The regional visas set to revive the rural job market

The Morrison Government’s population policy, announced in the lead up to the Federal Election, introduced new regional provisional visas to address growing congestion in Australian cities and skill shortages in regional Australia.

The Department of Home Affairs has released further information about the new regional visa scheme to be introduced in November 2019.

Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional (Provisional) (Subclass 494) visa

From November 2019, individuals will be able to apply for the Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional (Provisional) (Subclass 494) visa. This visa enables employers to sponsor skilled migrants to work in a designated regional area for five years in an eligible occupation.

Designated regional areas will include all of Australia, except for the metropolitan areas of Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane and the Gold Coast.

There are numerous conditions that will be attached to this visa. A key condition is that the primary visa holder and all secondary visa holders (i.e. family members) will be required to live, work and study only in a regional area. Failure to comply with this condition may result in visa cancellation.

A restriction contained within this regional visa scheme is that Subclass 494 visa holders are not eligible to be granted another skilled visa without a regional requirement for at least three years from the date of grant of their Subclass 494 visa.

Likewise, Subclass 494 visa holders will be prevented from applying for an onshore partner visa for three years following the grant of their Subclass 494 visa.

Permanent Residence (Skilled Regional) (Subclass 191) visa

From November 2022, Subclass 494 visa holders who have worked for their employer for at least three years may be eligible for the grant of the Permanent Residence (Skilled Regional) (Subclass 191) visa.

The criteria for the grant of the Subclass 191 visa includes a requirement that each visa holder (i.e. the primary visa holder and any accompanying family members granted visas) demonstrate to the Department of Home Affairs that they all lived, worked and studied in a regional area.

Advantages of the regime for employers and employees

There will reportedly be 673 eligible occupations for which individuals can be sponsored under the Subclass 494 visa.

Employers will have access to a far greater number of eligible occupations and, as a result, be better-equipped to fill skilled positions in rural areas where these positions cannot be filled by Australians. For employees, this will provide a pathway to permanent residence that would not otherwise be available.

 Furthermore, in line with the Government’s mandate of reducing skill shortages across rural Australia, there will be priority processing for applicants of the Subclass 494 and Subclass 191 visas. The Department of Home Affairs has advised that additional staff will be hired to facilitate the priority processing of these applications.

The rationale underpinning the five year visa period and the condition that all family members must live, study and work in a regional area is to allow the visa holders to establish deep and continuing ties with regional communities.

Going forward: what employers need to know

The existing permanent employer sponsored regional visa, the Subclass 187 visa, will be closed to new applications from 15 November 2019.

From 16 November 2019 onwards, organisations will be able to nominate a migrant worker for the new Subclass 494 Skilled Employer Regional (Provisional) visa.

If you are interested in learning more about how the regional employer-sponsored visa scheme could be of use to your business, please contact our Employment, Safety and Migration team.

This article was written by Kian Bone – Special Counsel and Greta Walters – Law Graduate in Employment, Safety and Migration.