Recognising the Regions – Immigration changes create new visas and classifications to better respond to regional skills shortages

Key Points
  • Two new skilled visas cater to employers outside Australia’s major cities and offer a pathway to permanent residency for workers.
  • The definition of ‘Regional Australia’ has also been expanded to now include the Hunter and Illawarra regions, amongst others.

The Department of Home Affairs has recently introduced very welcome changes to the migration program, expanding the definition of “Regional Australia” and creating two new visas for employers and visa applicants outside the major cities.  
In the complex and wide-reaching Australian migration programme, the Department’s strict definition of “Regional Australia” has excluded some areas often considered to be regional and caused difficulties for visa applicants in those locations.

Having access to Regional classification can be of great assistance to businesses and applicants in securing visas and skilled workers.

For example, applicants who may not meet the criteria for other skilled visas, may gain extra points and meet the requirements for a number of current regional visas, including 489 Skilled (Provisional), Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (187) and Skilled Regional (Permanent) 887 - that are designed to encourage migrants to regional areas.

In addition to those established visas, the Government has recently released two new regional visas:
  1. The Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional (Provisional) visa: for people sponsored by an employer in regional Australia; and
  2. The Skilled Work Regional (Provisional) visa: for people who are nominated by a State or Territory government or sponsored by an eligible family member to live and work in regional Australia.
Of importance for people wanting to remain in Australia permanently, holders of these visas will be able to apply for permanent residency via the Permanent Residence (Skilled Regional) Visa from November 2022.

These new regional visas include access to priority processing of applications and access to additional skilled occupations covering between 500 and 700 occupations (up from 200 to 500 positions in the general skilled streams).
Of particular interest is the Government’s complementary announcement of a reclassification and expansion of the term “Regional Australia” for the purposes of visa applications and sponsorships.

The previous Regional classification (as outlined in Migration Instrument IMMI 18/037) has stood for many years and been roundly criticised by both the business community and applicants, as it excluded several non-metropolitan areas from the ‘Regional’ group, creating confusion and limiting options.

The previously excluded areas included Newcastle and Wollongong in NSW. Traditionally, this has meant employers experiencing skills shortages in those locations have been required to meet the same requirements as employers in the major, and significantly larger, population centers. They have also been excluded from the additional benefits extended to both sponsors and applicants in acknowledged regional areas.

The welcome changes mean that, from November 2019, the definition of Regional Australia for all skilled visas has been simplified and expanded to include all of Australia except for the following metropolitan areas:
  • Sydney
  • Melbourne
  • Brisbane
Areas within the new regional definition now have access to the two new skilled regional provisional visas, which enable migrants and employers to access a wider range of occupations as well as receiving priority processing.

Migration is a complex process and, as these new visas and classifications show, visas and requirements can change quickly and without notice. We recommend that sponsors and applicants seek professional advice in relation to their visa options and applications. Our experienced Hicksons Migration Assistance Service can assist across all visa, migration, citizenship and related matters.

Post by Najeh Marhaba

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