New skilled regional visas to replace 489 and 187 visas from 16 November 2019

Last March, the Australian government announced that 23,000 of the160,000 permanent migration spots for 2019/20 will be reserved for skilled workers in regional Australia (ie. all of Australia except for Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane and the Gold Coast).

The visas would require people to work for 3 years in regional Australia before they can apply for permanent residency, and will commence from 16 November 2019.

New migration regulations have introduced more detailed criteria for the regional visas, as well as revised the points system for existing General Skilled Migration visas. We summarise the regulations below.

Subclasses 491 and 494 to replace Subclasses 489 and 187

Three new regional visas have been introduced – two provisional visas, and one permanent residence visa.

New visa commencing on 16 November 2019To replaceNo. of places
Subclass 491 Skilled Work Regional (Provisional) visaSubclass 489 (Skilled – Regional (Provisional) visa14,000
Subclass 494 Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional (Provisional) visaSubclass 187 (Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme) visa9,000

The new Subclass 191 (Permanent Residence (Skilled Regional)) visa will be available for those who hold a Subclass 491 or a Subclass 494 visa at the time of application from 16 November 2022.

Revised points system

The new regulations also introduce a revised points system for the Subclass 491 visa, as well as existing General Skilled Migration visas. The changes 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;
  • 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.

Summary of criteria for new regional visas

Subclass 491 visa (5 years validity)

Skilled Work Regional (Provisional) visa

State/Territory sponsored streamFamily member sponsored stream
  • Must be nominated by State/Territory Government 
  • 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 or step-child, brother, sister, adoptive brother, adoptive sister, step‑brother or step‑sister; or an aunt, uncle, adoptive aunt, adoptive uncle, step‑aunt or step‑uncle; or a nephew, niece, adoptive nephew, adoptive niece, step‑nephew or step‑niece; or a grandparent; or a first cousin.
Applicant requirements

Criteria include:

  • Revised points test applies (see above)
  • Must not have turned 45 at time of application
  • Must have skilled occupation on an applicable list and have a valid, suitable skills assessment 
  • Primary applicant must have competent English at time of application
  • Must declare genuine intention to live, work and study in designated regional area
  • Must meet various health and character requirements

Subclass 494 visa (5 years validity)

Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional (Provisional) visa

Employer sponsored streamLabour agreement stream

Similar nomination, application and sponsorship obligations to the Subclass 482 visa apply

  • Position must genuine, full time and likely to exist for five years
  • Annual market salary rate (AMSR) must not be less than TSMIT $53,900 unless nominated under the Labour Agreement stream; and terms and conditions no less favourable than for Australian employees must be provided 
  • Skilling Australian Fund charges: $3000 for businesses with turnover of less than $10 million, or $5000 for others 
  • If nominating an existing Subclass 494 visa holder, the new sponsor is expected to assume the sponsorship obligations for family members who already hold a Subclass 494 
  • Will be provided with 90 days to find another employer, if visa holder ceases employment with their sponsor

Allows employers to source skilled workers in accordance with a labour agreement with the Commonwealth. 

Applicant requirements

Criteria include:

  • Must not have turned 45 at time of application
  • Employer sponsored stream - must have skilled occupation on an applicable list and have valid, suitable skills assessment; Labour agreement stream - may be required to demonstrate has necessary skills to perform tasks of nominated occupation
  • Nominated occupation to be specified by corresponding ANZSCO code
  • Must have been employed in the nominated occupation for at least 3 years on a full-time basis and at level of skill required for the occupation; Labour agreement stream - unless Minister considers it reasonable not to require this
  • Employer sponsored stream - applicant must have competent English at time of application, unless specified in a legislative instrument by the Minister; Labour agreement stream - English language skills suitable to perform the nominated occupation
  • Must meet various health and character requirements

Subclass 191 visa (5 years validity)

Permanent Residence (Skilled Regional) visa

Available only to Subclasses 491 and 494 visa holders

Criteria include:

  • Must have held the Subclass 491 or 494 for at least 3 years and substantially complied with the conditions of the visa
  • Must have met a minimum threshold taxable income level for at least three years while holding the Subclass 491 or 494 (threshold to be specified by legislative instrument)
  • Dependent children included as members of family unit for the Subclass 491 or 494 visas, may be included in Subclass 191 application, even if no longer able to meet the definition of dependency
  • Must meet various health and character requirements

Transitional arrangements

Current Subclass 489 holders and applicants with lodged Subclass 187 applications

  • Current Subclass 489 visa holders will continue to have access to the Subclass 887 Skilled Regional visa 
  • Applications for first Subclass 489 may be made before 16 November 2019
  • Applications for second Subclass 489 visas may continue to be made on and after 16 November 2019 
  • Subclass 187 RSMS applications lodged before 16 November 2019 will not be impacted by these changes
  • Revised points test will apply to new applicants for the Subclass 491 and applicants for Subclasses 189, 190 and 489 who are yet to be assessed
  • The points test will operate beneficially and no applicant will be adversely affected by this amendment

Transitional Subclass 457 visa holders

Holders of Subclass 457 visas on 18 April 2017, or applicants for a Subclass 457 visa on 18 April 2017 that was subsequently granted, are exempt from the closure on 16 November 2019 of the Temporary Residence Transition stream of the Subclass 187 RSMS visa.

Transitional Subclass 482 visa holders

Holders of Subclass 482 visas in the medium-term stream on 20 March 2019 or applicants for a Subclass 482 visa in the medium term stream on 20 March 2019, that was subsequently granted, are exempt from the closure on 16 November 2019 of the Temporary Residence Transition stream of the Subclass 187 RSMS visa.

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