Ram Khatry I 10 April 2019: The Migration Amendment (New Skilled Regional Visas) Regulations 2019 has introduced three new visas “to assist regional Australia” and make related amendments to the Migration Regulations 1994.
The new changes appear to bring about a win-win situation both for the Australian government, as it endeavours to deliver more skilled workforce to regional areas, as well as for foreigners seeking career in Australia’s world-class job market.
The three new visas are the Subclass 491 Skilled Work Regional (Provisional) visa, the Subclass 494 (Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional (Provisional)) visa and finally the Subclass 191 (Permanent Residence (Skilled Regional)) visa.
“The delayed commencement for Schedule 3 is because of the requirement to have held a regional provisional visa for three years before applying for the Subclass 191 visa,” states the Explanatory Statement issued by the Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs.
“Whereas Australia’s points tested migration plan used to prioritise family migration by awarding extra points if the skilled spouse was included in the permanent visa application, the recent change has put the unmarried (single) applicant on priority. With this change, a single applicant can claim 10 more points than an applicant with unskilled spouse,” points out Dr Mahesh Bhandari, a Melbourne-based education consultant and migration agent.
Government gave extra points for married people (if the partner was qualified and skilled) due to which married applicants ended up getting more points in the past than their single counterparts, Dr Bhandari from Melbourne-based Metro Education Consultancy remarked, “But now the scenario has changed!”
The Subclass 491 is an enhanced points-tested visa which was designed by the government to assist regional Australia. It is for those applicants who are nominated by a state or territory government agency or sponsored by an eligible family member residing in a designated regional area. Subclass 489 will be superseded by Subclass 491.
Similarly, the Subclass 494 visa is an enhanced employer-sponsored visa also designed by the Federal government to assist regional Australia. According to the Explanatory Statement issued yesterday, the Subclass 494 visas will be available in two streams: Employer Sponsored and Labour Agreement. This Subclass closes the Subclass 187 (Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme) visa, “except for certain transitional cohorts”.
The third visa announced by the Immigration Minister is Subclass 191 which is for people holding Subclass 491 or Subclass 494 visa at the time of application. To be eligible for this visa subclass, the primary applicant must have held a regional provisional visa for at least three years, earned a minimum income for at least three years as the holder of a regional provisional visa and complied with the conditions of the regional provisional visa. Given the first criterion, this particular visa will not be up for grab until 16 November 2022.
The amendments to Migration Act 1994 introduce a revised points system for the subclass 491 visa as well as existing General Skilled Migration visas. Points are awarded for attributes that are linked with the applicant’s ability to make the greatest economic contribution, as the key purpose of the skilled migration program is to maximise the economic benefits of migration to Australia.
The attractive changes to the points test are:
- more points for having a skilled spouse or de facto partner – 10 points
- more points for applicants nominated by a State or Territory government or sponsored by a family member residing in regional Australia – 15 points
- more points for having certain STEM qualifications – 10 points
- points for applicants who do not have a spouse or de facto partner – 10 points
- points for applicants with a spouse or de facto partner who has competent English – 5 points
Immigration Minister’s explainer on why spouses also get points in the news system
“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 (at p.435) 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 (at p.454).”