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Government to Introduce Changes to Skilled Migration Program in November


Written By Thanushki Kankanange
Fri, May 31, 2019
Thanushki Kankanange

The Federal government will be introducing significant changes to the Skilled Migration Program in November 2019. The changes will heavily focus on the distribution of migrants to regional Australia and maximising the economic and social contribution of applicants in the skilled migration cohort.

To achieve this the government will introduce the following changes:

  • A revised points system linked with the applicants’ ability to make the greatest economic contribution. Additional points will be awarded for skilled spouse/de-facto partners, and spouse/de-facto partners with ‘competent English’, primary applicants skilled in STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) occupations, and applicant’s being sponsored to settle in designated regional areas.
  • Setting priorities for processing skilled migration applications.
  • Introduction of three new regional visas 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).
  • New visa conditions which will require the visa holders to live, work and study in regional Australia and prevent them accessing other skilled/family visa programs for three years.
  • Providing international students graduating from regional campuses with higher education or post graduate qualification with access to an additional year of post-study work rights.

Legislative framework

The Migration Amendment (New Skilled Regional Visas) Regulations 2019 will introduce three new visas to assist designated regional areas, which include all of Australia except for Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane and Gold Coast.

The following changes will take effect from 16 November 2019:

  • Subclass 489 visa will be replaced by subclass 491 Skilled Work Regional (Provisional). This visa will be introduced with an enhanced point test and will have two streams - State/Territory sponsored stream and sponsorship by an eligible family member residing in designated regional area. Applicants are required to be under 45 years of age at the time of application, have a positive skills assessment in an occupation in the eligible occupation list and meet the points test criteria. Once granted the visa will be valid for five years with a potential pathway to permanent residency after three years. The Federal government also announced that subclass 491 visa will have access to 70 additional occupations.
  • Subclass 187 (Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme) visa will close (except to 457 /482 visa holders covered by transitional provisions 1) and be superseded by subclass 494 (Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional (Provisional) visa with two streams- Employer Sponsored and Labour Agreement. Under the Employer Sponsored stream, the position must be full-time and likely to exist for five years. Similar to the 482 process, subclass 494 will require a nomination application, payment of the SAF levy by the employer and an associated visa application. Eligibility criteria require the primary applicant to be under 45 year of age at the time of application, hold a positive skills assessment in an occupation in the eligible skills list and have three years of minimum work experience at the relevant skill level. In line with changes the Subclass 494 is said to have access to an additional 450 occupations.
  • Introduction of a new subclass 191 (Permanent Resident (Skilled Regional) visa for subclass 491 and 494 visa holders who have earned a minimum taxable income for at least three years as the holder of a regional provisional visa; and have complied with the visa conditions. Applications for this stream will open on 16 November 2022.

Revised points test

Amendments will also be made to Schedule 6D, which will impact subclass 491 but also include General Skilled Migration (subclass 189 / 190). The revised points are as follows:

  • 15 points for nomination by State or Territory government or sponsorship by family member residing in regional Australia, to live and work in regional Australia
  • 10 points for skilled spouse or de facto partner
  • 10 points for STEM qualifications
  • 5 points for de-facto partner with ‘competent English’
  • 10 points for applicants without a spouse or de facto partner

If all other points are claimed equal, invitations for points tested visas will be ranked to maximise the economic contribution, that is primary applicants with skilled spouse de-facto partners, single applicants, and primary applicants with spouse/de-facto partners who can demonstrate “competent English” will be ranked higher than other applicants if all other points are equal.

Visa conditions

The new framework also introduces new visa conditions to Schedule 8 which will be imposed on the subclass 491 and 494 visas. Condition 8579 will require provisional visa holders to live work and study in a designated regional area. It allows visa holder to move between designated regions but prevents visa holders from accessing any other skilled migration visa for three years.

TSS Immigration will continue to cover changes to the skilled migration program as they are announced. For an assessment of how these changes will impact your business or visa application please contact one of our registered migration agents

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