Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Immigration Minister David Coleman has said the annual cap on permanent visas will be reduced to 160,000 for the next four years. This largely reflects what is already happening in migration, where tightened visa restrictions led to 162,000 immigrants being granted permanent visas last year – the lowest level in a decade. Leader of the federal Opposition Bill Shorten confirmed Labor would accept the lower annual migrant intake, giving initial bipartisan support for the planned cut.
While this latest shift in migration policy still focuses on skills, greater priority will be given to regional places:
Employer Sponsored skilled places will be capped at 30,000 in 2019-20, compared to 35,528 visas granted in 2017-18.
Independent skilled visas will be hardest hit, with a cap of just 18,652 in 2019-20, compared to 39,137 visas granted in 2017-18.
Of the 160,000 spots for 2019-20, 23,000 will be reserved for regional skilled visas.
Family visa places will remain the same, with 47,732 places available in 2019-20.
Two new skilled regional visas
Two new visas will be introduced for skilled workers in November 2019. Visas will be granted with a validity period of up to 5 years:
Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional (Provisional) visa: For people sponsored by an employer in regional Australia.
Skilled Work Regional (Provisional) visa: for people who are nominated by a State or Territory government or sponsored by an eligible family member to live and work in regional Australia.
Holders of the new skilled regional provisional visas will need to live and work in regional Australia, which includes all of Australia except Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane and the Gold Coast.
They will also be required to demonstrate they have lived and worked in regional Australia for 3 years before being eligible to access permanent residency. The Permanent Residence (Skilled Regional) Visa will commence in November 2022.
More occupations and priority processing
Migrants who apply for skilled regional visas will enjoy certain benefits:
Based on current occupation lists, the Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional (Provisional) visa will have access to over 450 more occupations than the closest non-regional equivalent visa, and the Skilled Work Regional (Provisional) visa will have access to over 70 more occupations than the closest non-regional equivalent visa.
Priority processing arrangements will be expanded to include all visa applications sponsored by regional employers as well as other visa applicants who will live and work in regional Australia.
5 additional points for certain points-tested migrants who are sponsored to settle in regional Australia.
International graduates from regional institutions
This government is also providing additional incentive for international students to consider studying and living in regional Australia. A Temporary Graduate visa with an extra year of post-study work rights will be available to international students who:
Graduate from the regional campus of a registered university or institution with a higher education or postgraduate qualification; and
maintain ongoing residence in a regional area while holding their first Temporary Graduate (subclass 485) visa.
The second Temporary Graduate visa will require ongoing residence in regional Australia, defined again as all of Australia except Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane and the Gold Coast.
As students need to graduate from a regional campus and then spend at least two years residing in a regional area to qualify, the additional Temporary Graduate visa will be available to the first eligible cohort of graduates from 2021. Existing Temporary Graduate visa holders may be eligible, provided they can meet these requirements.
Losers and winners
Overall, those planning to immigrate to Australia via the Skilled Independent Visa are the biggest losers with this latest policy initiative. With the reduction in permanent migration places, there is also concern that gaining permanent residency for temporary visa holders will become much more difficult. On the other hand, new opportunities have opened up for workers and students willing to consider living outside Australia’s busiest metropolitan areas. We will be keeping an eye on further developments.
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