The Federal Government recently announced increased visa allocations for regional areas.

This involves changes mainly to the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme and the Subclass 489 Skilled – Regional (Provisional) visas. Our migration team provides an update on what these changes entail and the impact that this may have on employers.

Following the Federal Government’s recent announcement of more visa allocations for regional areas, details are now available of a suite of new regional visas being introduced later this year. The new visas will largely replace the current visa schemes, namely the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (RSMS, Subclass 187) and the Subclass 489 Skilled – Regional (Provisional) visas.

The introduction of the new visas is designed to attract migrants to settle into and remain in regional areas (which is any area of Australia excluding Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, the Gold Coast and Perth). This is in recognition of the fact that while the major centres are over-populated and tend to attract new migrants, regional areas need increased skilled resources. It is hoped that the new measures will have an impact on the destination of new migrants and encourage them to settle permanently outside of the major metropolitan centres. New visa conditions are being introduced as part of the schemes, which will require the visa holder to live, work and study in regional areas and prevent them from accessing other skilled visa programs for at least three years.

Three new visa subclasses will be introduced:

Subclass 491 Skilled Work Regional (Provisional) Visa

This visa is a temporary residence visa replacing the existing Subclass 489 visa and will contain two streams – a State/Territory Sponsored stream and a family sponsored stream. Once granted, it will be valid for five years. The applicant must be under 45 years of age, have an occupation on the eligible occupation list and a skills assessment, and a points test will apply.

14,000 visa places have been allocated to this visa subclass for 2019-2020.

Subclass 494 Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional (Provisional) Visa

This visa is a temporary residence visa replacing the Subclass 187 – Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme visa. It will also have two streams – an Employer Sponsored stream and a Labour Agreement stream.

Under the Employer Sponsored stream, the position must be full-time and likely to exist for five years. Similar to the current Subclass 482 (TSS) visa, a market salary rate requirement will apply, and the Skilling Australians Fund levy will be payable. The application will largely mirror the Subclass 482 application process, with both nomination and visa applications required. Similar to the Subclass 491, the applicant must be under 45 years of age at the time of application, must have an occupation on the eligible occupation list and a skills assessment in that occupation. A minimum of three years of work experience at a similar level to the role on offer will be required.

9,000 places have been allocated to this visa subclass for 2019-2020.

Subclass 191 Permanent Residence (Skilled Regional) Visa

The Subclass 191 visa will be open to applications from 16 November 2022 and will be available only to holders of Subclass 491 and 494 visas. Eligibility requirements for this visa include a minimum taxable income for three years, and compliance with regional visa conditions.

Current Subclass 489 holders will continue to have access to the Subclass 887 Skilled Regional Visa and applications for the Subclass 489 and 187 visas can continue to be made up to 16 November 2019.

Continued access to some cohorts – Subclass 187 Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (RSMS)

Despite its closure to general access, the following visa holders will continue to be able to apply for the Subclass 187 Temporary Residence Transition (TRT) stream visa even after 16 November 2019:

  1. Subclass 457 holders who held the visa on, or applied for it on or before, 17 April 2017; and
  2. Subclass 482 (TSS) visa holders in the medium-term stream who held the visa on, or applied for the visa on or before, 20 March 2019.

Next Steps?

If any of your overseas workers are working in regional areas and eligible for the Subclass 187 RSMS visa, consider lodging an application before 16 November 2019. If you are unsure, get advice on the applicable options for any potentially impacted employees well in advance of the change.