Rare opportunity: updated 491 visa requirements are the most flexible in months

By Hem Raj Bhatta, Sydney
22 June 2020

The newly-introduced requirements for Subclass 491 regional visa are well and truly “a piece of cake” compared to how things were earlier.

The requirements are now lot easier to meet, certainly so compared to any other state in Australia as well as past requirements of NSW itself.

The NSW Government has taken control of the invitation process for regional migration visa. The process will now be handled by a central system rather than by regional bodies.

There had been a long drought of invitations for regional migration since Subclass 491 was introduced. Finally, as we approach the end of the invitation year this month, NSW Government has made it easier for applicants to apply for the State nomination for Subclass 491 visas.

On June 11, NSW had made a requirement that the applicant should be living in regional areas for at least a year. Prospective applicants were also expected to have worked in the nominated occupation, or a closely related one, for at least a year.

It is believed that not many applicants met the requirements and hence the government may not have received expected number of applications. As a result, the requirements were made very flexible and easier for a greater number of 491 enthusiasts.

One would always wonder why such a step at the last minute. Industry experts believe this suggests that the government is desperate to send out more invitations for which it relaxed the requirements to a very minimum level.

Needless to say, new graduates who studied, worked and have lived in Australia for many years have been tremendously encouraged by the NSW Government’s decision to relax the requirements and there will be thousands of applications in the next few days.

Unless announced otherwise, applicants have time until 5 pm, 26 June, to apply for nomination by NSW State Government for Skilled Work Regional (Provisional) Subclass 491 Visa.

If you have current proof of living in the designated regional area and satisfy other requirements, this might be the easiest option one could have or possibly will have in months to come.

This is an opportunity not to be missed for anyone who meets the requirements before 26 June.

The question remains as to why such flexibility from the NSW Government?

The flexibility could be explained by the NSW state government’s promise of reducing the number of migrants in areas surrounding Sydney to reduce congestion and population in the metropolis. The state government indicated its intention to reduce migration by half which has been followed by limited invitations for Subclass 190. It is focusing more on regional migration to increase migrant population in country hubs to boost regional economy. This, in the first place, may have been the reason behind the formation of a new subclass, Subclass 491, by the Department of Home Affairs.

Currently though, the percentage of invitations for regional visa Subclass 491 has not been as significant as promised. It is believed that NSW has had higher percentage of invitations under Subclass 190 than under regional Subclass 491. This is contrary to its policy or intention stated publicly by the NSW government. This would have been a matter of concern for the government and it would want to avoid being grilled by voters during election times.

A devastating bushfire season, the challenges of COVID-19 pandemic and arrangement of quotas with Federal counterpart may in part have pushed the NSW State Government to urgently relax the requirements for Subclass 491 – in the final weeks of June which is the end of the invitation year.

Any state government, whether big or small, cannot just say to migrants that the state is prepared to give invitations away unless there are exceptional circumstances. Otherwise, there will be difficult questions for them to answer. Unlike many other states where requirements are tougher and with pre-conditions, NSW basically is inviting migrants who are currently living in designated regional areas and have skills in the Stream 1.

And the icing on the cake is yet to come: there is no requirement as to the minimum time you have lived in the regional area.

This is a lowest requirement anyone could dream of. If you are not invited or is refused, you may lose your time, effort and some money. But if you are invited based on genuine documents and information, you will achieve what otherwise requires you to have nearly one year of your time and a lot more money and effort to move interstate.

The risk might be worth-taking as long as if do it right by the government in terms of documentation genuineness.

Writer is a Register Migration Agent (MARN: 1466471) at Residency Guide and is an Immigration Lawyer at Residency Legal. The information above is a view of the writer personally and cannot be taken as a migration advice or assistance under the Migration Act 1958.

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