In a joint media release on 26 October 2019, the Federal Government announced significant changes to its regional immigration program to take effect from 16 November 2019. Specifically, the government announced:
- increases to its regional migration program intake from 23,000 to 25,000; and
- an expansion of the migration definition of regional Australia to include Perth and the Gold Coast (formerly classified as major cities) to make them attractive locations for skilled migrants and international students.
What are the benefits of being classified “regional Australia”?
The proposed definition change will include “regional incentives” for all regions outside of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. The following table is extracted from the Department’s press release:
Cities and major regional centres
Sunshine Coast Canberra Newcastle/Lake Macquarie
|Regional centres and other regional areas||All other locations|
What are the new skilled regional visas?
These new amendments will coincide with the announcement in September that two new skilled regional visas will be introduced from 16 November 2019.
As of 16 November 2019, the Skilled Regional visa (subclass 489) and the Regional Sponsored Migration visa (subclass 187) (direct entry stream) will close to new applications and the new Skilled Employer-Sponsored Regional visa (subclass 494) and Skilled Work Regional visa (subclass 491) will commence:
|Skilled Work Regional (Provisional) visa (subclass 491)||Skilled Regional (Provisional) visa (subclass 489) – first provisional stream|
|Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional (Provisional) visa (subclass 494)|
Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme visa (subclass 187) – Direct Entry stream
Although the relevant legislative instruments have not yet been released, the Department have advised that the benefits of these new visas will include:
- priority processing of regional applications
- incentives for migrants to stay in regional areas longer term as they build ties through workforce and community participation
- a pathway to apply for permanent residence without a second nomination stage, if eligible, through the subclass 191 visa (commences 16 November 2022)
- lower cost to employers with only one SAF levy stage for the subclass 494 nomination (compared to the two stages for the current subclass 482 to ENS subclass 186 permanent resident pathway)
- more points available to subclass 491 visa applicants
- broader range of occupations available than non-regional pathways
- expanded and consistent classification of regional areas
What is the new visa for regional students?
The Prime Minister has also announced that international students completing appropriate studies regional Universities will be able to access a second Temporary Graduate Visa for an additional one year (for Universities located in ‘cities or major regional centres’) or two years (for Universities located in ‘regional centres or other regional areas’) after completion of their studies where they:
- have graduated from the regional campus of a registered university or institution with a higher education or postgraduate qualification;
- have maintained ongoing residence in a regional area while holding their first Temporary Graduate (subclass 485) visa; and
- will maintain ongoing residence in a regional area.
These graduate visas have unrestricted work rights for their duration in Australia and can be used as important stepping stones for foreign nationals to build skills and experience which translate to valuable points in future points tested visa applications.
What does this all mean?
Despite the overall immigration ceiling reduction in Australia, the Federal Government’s focus on regional areas provides additional opportunities to skilled foreign nationals (whether they have a valid sponsor or not).
If you are an employer seeking to hire staff in “regional areas”, or a foreign national wishing to study or work in such an area, please email our general query inbox at [email protected] or call us on +61 3 9016 0484.