streams, either:

  1. employer-sponsored; or 
  2. labour agreement. 

As the name suggests, this visa requires you to be sponsored by an employer located in regional Australia. To be eligible for this visa, you must meet the following requirements:

Business Sponsorship

The Australian business you intend to work for must apply to become a standard business sponsor (SBS). Under some visas, if the business wishes to sponsor many foreign workers, they can apply to become an accredited business sponsor, which has priority processing. However, this is not an option under the subclass 494 visa. 

Nomination

If you are nominated under this visa, the role that you intend to work in must be:

  • genuine;
  • full-time; and 
  • likely to exist for five years. 

The position must also be located in a designated regional area.

While there are no fees for this visa, your employer will need to pay a Skilling Australians Fund (SAF) Charge. This will be a one-off payment of either AUD$3000 or AUD$5000. 

Visa Application

To apply for this visa, you must:

  • be under 45 years of age;
  • have an eligible skilled occupation;
  • have a suitable skills assessment;
  • meet the character and health requirements;
  • have competent English; and
  • have at least three years of relevant full-time work experience.

One of the benefits of the new subclass 494 visa is that it lists 450 more occupations than the equivalent non-regional visa. This means that you will have more options to choose from when nominating your occupation for this visa. While the current visa has 6,000 places to be allocated to it each year, this new visa will have 9,000 places allocated. 

Subclass 491 Visa

The new subclass 491 visa will replace the Skilled Regional (Provisional) visa (subclass 489). This new visa is a points-tested visa for applicants:

  • nominated by a state or territory government; or 
  • sponsored by an eligible family member living in regional Australia. 

However, the new subclass 491 visa will require visa holders to live and work in regional Australia for an additional year to be eligible for permanent residence.

The requirements for state or territory nomination or family sponsorship will likely be similar to the ones currently in place for the subclass 489 visa. However, DOHA has made some changes to the points test. This revised points test will come into effect from 16 November 2019 and will apply to all skilled migration visas. The new points test will increase the points awarded for:

  • nomination by a state or territory government or sponsorship by a family member living in regional Australia – 15 points (currently 10 points);
  • a skilled spouse or de facto partner – 10 points (currently 5 points);
  • selected science, technology, engineering and mathematics qualifications – 10 points (currently 5 points);
  • a spouse or de facto partner with competent English – 10 points (currently 5 points).

DOHA has not yet announced how many points you will need to satisfy the points test for this new visa.

In addition to the points test, you will still need to meet the usual requirements surrounding: 

  • age;
  • English language ability; 
  • skills assessment;
  • character; and 
  • health.

The new subclass 491 visa will provide an increased number of eligible occupations, having access to over 70 more occupations than the closest non-regional equivalent visa. While it currently has 8,500 places allocated to it each year, it will now have 14,000 available places.

Impact on Existing Visa Holders

The introduction of the two new regional visas in November 2019 will not affect those who currently hold skilled or regional visas. If you lodge an application for the current subclass 187 or 489 visa before 16 November 2019, your application will be processed as normal. 

Additionally, the new visas will not impact the permanent residence status of current permanent visa holders.

Key Takeaways

The Australian Government will introduce two new regional visas on 16 November 2019 with a new permanent visa pathway that will commence from November 2022. These new visas will replace two existing visas and introduce some key changes that you should be aware of if you intend to apply. If you have questions about the new regional visas and how it could impact you or your business, contact LegalVision’s immigration lawyers on 1300 544 755 or fill out the form on this page.

About LegalVision: LegalVision is a tech-driven, full-service commercial law firm that uses technology to deliver a faster, better quality and more cost-effective client experience.
Graci Chen

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