Change is on the horizon for Australian immigration, particularly for regional Australia. Two current regional visas will close and be replaced with two NEW regional provisional visas, available from 16th November 2019. A third permanent visa will also be available for holders of the new regional visas to transition to, providing they meet minimum income threshold requirements and comply with visa conditions.
Regulations for the Government’s new regional visas initiative have recently been released.
Exciting changes also lie ahead for all points-tested skilled visa applications from 16 November 2019.
Here, we outline the changes in more detail, giving you further info on the new regional visas and points test changes for General Skilled Migration - find out more below…
Regional visa changes - a quick overview
Skilled Regional (Provisional) 489 Visas will close to new applicants from 16 November 2019 and be replaced by the new Skilled Work Regional (Provisional) 491 Visa. 14,000 places have been allocated to this visa subclass..
Applications for the permanent Regional Sponsored 187 Visa will also close on 16 November 2019, with the exception of applicants who are subject to transitional arrangements. This visa will be replaced with the Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional (Provisional) 494 Visa. 9,000 places have been allocated to this visa subclass.
A third new visa, the Permanent Residence (Skilled Regional) 191 Visa will also be available from 16 November 2022 for 491 or 494 Visa holders.
Points test changes for General Skilled Migration
We already had an insight during the Federal Budget into the changes approaching for the GSM points test. These changes will come into effect on 16th November 2019 and include:
- 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 (an increase of 5 points),
- 10 points for a skilled spouse or de facto partner,
- 10 points for certain Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) qualifications,
- 5 points for a spouse or de facto partner with ‘competent English’,
- 10 points for applicants without a spouse or de facto partner.
Invitations for points tested visas will be ranked in the following order:
- First - primary applicants with a skilled spouse or de facto partner,
- Equal first - primary applicants without a spouse or de facto partner,
- Second - Primary applicants with a spouse or de facto partner who can demonstrate ‘competent’ English, but does not have the skills for skilled partner points (age and skills)
- Third - Primary applicants with a partner who is ineligible for competent English or skilled partner points. These applicants will be ranked below other cohorts if all other points claims are equal
Here, we outline transitional arrangements for current 457 and 482 and 489 visa holders and applicants with lodged 187 Visa applications.
457 Visa holders:
457 Visa holders who were in possession of their visa on or before 18 April 2017, or those who submitted a 457 Visa application on or before this date that was subsequently granted, are exempt from the closure of the Temporary Residence Transition stream of the 187 RSMS Visa on 16 November 2019.
482 Visa holders:
Medium-stream 482 Visa holders who were granted their visa on or before 20 March 2019, or applicants for the medium-stream of the 482 Visa who lodged their application on or before 20 March 2019 and are subsequently granted a 482 Visa, are exempt from the closure of the Temporary Residence Transition stream of the 187 RSMS Visa.
489 Visa holders and applicants with lodged 187 Visa applications:
- Current 489 Visa holders will continue to have access to the 887 Skilled Regional Visa,
- Applications for a first 489 Visa can be made before 16 November 2019,
- Applications for a second 489 Visa may continue on and after 16 November 2019,
- 187 Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme Visa applications lodged before 16 November 2019 will not be impacted by these changes,
- Points test changes (outlined above) will apply to new applicants for the 491 Visa and to applicants for the 189, 190 and 489 Visas who have not yet been assessed, and;
- The points test will operate beneficially and no applicant will be adversely impacted by this amendment.
So, to re-cap - those defined as either a transitional 457 worker or a transitional 482 worker will be able to apply for a 187 Visa after 16 November 2019 under the Temporary Residence Transition stream only. All other applications will close on that date.
More about the new skilled regional visas...
Holders of the new skilled regional provisional visas will need to live and work in regional Australia. Regional Australia is defined as all of Australia apart from the metropolitan areas of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, the Gold Coast and Perth.
Regional visa holders can live in any designated regional area and move between designated regional areas.
491 Skilled Regional (Provisional) Visa: Key facts
This visa will have two streams:
- State/Territory sponsored, and;
- Family member residing in designated area sponsored.
State/Territory sponsored stream:
- Must be nominated by a State/Territory Government
- Review rights for visa refusal to an offshore applicant will extend to State/Territory authorities under Part 5 - reviewable decisions.
Family member residing in designated area sponsored:
- Must be sponsored by a family member who is over 18 and is an Australian Citizen, Australian permanent resident or eligible New Zealand citizen,
- Sponsor must be usually resident in a designated regional area,
- Sponsor must be related to the primary applicant, or their spouse or defacto partner
- ‘Family member’ is defined as parent, child, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, nephew, niece, grandparent or first cousin (including adoptive or ‘step’ relatives),
- Includes an obligation to assist the visa holder where necessary - financially and with accommodation, and to participate in an AMEP English language programme for 2 years.
- Schedule 6D points test applies,
- Must have been invited to apply,
- Must not have turned 45 years of age at time of application,
- Must have a skilled occupation on an applicable list and have a valid, suitable skills assessment,
- Primary applicant must have competent English at the time of application,
- Must declare a genuine intention to live, work and study in a designated regional area of Australia,
- Health PIC 4005 and character PIC regulations apply to all primary applicants and their family members, whether applicants or not,
- Applicants may apply for their visa (and be granted) in Australia or offshore, but not in immigration clearance,
- Applicants must be holder of substantive visa or BVA, BVB or BVC to apply onshore,
- This is a temporary visa with 5 years validity
- Conditions 8578, 8579, 8580 and 8581 must be imposed,
- VAC - Base application charge: primary applicant $3,755; additional applicant over 18 years: $1,875; under 18 years: $940,
- Second VAC instalment if required - Below functional English and over 18 years old: $4,890; any other applicant: nil
- Safe Haven Enterprise Visa holders or past holders, may apply for a 491 Visa if they meet prescribed requirements.
Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional (Provisional) 494 Visa: Key facts
This visa has 2 streams:
- Employer sponsored stream, and;
- Labour agreement stream.
Nomination and application processes and sponsorship obligations are similar to those required for 457 Visa and 482 Visa sponsorship, and include:
- Ensuring that a position is genuine, full time and likely to exist for five years,
- Ensuring that the Annual Market Salary Rate (AMSR) is not less than TSMIT $53,900. Annual earnings, including non-monetary benefits, must not be less than AMSR, unless nominated under the Labour Agreement stream and terms and conditions no less favourable than for Australian employees must be provided,
- SAF charges: $3,000 for businesses with turnover of less than $10 million, or $5,000 for other businesses,
- The cost of fees and nomination the training contribution charge (SAF levy) cannot be recovered from the overseas worker or third party,
- If nominating an existing 494 Visa holder, the new sponsor is expected to assume the sponsorship obligations for family members who already hold a 494 Visa,
- 494 Visa holders will have 90 days to find another employer if they cease employment with their sponsor,
- The visa can be cancelled if a sponsor provides false and misleading information, fails to meet sponsorship obligations, is cancelled or barred from being a sponsor, or where a party to a labour agreement is terminated, suspended or ceased,
- Must be under 45 years old at time of application,
- Employer sponsored stream: must have a skilled occupation on an applicable list and have completed a valid, suitable skills assessment,
- Labour agreement stream - the applicant may be required to demonstrate that they have the necessary skills to perform tasks of the nominated occupation,
- A nominated occupation must be specified by a corresponding 6-digit ANZSCO code,
- The applicant must have been employed in the nominated occupation for at least 3 years on a full-time basis and at the level of skill required for the occupation (this may differ under the Labour agreement stream if the Minister considers it reasonable not to require this)
- Employer sponsored stream - the applicant must have competent English at the time of application, unless specified in a legislative instrument by the Minister. For the Labour agreement stream, the applicant must have English language skills suitable to perform the nominated occupation,
- Employer sponsored stream - health PIC 4007 and Labour agreement stream - health PIC 4005.
- Character PIC apply to all primary applicants and family members, whether applicants or not,
- Applicants may apply for their visa and be granted their visa in Australia or offshore, but not in immigration clearance,
- Applicants must hold a substantive visa or BVA, BVB or BVC to apply onshore,
- This is a temporary visa with 5 years validity
- Conditions 8503 and 8534 may be waived where the visa holder has a genuine intention to apply for a 494 Visa.
- Conditions 8578, 8579, 8580, 8581 and new condition 8608 must be imposed,
- The Visa can be cancelled if the visa holder did not have a genuine intention at the time of grant to perform the nominated occupation, or ceased to have a genuine intention to perform that occupation, or the position was not genuine,
- VAC - Base application charge: primary applicant $3,755, additional applicant over 18 years: $1,875, under 18 years: $940 (*Minister of Religion or member of their family unit VAC: nil)
- Second VAC instalment if required - If the primary applicant has less than functional English and is over 18 years old: $9,800; secondary applicants over 18 years old: $4,890; any other applicant: nil,
- Safe Haven Enterprise Visa holders or past holders, may apply for a 494 Visa if they meet the prescribed requirements.
Permanent Residence (Skilled Regional) 191 Visa: Key facts
- The 191 Visa will be available from 16 November 2022,
- Only 491 and 494 Visa holders are eligible to apply for this permanent visa,
- Applicants are required to have held a 491 or 494 Visa for at least three years and complied with visa conditions during this time period,
- Applicants must have met a minimum taxable income threshold for at least three years whilst holding the 491 or 494 Visa (threshold is yet to be specified in legislation),
- Dependent children who are included as family members for the 491 or 494 Visas, may be included in a 191 Visa application, even if they no longer meet the dependency definition,
- Health PIC 4007 and character PIC apply to all primary applicants and family members, whether applicants or not,
- This visa can be applied for and granted onshore or overseas, but not in immigration clearance,
- VAC - Base application charge: primary applicant $385; additional applicant over 18 years: $195, under 18 years: $100,
- This is a permanent visa enabling the holder to travel to and enter Australia for a period of 5 years from the visa grant date.
491 and 494 Visa holders restricted from applying for other visas
491 and 494 Visa holders, or those who last held these visas, are restricted from applying for the visas listed below, unless they have lived in a designated regional area for a minimum of 3 years, or are sometimes exempt under exceptional circumstances:
- Distinguished Talent 124/858 Visas
- Business Talent 132 Visa
- Employer Nomination Scheme 186 Visa
- Business Innovation and Investment 188 Visa
- Skilled Independent 189 Visa
- Skilled Nominated 190 Visa
- Partner (Temporary) 820 Visa
These new regional visas and skilled migration points changes offer fantastic opportunities for skilled migrants and their families. There’s a lot to take in here and you’ll need to carefully consider your options. Please contact FastVisa’s expert team to discuss these visas and/or skilled migration points changes further: