The Australian government has released the regulations relating to the new regional visas which will be available from November 2019. The information in the regulations is voluminous. This update provides a basic summary of the key points.
Who will be affected?
Employers in regional areas of Australia as well as prospective visa applicants who may settle in regional areas.
As noted in our March 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 will be:
- Subclass 491 Skilled Work Regional (Provisional) visa: 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.
- Subclass 494 Skilled Employer Sponsored: 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. Visa applicants must have a suitable skills assessment and at least 3 years’ skilled employment.
The visa validity period is 5 years. Numerous conditions will be imposed which will enforce the government’s intentions that visa holders live, work and study only in regional areas 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, Brisbane, the Gold Coast and Perth.
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).
Skilled migration changes:
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;
- 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.
Additionally, the raking order for invitations will change. The new ranking order will be as follows:
- 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 either competent English or Skilled partner points. These applicants will be ranked below all other cohorts, if all other points claims are equal.
Whilst the new provisional visas don’t come into effect until November 2019 sponsors and applicants should immediately 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.
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