Regional Sponsored Visas
The main temporary regional employer sponsored and independent visas include the following visa subclasses which are open for applications:
- Skilled Work Regional (Provisional) visa (subclass 491); and
- Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional (Provisional) visa (subclass 494).
The subclass 491 and 494 visa act as pathways to Australian permanent residency through the Permanent Residence (Skilled Regional) (subclass 191) visa.
The intent of these visas is to encourage skilled migrants to settle in regional areas of Australia and ease “congestion” and population pressure in the capital cities. As part of this program, more occupations are available for skilled workers on the regional occupation list and the areas defined as “regional” have also been increased (essentially, all of Australia aside from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane).
The visas are for up to five years and visa holders have to work and live in the designated regional areas until they are eligible for permanent residency (after three years).
Subclass 491 (Skilled Regional Visa)
Applicants for the subclass 491 visa must:
- be nominated to apply by a state or territory government agency, or an eligible relative must sponsor the applicant
- have an occupation on a relevant skilled occupation list
- have a suitable skills assessment for the occupation
- be invited to apply
- satisfy the points test. The points test is now more lenient with more points than previously being awarded for certain STEM qualifications, having a skilled partner, a partner with Competent English or no partner at all or being nominated by a State or Territory Government or sponsored by an Australian relative.
Subclass 494 (Sponsored Regional Visa)
Applicants for the new subclass 494 visa must:
- be nominated by the employer to work in an eligible occupation
- have at least 3 years relevant work experience in the relevant nominated occupation
- have a satisfactory skills assessment (unless an exemption applies)
- work only for the sponsor or an associated entity (unless an exemption applies). A new nomination and visa application must be lodged to change occupations, and the three year regional work/live requirement for a subclass 191 permanent residency visa re-starts
- be under 45 years of age (unless an exemption applies)
- have Competent English
Regional Australia includes all of the towns, small cities and areas that lie beyond the major capital cities of Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney.
Regional Certifying Bodies must provide advice on an employer nominating under the subclass 494 visa before that employer can be approved by the Department of Home Affairs.
The regional certifying body assesses the nomination against the following criteria:
- there is a genuine need for a paid employee in a business operated by the employer;
- the terms and conditions of employment are the same as those that would apply to an Australian citizen or permanent resident performing the same work in the same location; and
- the nominated position cannot be reasonably filled from the local labour market.
There are Regional Certifying Bodies in each Australian State and Territory.