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Migration Alliance welcomes the release of two new Regional (Provisional) Subclass 494 and 491 visas

Employers naturally felt a pinch when 216 occupations were removed from the Skilled Occupations List on 17 April 2019 upon the announcement that the 457 visa was being abolished. 

This left employers with handful of occupations which were further split into two segregated lists, the Short-term Skilled Occupations List (STSOL) with no access to permanent residence, as well as more restrictive New Medium and Long-term Strategic Skills List (MLTSSL), which allows permanent residence provided the occupation is most susceptible to supply constraints (e.g. due to the time taken to develop necessary skills) and/or most likely to warrant Australian Government intervention to address these constraints.

Nonetheless, this was all part of a well-planned reform to bring Australian immigration system into the 21st century.  

The fact remains that most migrants choose to settle in Sydney or Melbourne.  However, regional areas continue to struggle to find suitably skilled workers. 

For example, the regional population of New South Wales is 2.6 million.  The critical skills shortage is evident across the all States, particularly in occupations involving trades.  The Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme which allows regional employers to nominate workers for permanent residence is extremely difficult to enforce.  The now abolished 187 visa had no conditions attached to it, meaning an employee was free to leave the regional area should they choose to do so.  Even if faced with cancellation, the set-aside rate at the Administrative Appeals Tribunal for 187 visa cancellations is almost double by comparison to the standard set aside rate of 33%.  This was a clear indication that our regional migration program was not delivering the desired results. 


The solution came with the introduction of two provisional regional visas with a clear pathway towards permanent residence provided the visa holders abide by their visa conditions; The 494 and the 491.

Briefly subclass 494 and subclass 491 are regional visas, and they will be afforded priority processing by Home Affairs meaning skilled workers will be available at a much faster rate in comparison to standard skilled migration programs (the average time processing time for subclass 186 visa Employer Nomination Scheme is in excess of 12 months whereas General Skilled Migration visas receive as little as 100 invitations per month). 

The incentives for migrants to stay in regional areas longer-term are self-evident as they build ties through workforce and community participation. 

Upon completion of three years living in regional areas subclass 491 and 494 visa holders can apply for permanent residence without a second nomination stage, if eligible, through the subclass 191 visa (commences 16 November 2022). 

There are plenty of jobs available.  In fact, many jobs have stayed vacant for months with no applications or expressions of interest.  This leaves regional employers in Australia desperate and in despair.

Thankfully, the new 494 visa comes at a 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).

The introduction of the new points tested subclass 491 visa means more points are available to subclass 491 visa applicants including additional points for STEM qualifications, single or partnered applicants, and applicants with a partner who can demonstrate competent English.

The minimum taxable income for the subclass 494 and 191 visa will be set at the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT) which is currently $53,900.  This will ensure that regional workers are not exploited and are able to adapt accordingly to their new community.

Subclass 491 visa

The new subclass 491 visa allows holders to live in a regional area (anywhere except Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane).  With close to 400 occupations to choose from the visa allows flexibility for those living in places like Newcastle to contribute to the Australian economy.  These applicants will be granted additional points including 15 points for state nomination.  Home Affairs remains committed to give 491 applications priority processing. 

Subclass 494 Visa

Employers located in regional areas will be able to sponsor employees and their families in broad range of occupations from Aquaculture Farmers to Health and Welfare Services Managers.  The broad occupations list is well thought though to specifically address regional skills shortages, and to attract migrants across diverse backgrounds of expertise, skills and experience. 

Employees who are currently standard business sponsors can utilise the program.  There are no additional steps involved for existing sponsors to be able to sponsor subclass 494 visa holders. 

There is also so relief given in terms of SAF levy, depending on how many years the subclass 494 visa holder has spent in Australia 

Years elapsed

          For businesses with an annual

          turnover less than AUD 10 million


                 In any other case


          AUD 3000

                 AUD 5000

1-less than 2

          AUD 2400

                 AUD 4000

2-less than 3

          AUD 1800

                 AUD 3000

3-less than 4

          AUD 1200

                 AUD 200 0

4-less than 5

          AUD 600

                 AUD 1000

Refunds will also be available in situations where incorrect occupation is selected on the nomination form.

On completion of three years in regional area as well as meeting all applicable conditions associated with the respective visa, an applicant will have an opportunity to move to Subclass 191 (Permanent Residence (Skilled Regional)). 

Key features of this visa include: 

-          No sponsorship requirement

-          No SAF levy

-          Requirement of State Nomination

-          Modest government lodgement fee ($385 for primary applicant)

-          Unlimited right to reside in Australia with a pathway towards citizenship 


Australia always has and will remain to be a welcoming nation for migrants.  Nonetheless, we must adapt according to the economic needs of the country and ensure that we continue to enjoy the prosperity we have available to us.  This means ensuring that our regional areas remain continue to grow and develop and we continue to attract the best and the brightest for years to come.

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  • Guest
    Electric Boogaloo Thursday, 21 November 2019

    Yes, we have a history of pushing migrants away from real opportunity - to the back of our country... how warm and welcoming we are! Who's press conference was this?

  • Guest
    Rash the Regional RMA NSW Thursday, 21 November 2019

    Electric Boogaloo there are actual and real opportunities for migrants in areas apart from Sydney and Melbourne. I mean...the whole of South Australia is considered Regional and the Pres of the MIA is still whining about it not being attractive. What does he want? And which members did he consult at the MIA before spouting off about it? Believe it or not the country does not focus its success on what happens in Radelaide, South Australia. MIA have a history with the Labor Party too!

  • Guest
    Angela DeMarco Thursday, 21 November 2019

    For those of us who have lived and breathed regional migration for the past 20 + years - we know without a doubt that this new regional program is the worse ever created. There is nothing attractive about it for prospective migrants. We had excellent programs in place that worked well for regions - that supported regional employers and that facilitated speedy settlement and the possibility to establish roots for state nominated candidates. These new programs offer only uncertainty! Earning $53900 per annum in many regional locations is not easily achievable!! I appreciate the work of Migration Alliance - but this time I believe you are ill informed!! Perhaps more consultation is needed with migration professionals in the regions! I have not spoken to any that believe these changes are positive!

  • Guest
    MD IMRAN Saturday, 04 January 2020

    Yes, we have a history of pushing migrants away from real opportunity - to the back of our country... how warm and welcoming we are! Who's press conference was this?

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Guest Thursday, 09 July 2020
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