New Regional Visas with a pathway to Permanent Residency

The Australian government has released the regulations relating to 2 new regional visas which will be available from November 2019. This update provides a short summary of the key points. These new visas may be useful for employers in regional areas of Australia as well as prospective visa applicants who may settle in regional areas.

As noted in our previous update, the Australian government recently announced that in November 2019 it will introduce two new provisional visas to support regional Australia. These visas will provide a pathway to a third new (permanent) visa via a period of at least 3 years’ residence in designated regional areas of Australia.

The two new regional (provisional) visas are:

  • Subclass 491 Skilled Work Regional (Provisional) visa: Substituting the current 489 visa and commencing November 16, 2019 this visa has 14,000 places allocated per year. This is a skilled migration (points tested) visa which requires either state government nomination, or sponsorship by an eligible family member who is settled in a designated regional area. The age limit for this visa is 45 and you must have a positive skills assessment.
  • Subclass 494 Skilled Employer Sponsored: Substituting the current 187 (RSMS) visa and commencing November 16, 2019 this visa has 9,000 places allocated per year. It requires employer sponsorship and the position must be likely to exist for 5 years. It has a 45 year age limit, competent English, RCB advice and must meet the AMSR. Visa applicants must have a suitable skills assessment and at least 3 years’ skilled employment (unless exempt).

The visa validity period is 5 years. Conditions will be imposed which will enforce the government’s intentions that visa holders live, work and study only in regional areas (condition 8579) and if employer sponsored, only in the nominated position. Visa holders can move between regional areas. Regional areas are defined as any area excluding Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. Important change: Perth and Gold Coast are classified as regional areas

Regional areas include Perth, Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast, Lake Macquarie, Illawarra, Geelong, Newcastle, Wollongong, Adelaide, Hobart and Canberra.

Holders of the new provisional visas will also be unable to apply for most other skills based visas in Australia unless they have completed at least three years in a designated regional area, unless exceptional circumstances exist. Additionally, similar to current arrangements for the subclass 457 and 482 visa program, holders of the new provisional visas can be negatively impacted by sponsor non-compliance.

The new permanent visa will be:

  • Subclass 191 Permanent Residence (Skilled Regional): To meet the requirements of the permanent visa (from November 2022) applicants must have held a subclass 491 or 494 visa for at least 3 years, have complied with the conditions on that visa and have met minimum taxable income requirements.
Effect on current regional visas:

The Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme Visa (subclass 187) and the Skilled Regional (Provisional) Visa (subclass 489) will close to new applicants from November 16, 2019. Transitional arrangements will be put in place for applications which have been lodged and are undecided at that time, as well as applicants whose pathway currently targets the permanent Skilled Regional Visa (subclass 887).

Changes on Points test for General Skilled Migration: (apply to 189, 190, 489, and 491) from 16 November 2019

The skilled migration points test will change from November 16, 2019. The changes will affect subclass 491 applicants as well as applications for other skilled migration visas that have not been assessed at that time (but only in a way that is beneficial for applicants, by providing additional points). The new points details are:

–         15 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 for a skilled spouse or de facto partner (Skills assessment and Competent English); OR

–         5 points for a spouse or de facto partner with ‘competent English’;

–         10 points for certain Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) qualifications;

–         10 points for applicants without a spouse or de facto partner.

Transitional arrangements will be available for current 457 and TSS 482 visa holders and will not be disadvantaged by the new changes:
  • Transitional 457 worker means a person who on 18 April 2017 either held a Subclass 457 (Temporary Work (Skilled)) visa, or was an applicant for a Subclass 457 visa that was subsequently granted. This cohort is referred to subsequently for the purpose of exempting them from the closure on 16 November 2019 of the Temporary Residence Transition stream in the Subclass 187 (Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme) visa.
  • Transitional 482 worker means a person who on 20 March 2019 either held a Subclass 482 (Temporary Skill Shortage) visa in the Medium-term stream, or was an applicant for a Subclass 482 (Temporary Skill Shortage) visa in the Medium-term stream that was subsequently granted. This cohort is referred to subsequently for the purpose of exempting them from the closure on 16 November 2019 of the Temporary Residence Transition stream in the Subclass 187 (Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme) visa.
VisaEnvoy Analysis:

Although the new provisional visas don’t come into effect until November 2019 sponsors and applicants should consider any planned regional applications, particularly subclass 187. Given the need for RCB support and the associated RCB processing and other preparation time, applicants and sponsors should consider preparing these applications without delay.

The new visas appear to address some of the key problems of their predecessors which may help regional employers attract and retain skilled overseas workers for longer periods of time. Along with the potential benefits employers should be aware that compliance for sponsors will be a key feature of these visa programs moving forward.

The Department has announced the transitional arrangements for the closure of the Skilled Regional (Provisional) Subclass 489 visa program. The following timeline has been provided by the Department:

Visa Subclass 1 July 10 Sept 11 Sept 15 Nov 16 Nov
Skilled Regional (Provisional) visa (Subclass 489) Invitations can be issued

EOIs can be submitted

Nominations can be made

Applications for visas can be lodged

Last day to nominate and invite

Last day for EOIs

Applications for visas can be lodged

NO further nominations made

NO further invitations made

NO further EOIs submitted

Applications close

11:59pm 15/11/19

SC 489 Program closed

Transitional arrangements to SC 887 for existing SC 489 VH

Applications lodged prior to the 16 November 2019 cut off date will continue to be processed as usual.

If you would like to find out more about the current skilled occupations list or discuss your visa options further and evaluate which pathway to take, please book a meeting.