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The new regional subclass 491 visa: what’s it all about?

- 8 mins read

As you may know, the new Skilled Work Regional (Provisional) visa (subclass 491) was implemented on 16th November 2019, and replaced the subclass 489 visa.

Now that the majority of the relevant information regarding this visa has been released, we thought it would be helpful to put together a detailed summary so eligible applicants are aware of the requirements.

It is worth noting that applications for state sponsorship in the Northern Territory or South Australia will be opening in early December 2019, and the Australian Capital Territory and New South Wales will be opening in January 2020.

We will provide another overview of these states’ requirements once they have been released.

Overview of Requirements

The 491 visa enables eligible skilled workers and their families to live, work, and study in designated regional areas of Australia for 5 years.

Visa holders will be eligible to apply for permanent residency after living in a designated regional area for 3 years.

Applicants for this visa must be nominated by either an Australian state or territory government agency, or an eligible family member who resides in a designated regional area.

Upon nomination, the applicant must then be invited to apply for the visa, following the submission of an Expression of Interest.

Applicants must also be under the age of 45 and have received a positive skills assessment from the relevant assessing authority.

On grant of the subclass 491 visa, visa holders can work in any occupation and for any employer, as long as they continue to live and work in a designated regional area.

State Nomination

Each state has their own requirements, and their own lists of eligible occupations. All states require applicants to meet the Department’s criteria as outlined above.

Victoria

For Victoria, the assessment criteria are as follows:

  • Your ability to meet the minimum eligibility criteria;
  • The demand for your skills and expertise in a designated regional area of Victoria;
  • Whether the job offer you provide is for a position located in a designated regional area of Victoria;
  • The suitability and transferability of your qualifications, skills and experience – including any specialist capabilities – to Victoria’s labour market; and
  • Your ability and commitment to establishing yourself and any dependants in a designated regional area of Victoria, with a view to long term settlement in that area.

All applicants must also provide evidence of a current offer of employment in a position located in a designated regional area of Victoria. This employment offer must be in your nominated occupation and must be for full-time work for at least 12 months.

Western Australia

Two streams are available in WA: the general stream and the graduate stream.

The assessment criteria for the general stream are as follows:

  • Have an occupation that appears on the WA skilled occupation list;
  • Meet minimum English requirement;
  • Demonstrate the minimum required work experience in your nominated occupation;
  • Provide a contract of employment; and
  • Demonstrate sufficient settlement funds, if you are not currently residing in WA.

The assessment criteria for the graduate stream are as follows:

  • Have a nominated occupation that appears on the Graduate occupation list;
  • Meet minimum English requirement;
  • Demonstrate the minimum required work experience in your nominated occupation (for Bachelor and other higher degree graduates – not Masters or PhD graduates);
  • Provide a contract of employment;
  • Demonstrate the minimum requirements for WA study; and
  • Demonstrate sufficient settlement funds, if you are not currently residing in WA.

Queensland

For Queensland, Business and Skilled Migration Queensland (BSMQ) criteria must be met, which means that you must:

  • Have an occupation on the QSOL ‘Working in Queensland’ list;
  • Provide evidence of full-time post-qualification employment in your nominated occupation for the past 6 months in Queensland immediately prior to submitting your EoI, with at least the 3 months immediately prior being in regional Queensland;
  • Provide evidence of ongoing employment with a regional Queensland employer registered in Australia for a further 12 months; and
  • Commit to living and working in Queensland for 2 years after the visa is granted.

South Australia

For South Australia, state nomination requirements include:

  • Commitment to living and working in South Australia for 2 years from the date you arrive, with a view to long term settlement;
  • At least one year of skilled work experience in the last 3 years, with some occupations having a higher work experience requirement – if you are an international graduate of South Australia, you may be able to access a work experience waiver;
  • Sufficient funds to settle in South Australia.

Tasmania

Two streams are available in Tasmania: the general stream and the graduate stream.

The assessment criteria for the general stream are as follows:

  • Have been working in Tasmania for the 6 months immediately prior to the application for state nomination (not necessarily in your nominated occupation) for at least 35 hours per week;
  • Be fulfilling a genuine, ongoing skill shortage in Tasmania;
  • Be currently living in Tasmania and be able to provide evidence of genuine commitment to living in Tasmania;
  • Your employer has a well-established business that has been actively operating in Tasmania for the past 12 months; and
  • There is a genuine need for your position within the business.

If your employment is for a position at ANZSCO skill level 4 or 5, your employer must also provide evidence that no local person was able to fill the position.

Alternatively, if you live overseas, you can qualify for the overseas applicant category. In order to be considered for this, you must:

  • Have a nominated occupation on the Tasmanian skilled occupation list;
  • Not have lived in any other Australian state or territory within the preceding 12 months;
  • Have researched the Tasmanian labour market and be able to provide evidence that there are sufficient employment opportunities (5-8) in your nominated occupation in Tasmania and have the skills and recent experience relevant to these opportunities and the Tasmanian economy; or
  • Have received a formal job offer from a Tasmanian business that has been operating for at least 12 months; or
  • Have sufficient financial assets to be able to find your migration in settlement in Tasmania for at least 6 months while you seek employment.

If your occupation is in high demand, evidence that you have researched the labour market is not required.

The assessment criteria for the graduate stream are as follows:

  • Must have completed and graduated from a CRICOS registered tertiary institution in Tasmania, being a degree, diploma, or trade qualification at a minimum of Certificate III level, with a minimum duration of 40 weeks, completed full time;
  • Must have lived in Tasmania for at least 1 year during your studies; and
  • Must be living in Tasmania and able to provide evidence of your ongoing commitment to Tasmania.

Family Nomination

In order to be able to nominate an applicant for the subclass 491 visa, your eligible relative must be over the age of 18, usually resident in a designated regional area, and an Australian citizen, permanent resident, or eligible New Zealand citizen.

Your eligible relative does not need to reside in the same regional area that you will be residing in.

Eligible relatives include parents, children or stepchildren, siblings (including stepsiblings and adoptive siblings), aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, grandparents, and first cousins.

The family sponsorship must be approved before the visa can be granted.

Regional Areas

Regional areas are split into two categories: major regional centres and other regional areas.

Major regional centres include Perth, Adelaide, the Gold Coast, the Sunshine Coast, Canberra, Newcastle, Wollongong, Geelong, and Hobart.

Whether applicants are looking to live in a major regional centre or one of the other regional areas, they will have access to the dedicated 25,000 regional places, receive priority processing on regional visas, and have access to the regional occupations list.

However, international students studying at regional universities will be eligible to access an additional year in Australia on a post-study work visa if they live in a major regional centre, or an additional 2 years if they live in one of the other regional areas.

Transitioning to Permanent Residency

In order to qualify for permanent residency under the subclass 191 visa, applicants must have held the subclass 491 visa for at least 3 years and complied with its conditions – namely, residing in a regional area for the 3 years prior to applying for permanent residency

They must also have met the minimum taxable income requirement of $53,900 per annum for a 3 year period.

It is important to note that if you have a partner accompanying you as a dependant on the subclass 491 visa, they can then be the main applicant for the subclass 191 visa.

If you require further information about your eligibility for the subclass 491 visa, or any other subclass, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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