The Subclass 491 Visa Australia, also known as the Skilled Work Regional Provisional Visa replaced the 489 visa in November 2019. It’s a general skilled migration visa allowing eligible skilled migrants and their families the opportunity to live, work and study in designated regional areas in Australia for up to 5 years, with the chance to apply for a permanent residence visa, Subclass 191, after 3 years.
With the overall reduction in visas being issued and the slow processing times post-Covid, obtaining a temporary or resident visa for Australia is currently challenging. However, Australia is facing a skills shortage and if your skills and experience are needed, applying for a Skilled Work Regional Visa may be a good option for you.
The Australian 491 Visa is a popular choice for migrants to Australia who are not employer sponsored. It is offered on a points-based system that allocates points bases on factors such as your age, education, work experience, whether you have a relative living in Australia, state sponsorship and English proficiency.
What is a Designated Regional Area?
Regional areas are defined as anywhere excluding Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. Thus, most locations outside these major cities are considered designated regional areas for migration purposes. You can look up a list of postcodes on the Department of Home Affairs website, but some well-known regional areas include Adelaide, Perth, Canberra, Hobart, Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast, Illawarra, Geelong, Wollongong, Lake Macquarie and Newcastle.
Expression of Interest
Skilled workers from overseas who want to migrate to Australia must see if their occupation is eligible on the Skilled Occupation List (SOL). If it is, you will need to make an Expression of Interest (EOI) online using SkillSelect. This is not the visa application and there is no fee to submit an EOI. Once completed, your EOI is stored for 2 years and it is up to you to ensure your details are updated if your circumstances change as it will be too late to update them if you receive an invitation to make a visa application.
Invitations for Independent and skilled regional (provisional) visas are issued automatically to the highest ranking EOIs. However, this is subject to occupation ceilings, and once the required number has been reached no further invitations are issued until the following year.
State and Territory nominated visas are specific to each State and Territory’s requirements and processes, and they will select the skilled workers they wish to nominate. You will receive an invitation to apply from SkillSelect and you can state which state or territory you would like to receive a nomination from, or choose any state or territory.
Eligibility for the Skilled Work Regional Visa, Subclass 491
The Subclass 491 is a points-tested visa that has a 45 year age limit. Eligible applicants for this visa must be:
• nominated from an Australian State or Territory government agency; or
• sponsored by an eligible family member who lives in a designated regional area and be invited to apply for the visa, following submission of an Expression of Interest (EOI) in SkillSelect;
• required to have a positive skills assessment; and
• able to score 65 points
Additionally, they must meet the basic eligibility requirements for all visa applicants, including health and character requirements as well as a competent level of speaking and understanding the English language.
Nomination by an Australian state or Territory Government Agency
Each State and Territory has their own requirements for determining who they will nominate. So, as well as meeting the minimum requirements set by the Department of Home Affairs, all applicants have to navigate the specific state/territory criteria as well.
It can often be a difficult and confusing process, which is why it is helpful to speak to an expert in immigration law. At HCM Legal, we are accustomed to the processes involved in making successful visa applications to ensure you comply with all current requirements and have submitted all the appropriate paperwork to minimise the chances of a mistake and your application being refused.
If you do have a criminal record, it is important to declare it on your application as being untruthful may negatively impact your visa application.
Sponsorship by an Eligible Family Member (Family Stream)
You can be sponsored by an eligible relative for the 491 visa. This can include a:
• brother, sister, step and adopted siblings
• aunts, uncles, step and adopted aunts and uncles
• nephew, niece, step and adopted nephews and nieces
• first cousin
Your sponsor must by over 18 years old, be an Australian citizen, permanent resident or eligible New Zealand citizen. They must also be a resident of a designated area in Australia. Before you are granted a visa, your sponsorship must be approved.
Do the Visa Applicant and Sponsor need to Reside in the same State/Territory?
The sponsor must agree to meet all the sponsorship requirements but there are no policy or regulation requirements that the applicant and sponsor live in the same regional area.
What is A Positive Skills Assessment?
You are required to submit a copy of your skills assessment when you apply for your Australian 491 visa. Your application will not be valid at the time of your invitation unless you declare that you have a suitable skills assessment and that you have submitted it with your application. The skills assessment must be obtained for the 3 years prior to the date of your invitation, and if it was for a shorter period, that period must not have passed.
How are Points Tests Calculated?
The skilled migration points test is assessed at the time of the invitation and are awarded in several categories. The maximum points for each category are as follows:
• Age – 30 points for ages between 25 and 32
• English language skills – 20 points for superior English
• Years of skilled employment outside Australia – 15 points for8 years or more
• Years of skilled employment inside Australia – 20 points for 8 years or more
• Qualifications – 20 points for a doctorate
• Specialist educational qualifications – 5 points
• Partner is applying too and has competent English – 5 points
Although 65 points is the minimum requirement, the higher your points test score is, the more likely you will be invited to apply for a visa. Applicants with a points test score of 80-85 often receive invitations within 1 – 2 months.
Each state and territory has their own requirements for determining who they will nominate. So, as well as meeting the minimum requirements set by the Department of Home Affairs, all applicants have to navigate the specific state/territory criteria as well.
Other Requirements for Applicants for the Skilled Work Regional Provisional Visa Australia
Meet the Health Requirements
As part of the Australian visa process, most applicants are required to meet the health requirements. This is to protect public health and safety and to ensure that health and community services are maintained and to prevent the spread of contagious diseases. You must disclose your medical history and the details of any medical conditions and the treatment you are receiving.
Health examinations are required for visitors on temporary visas from some countries where there is a high incidence of disease, such as tuberculosis or Ebola. All applicants for permanent residency visas must have a full medical examination and a satisfactory chest x-ray before a visa is issued. Health examinations are undertaken by a panel of physicians and details of approved physicians both in Australia and elsewhere can be found at the Department of Home Affairs.
Have Adequate Health Insurance
The Medicare program allows Australians and some overseas visitors access to hospitals and healthcare services at minimum or no cost. While many visa recipients are not covered, holders of 491 Skilled migration visas are covered by Medicare. However, it is worth noting that certain limits apply and it is worth making a comparison between private cover and Medicare to ensure you have sufficient cover for your needs. For example, Medicare won’t cover ambulance transport and so you may want to purchase private health insurance to cover any shortfalls.
Meet the Character Requirements
Anyone entering Australia must be of good character. As part of the assessment, temporary and permanent visa applicants may need to provide a valid police clearance for any country they have lived in for more than 12 months during the last 10 years. Police clearances are typically regarded as valid only for 12 months from the date of issue. If you do have a criminal record, it is important to declare it on your application as being untruthful may negatively impact your visa application.
You are not likely to meet the character requirements if you:
• have a significant criminal record
• are a member of a group involved in criminal conduct
• have been convicted of escaping from an immigration centre
• are likely to engage in criminal conduct in Australia
• have a conviction for a sexual offence against a child
• have been issued with a domestic violence order or found guilty of domestic violence
Find Out More About the Australian 491 Visa
Immigration is a complex area law that is developing all the time and often subject to change. Our specialist immigration lawyers at HCM Legal have a vast experience of the law in this area and are up to date with the latest regulations, policies and developments relating to the Australian 491 visa and the various other visa subclasses. We are highly equipped to advise you on how best to proceed so that you can achieve the best outcome. Contact us for further information.