April 11, 2019

Migration Amendment (New Skilled Regional Visas) Regulations 2019 (the Regulations) introduce 3 new visas to assist regional Australia (designated regional areas) and make related amendments.

We note that full details have not been released, accordingly we will continue to monitor and provide further information as is required.

 

Amendment 1 – New Visa: Subclass 491

Introduces Subclass 491 Skilled Work Regional (Provisional) to replace Subclass 489 (Skilled – Regional (Provisional).

Subclass 491 has new and enhanced points-tested visa to assist regional Australia.

Changes to commence on 16 November 2019.

 

Amendment 2 – New Visa: Subclass 494

introduces Subclass 494 (Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional (Provisional) to replace Subclass 187 (Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme).

This visa will have 2 streams: Employer Sponsored and Labour Agreement.

Changes to commence on 16 November 2019.

 

Amendment 3 – New Visa: Subclass 191

Introduces a new Subclass 191 (Permanent Residence (Skilled Regional) visa for persons who hold a Subclass 491 or a Subclass 494 visa. In order to be eligible for this visa:

  1. Have held a regional provisional visa when they apply for the Subclass 191 visa, and have held that visa for at least three years;
  2. have earned a minimum income for at least three years as the holder of a regional provisional visa; and
  3. have complied with the conditions of the regional provisional visa.

Changes to commence on 22 November 2022.

 

Amendment 4 – Changes to Point Test

Amend the points test in Schedule 6D to the Migration Regulations to award:

  • 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
  • 5 points for a spouse or de facto partner with ‘competent English’ but no relevant skill assessment
  • 10 points for applicants without a spouse or de facto partner
  • 10 points for certain Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) qualifications (Master by Research, or Postgraduate)

The additional points for skilled spouses or de facto partners build on a recommendation of the Productivity Commission in its 2016 Report called Migrant Intake into Australia.  The Productivity Commission recommended that the points system be amended so that secondary applicants with skills and other desirable employment-related characteristics contribute significantly to the points score of the primary applicant.

The Commission noted that around 50 per cent of Australia’s permanent skill intake are secondary applicants, many of whom have limited skills. Given the significant share of secondary applicants in the permanent skill stream immigration, the Productivity Commission stated that it is important to assess their contribution to the Australian economy and the community more generally as failing to give appropriate weight to the skill (and other) attributes of a spouse or de facto partner can shift the composition of immigration away from those that are most likely to benefit Australia.

The Commission also noted that English proficiency is a key factor affecting the labour market success of migrants and their integration into Australian society more broadly. Awarding five points to primary applicants whose spouse or de facto partner has Competent English at the time of invitation but are otherwise ineligible for spouse or de facto partner skills points will incentivise secondary applicants to acquire Competent English prior to migration.

The additional points for single applicants will ensure a single person with identical skills to a primary applicant who has a skilled spouse or de facto partner will not be displaced in the points test.

Additional points for certain STEM qualifications are also in line with the findings of Migrant Intake into Australia and are designed to address a STEM skills shortage in Australia.

The amendments will apply to both new applicants who apply for the Subclass 491 visa a well as applicants for a Subclass 189, 190 and 489 who are yet to be assessed under the Points Test.

The changes to the points test however are beneficial – no applicant with a pending application will be adversely affected because the changes provide for the award of additional points.

The changes will commence on 16 November 2019.

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