The elections are done – and after the dust settled, the winner emerged with Scott Morrison’s government returning. This is not what we expected, or what polls or the media predicted either.

In fact, according to news reports, Bill Shorten’s Labour party was going to win comfortably.

But after counting all the seats, not only is Scott Morrison still there, he has won an outright majority!

But what does that mean to the general skilled migration program moving forward?

Invitation Rounds and Visa Cap

The visa cap was already ‘reduced’ to 160,000 from 190,000 – but as we mentioned in our earlier article, this reduction was already reflected in last year’s total selection numbers.

In the 2017-2018 financial year, 160,000 people were selected, so this ‘new’ cap doesn’t make a difference.

This year the selection rounds have been very low leading up to the elections, with only 100 people selected in both April and May 2019, when it should have been closer to 4000.

We would be very surprised to see the total visas granted for the skilled migration program for 2018-2019 being anywhere close to the 160,000 cap since we are easily 50,000 short of that number with only May and June left in this financial year.

But what we do see moving forward is that the selection rounds will start normalising again once everything post-election has settled in, hopefully around the 2000 selections a month.

In fact even as recently as March we were already seeing selections at the 70 point mark – if we had a few more healthy sized rounds we may even have hit 65 point selections.

We’ll keep an eye out for the upcoming June 11 selection round to see if any of this happens.

Increase in Visa Fees

Regardless of who won, this was always going to happen.

As of July 1st 2019, expect a 5.4% increase in visa fees for all of the visa types (except visitor visas).

More Focus on Regional Migration

Firstly we want to clarify that although the government is looking to get more people into regional Australia, this does not mean that permanent residencies for the major cities (Melbourne, Sydney, Perth, Brisbane) is not possible.

In fact the 2 permanent residency pathways are still there (subclass 189 and 190) and to date no changes have been mentioned regarding these two visa types.

What the Morrison government has proposed is to make it easier for migrants to move to regional areas. Naturally this means more people will gravitate towards those areas.

We believe that they are not making other pathways more challenging.

This has been a concern for people who have come to meet us to discuss their visa options – with the misunderstanding that all new migrants will have to go to regional Australia first.

We blame the media for that.

Removal of Subclass 489

The subclass 489 visa will be replaced with the subclass 491 visa as of 16 November 2019.

The main difference to this visa will be:

  • 5 year visa (instead of 4 years)
  • Additional points in the points score for regional state nominations
  • Longer stay duration required to convert the visa from provisional to permanent residency (3 years instead of 2 years)
  • Same skilled occupation lists used as previously

Removal of Subclass 887

Both subclass 489 and 887 go hand in hand – currently once you’ve stayed in a regional part of Australia for 2 years (out of 4), you can apply for the subclass 887 for permanent residency.

However on 16 November 2022 the subclass 191 will be introduced. The subclass 887 will be phased out but will remain valid for anyone still on a subclass 489 that was approved before 16 September 2019, presumably for at least 4 years from this date.

More clarifications will be available once this has been passed into law.

This new subclass has the following requirements:

  • Have held a regional visa (subclass 491) for at least 3 years prior to applying
  • Have earned a minimum income for those 3 years (this is a bit subjective but let’s assume it’s minimum wage at full time work for either you or your spouse/ de facto partner)
  • Have complied with the conditions of the regional visa (subclass 491)

Additional Ways To Get Points

Outlined in the changes were additional ways to achieve points for the skilled migration program.

In line with encouraging people to choose regional states first, bonus points are awarded for those opting for a regional state nomination.

  • more points for having a skilled spouse or de facto partner (10 points);
  • more points for applicants nominated by a State or Territory government or sponsored by a family member residing in regional Australia (15 points);
  • more points for having certain STEM qualifications (10 points);
  • points for applicants who do not have a spouse or de facto partner (10 points); and
  • points for applicants with a spouse or de facto partner who has competent English (5 points).

One of the points people have made is that it seems that it is favourable for individuals to apply instead of married or de facto couples.

In theory yes – they want couples to improve their English level (spouse/ partner to hit competent English) as a unit and not disadvantage individuals who apply, since realistically an individual applying would need at least proficient English and above anyway.

They’ve also indicated how they will select people with the same points score as follows:

  • First – primary applicants with a skilled spouse or de facto partner
  • Equal First – primary applicants without a spouse or de facto partner
  • Second – Primary applicants with a spouse or de facto partner who can demonstrate competent English but does not have the skills for skilled partner points (age and skills)
  • Third –  Primary applicants with a partner who is ineligible for either competent English or Skilled partner points. These applicants will be ranked below all other cohorts, if all other points claims are equal.

Regional Designated Areas

All regional visas will have condition 8579 imposed on them – which reads:

Holders of the new regional provisional visas will be subject to visa condition 8579, requiring the visa holder to live, work and study in regional Australia. If a visa holder chooses not to reside in regional Australia, this may result in cancellation of their visa.  In addition, for a Subclass 191 visa to be granted to an applicant who held a regional provisional visa that was subject to condition 8579, the applicant must have complied with the condition.

In comparison, current subclass 489 visa holders have condition 8539 on it which reads in a very similar way:

While the holder is in Australia, the holder must live, study and work only in an area specified by the Minister in an instrument in writing for item 6A1001 of Schedule 6A or item 6D101 of Schedule 6D, as in force:

(a)  when the visa was granted; or

(b)  if the holder has held more than 1 visa that is subject to this condition — when the first of those visas was granted.

There has always been debate on if you need to live in the state that nominated you for the regional visa, however the Department of Home Affairs specifically links to a list of all regional areas which in theory means you can live anywhere as long as it’s regional.

In fact for this new condition 8579, the explanatory notes go on to say:

It is important to note that visa holders who have condition 8579 imposed on their visas are free to travel throughout Australia without restriction. They may live in any State or Territory of Australia provided that the location is classified as a designated regional area.

That’s a good indication that you could in theory live in any regional area once your visa is granted.

Conclusion

We do expect the selection rounds to start increasing progressively from June or July onwards to healthier levels of at least 1500-2500 a month for the subclass 189.

The rest of the spaces will go to the state and family streams, but since there is this focus on regional growth, we would see South Australia and NT to pick up most of the slack.

South Australia has one of the largest cities in Australia (Adelaide) and is considered regional – they have also got one of the most comprehensive state nomination lists, covering almost every occupation on the MLTSSL, STSOL and ROL.

For couples, we would definitely encourage for the spouse or de facto partner to prove competent English for that boost in points.

Better yet would be to be able to get a positive skills assessment as well, although this isn’t possible in all cases.

Other than that the rest of the process remains the same for prospective and current applicants, we will see on July 1st 2019 if any further changes are added to the above.

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