Through the introduction of two provisional regional visas, (1) subclass 494 and (2) subclass 491, the Australian Government is attempting to fill these skills shortages in regional Australia. After completing three years on one of these visa options, the visa holder will then be able to apply for permanent residency, without a second nomination stage, through the subclass 191 visa.

A significant challenge that the Australian Immigration system is attempting to overcome is the lack of migrants settling in regional areas. The majority of migrants that move to Australia often choose to reside in either Sydney or Melbourne, whilst regional Australia struggles to find suitable skilled workers. 

There are currently critical skills shortages in all Australian states, in particular, occupations that involve trades. There are plenty of job vacancies in Australia, with regional employers and businesses in Australia who are desperate for employees. In April 2019, over 200 occupations were removed from the Skilled Occupation List following the abolishment of the subclass 457 visa. 

What are the benefits of these new regional visas?

One of the great incentives for migrants, who wish to apply for one of these new regional visas, is that their application will receive priority processing. There will be faster processing times for these types of visas, compared to other standard skilled migration programs which are currently subject to long waiting periods. 

Migrants that wish to apply for the subclass 494 visa will have more opportunity to receive more points on the points test. Subclass 491 visa applicants will be able to gain additional points for STEM qualifications, as well as for single or partnered applicants, and applicants with a partner that can speak competent English. 

At minimum, regional workers that hold subclass 494 and 491 visas will make $53,900 taxable income. This is in accordance with the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT), which has been put in place to help regional workers adapt within their new community and ensure that they are not exploited by employers. 

What is the Subclass 491 visa? 

The new Skilled Work Regional (Provisional) subclass 491 visa allows migrants to live, work and study in designated regional areas of Australia for 5 years. From November 16 2019, there are almost 400 occupations that are available through this new and enhanced points-tested visa. 

Applicants for this visa must be nominated by:  

  • An Australian State, or Territory Government Agency, or 
  • sponsored by an eligible family member that currently resides in a designated regional area and be invited to apply, after submitting an Expression of Interest (EOI) in the SkillSelect. 

The applicant will be required to nominate a skilled occupation that is listed on the relevant Skilled Occupation List and have an appropriate skills assessment at the time of invitation. The applicant may be in or outside Australia at the time of lodging their application. 

As of November 16, 2019, this visa will replace the current 489 visa. The 491 visa is a points-tested and skilled visa, that has a 45-year-old age limit and requires a positive skills assessment.  

Advantages of the 491 visa: 

  • Priority processing for applicants.  
  • Incentives for migrants to stay long-term in regional areas.  
  •  More points available for applicants. 

The changes to the points tests are to introduce:  

  • More points for applicants that are nominated by a State or Territory government body, or sponsored by a family member that is currently residing in Australia (15 points); 
  • More points for those that have certain STEM qualifications (10 points);  
  • More points for having a skilled spouse or de facto partner (10 points);  
  • More points for those that do not have a spouse or de facto partner (10 points) and  
  • More points for applicants that have a spouse or de facto partner that has competent English (5 points).  

Furthermore, applicants that are single will not be disadvantaged and will be equally raked to those that have skilled partners.  

Conditions of the 491 visa 

According to Condition 8578, those that hold a 491 visa are required to notify the Immigration within 14 days, if there are any changes to the holder’s email address, phone number, passport details, residential address, address of their employer, or the address of where the visa holder works for the employer. These visa holders are also subject to Condition 8579, which requires them to live, work and study only in a designated regional area.  

What is the Subclass 494 Visa? 

The subclass 494 visa is a provisional residency visa that is available to skilled workers that wish to live and work in regional areas in Australia. In contrast to the 491 visa, those that wish to apply for the 494 visa require sponsorship from an employer and will carry a SAF Levy.  

The Skilled Sponsored (Regional) (Subclass 494) visa allows employers that are located in regional areas to sponsor employees, as well as their families through a wide range of occupations. These occupations range from Aquaculture Farmers, to Health and Welfare Services Managers to address specific regional skills shortages and attract migrants of different skills, experience and expertise. On November 16, 2019, the 494 visa will be replacing the current 187 (RSMS) visa, with 10,000 places available for applicants each year.  

The 494 visa has a 45-year-old age limit, with some exemptions, must have competent English, RCB advice and must meet the AMSR. Visa applicants must also have a suitable skills assessment and at least 3 years’ experience in their occupation. 

Employees that are currently using standard business sponsors will also be able to utilise this program, with no additional steps involved for existing sponsors that wish to sponsor subclass 494 visa holders. 

Advantages of the 494 visa:  

  • Able to apply for permanent residence, without a second nomination stage (if eligible) through the subclass 191 visa. 
  • Low cost option for employers, with only one SAF levy stage for nomination of the subclass 494 visa. 

This visa can be cancelled under s116 of the Migration Act, if the visa holder does not actually have a genuine intention at the time of grant to perform the nominated occupation, or the visa holder no longer has a genuine intention to perform that occupation, or the position associated with that occupation is no longer genuine.  

Pathway to Permanent Residency 

The subclass 191 Permanent Residence (Skilled Regional) visa can be obtained by those that meet the requirements of the permanent visa (from November 2022). In order to apply for this visa, applicants must have held a subclass 491 or 494 visa for at least three years and must have complied with all conditions of the visa, as well as met the minimum taxable income requirements. 

Are you eligible for a Subclass 491 or 494 visa? 

If you have any questions on the above, or you are looking to study, visit, work or migrate to Australia, Results Migration are the best in the field, with a team of experienced migration lawyers and registered migration agents that are available to guide you through this complex area of law. Call Results Migration on 1800 808 717 or email us on [email protected] and book your free consultation today!