The Skilled Work Regional (Provisional) (Class PE) (Subclass 491)  a.k.a Subclass 491 is the latest visa to be added to the skilled migration program.

It replaces the previous version of the regional skilled migration program – or the older subclass 489 visa.

Introduced on 16th November 2019 by the federal government to encourage immigration to regional parts of Australia that are looking for economic and population growth.

This visa, similar to the subclass 190 visa, is a state nominated visa, which means it requires you to fulfil both federal requirements and state requirements to get selected.

Every occupation in every state has specific requirements for you to get selected, so monitoring of changes is key!

Why The Push For Regional Migration?

The Department of Home Affairs (DHA) have explained the move by saying:

“The Australian Government is committed to supporting migrants to settle in regional areas.

The Australian Government has announced changes to our immigration program to strengthen our economy and boost our regional areas.

The Australian Government works closely with state, territory and local governments, and local communities, to attract migrants to regional areas. Skilled migrants settling in regional Australia have a diverse range of available occupations to match their experience, skills and qualifications.”

In other words, the regional states of Australia are trying to fill occupation gaps in their economy – jobs that they can’t easily fill with locals.

What Areas Are Considered Regional?

The areas were realigned on November 16th 2019 and now the whole of Australia is considered regional except Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney.

That means these major cities are now considered regional centres:

  • Perth
  • Adelaide
  • Canberra
  • Newcastle
  • Wollongong
  • Gold Coast
  • Darwin
  • Geelong
  • Tasmania

If you’ve never been to Australia before, or if you aren’t aware of the populations of these cities, Perth and Adelaide combined have a population of almost 3 million people!

These are major cities with good schools, economies and property markets – but not enough people to fill jobs.

Are There Any Benefits To This New Regional Program?

Yes – to entice people to choose regional cities, the DHA have added some very attractive benefits:

  • Medicare access – this is Australia’s public health care system, which is free to citizens and permanent residents. They extended this to subclass 491 holders as well, which means you can go to a public hospital or clinic for free.
  • Bonus points – you now get 15 points (instead of 10 points) added to your skilled points score for choosing the subclass 491.
  • More cities to live in which we covered earlier
  • If you studied in any of these new regional areas for 2 years, you can get 5 additional points added to your score
  • This visa is fast tracked if you are selected – most skilled migration visas take 4-8 months from the time of invitation to being granted, however the subclass 491 can be granted in less than 60 days!

That Sounds Great! How Do I Qualify For This Visa?

Below we have listed the primary criteria for the grant of this visa. As normal for our in-depth articles, we have simplified the legislation to make it easier to understand.

  • A positive skill assessment for an occupation that is on the Medium and Long Term Strategic Skills List (MLTSSL), Short Term Skilled Occupation List or Regional Occupation List (ROL)Migration Regulations 1994 (CTH) Sch 1 Item 1241 4 (4)
  • Meet or surpass the minimum English language requirementMigration Regulations 1994 (CTH) Sch 2 reg 491.215
  • You must be nominated by a State or Territory government agency – Migration Regulations 1994 (CTH) Sch 1 Item 1241 4 (5)
  • Receive an invitation to apply from the Department – Migration Regulations 1994 (CTH) Sch 2 reg 491.213
  • Have at least 65 points in your skilled points test – Migration Regulations 1994 (CTH) Sch 2 reg 491.216 (1)

Let’s go through some of these below.

Which Occupation List Can You Be On?

We’ve gone through this before in our previous post, but in short, you can access:

  • MLTSSL
  • STSOL
  • ROL

Basically all 3 lists of the skilled migration program – refer to the links mentioned above and you’ll see what occupations are available.

If you are not sure how to choose your occupation, please click the previous post link above for a quick explanation.

The English Language Requirement

The English language requirement remains unchanged for this visa, which is the same requirement for the subclass 190 and 189 visas as well.

You need to have ‘competent’ English language ability which is satisfied if you have:

  • An IELTS test score of at least 6 in each of the four test components of speaking, reading, writing and listening; or
  • An OET test score of at least B in each of the four test components of speaking, reading, writing and listening; or
  • A TOEFL iBT test score with at least the following scores in the four test components: 18 for speaking, 13 for reading, 21 for writing and 12 for listening; or
  • A PTE Academic test score of at least 50 in each of the four test components of speaking, reading, writing and listening; or
  • If you hold a passport from the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Ireland of New Zealand

However it is good to get some points for your English language in the skilled points test. Proficient English for example would get you 10 points instead of 0 (that you would get for the scores listed above).

Nomination From a State or Territory Government

Just like the subclass 190, you will require a state to nominate your application before you can progress to the next stage of the process.

Every state has a different set of requirements to decide whether an applicant meets the minimum criteria.

Regardless of which state nominates you, the regions where you can stay are only the regional ones I mentioned above.

Invitation To Apply

This happens only after a state has nominated you – without the nomination you can’t proceed to this stage.

We’ll cover this a bit more later on.

Under 45 Years Old

Self explanatory – but please note that this age limit exists up to the point you receive your invitation to apply.

That means if you haven’t received an invitation to apply from the federal government by your 45th birthday, your application lapses and is removed from the pool as you no longer qualify for skilled migration.

The 65 Points Requirement

No change from the previous visas, however if you opt for the subclass 491, you get a significant 15 points boost to your total points score.

That means whatever you score from the below will now be increased by 15 points.

Notable changes to the points score that happened on November 16th 2019 include:

  • 10 points for studying a masters in STEM (by research) in Australia (2 years study)
  • 5 points for your partner having competent English
  • 10 points for your partner’s skills (can’t combine with the point above)
  • 10 points for being single
  • 10 points for having an Australian citizen/ permanent resident spouse/ partner
Relevant factor (at the time of invitation)CategoryPoints
Age18–24 (inclusive)
25–32 (inclusive)
33–39 (inclusive)
40–44 (inclusive)
25
30
25
15
English language abilityCompetent English — IELTS 6 / PTE 50
Proficient English — IELTS 7 / PTE 65
Superior English — IELTS 8 / PTE 79
0
10
20
Skilled employment (outside Australia)At least three but less than five years
At least five but less than eight years
At least eight and up to 10 years
5
10
15
Skilled employment (in Australia)At least one but less than three years
At least three but less than five years
At least five but less than eight years
At least eight and up to 10 years
5
10
15
20
Educational qualifications

Doctorate/ PHD
Bachelor/ Masters degree
Diploma
20
15
10
Australian study requirementOne or more degrees, diplomas or trade qualifications awarded by an Australian educational institution and meet the Australian Study Requirement5
Other factorsCredentialled community language qualifications
Study in regional Australia or a low population growth metropolitan area (excluding distance education)
Partner skill qualifications
Professional Year in Australia for at least 12 months in the four years before the day you were invited
Australian Masters in STEM (2 years study)
Partner's English
Single applicant

5
5
10
5
10
5
10

Please see some explanatory notes below on some of the key items in the table above.

Continued below…

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Work experience

  • You must have worked at least 20 hours of paid work per week and in your nominated skilled occupation, or a closely related occupation.
  • The work must be paid – it cannot be voluntary work.
  • You can only count ‘skilled’ employment, that is it the work was undertaken after the applicant meets at least the entry level requirements as set by the relevant assessing authority for that occupation.
  • The date on which an applicant becomes ‘skilled’ may be different from the date that an assessing authority finds that the person meets their requirement for a suitable skills assessment. For example, an assessing authority may issue a suitable skill assessment on the basis of attainment of a tertiary qualification but may require a period of post qualification work experience before considering an applicant ‘skilled’ for the purpose of employment points.

Educational qualifications

  • If you hold multiple recognised qualifications, you can only count points for one of your recognised qualifications (e.g. if you have completed a Bachelor degree and a Diploma degree, you can receive points for the Bachelor degree only).
  • Your relevant skills assessment body will generally determine whether any qualifications earned outside Australia are of a standard that is comparable to the relevant Australian qualification.
  • You may be able to receive points for a qualification that is not related to your nominated occupation.

Australian study requirements

This means you have been awarded one or more degrees, diplomas or trade qualifications through a course or courses taken at an Australian educational institution.

Your course or courses must:

  • be registered through the Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Course for Overseas Students (CRICOS)
  • have been successfully completed
  • have resulted in you receiving a degree, diploma or trade qualification
  • have been completed in a total of at least 16 calendar months
  • have been completed as a result of at least two academic years of study
  • have had all instruction in English
  • have been completed while you were physically in Australia
  • have been completed while you held a visa authorising you to study in Australia
  • be counted only once towards the Australian study requirement. Any failed course subject cannot be counted towards the Australian Study Requirement

Two academic years of study is defined as 92 weeks of study in a course or courses registered by CRICOS.

You will have to fulfil the above to meet the minimum requirements.

The Subclass 491 Process – Stage By Stage

The visa process is identical to the stages used by the subclass 190 visa and can be seen below.

The 5 stages for the subclass 491 application are:

  • Occupation assessment
  • Expression of Interest (EOI) submission
  • State application
  • Receiving an Invitation to Apply (ITA)
  • Your visa being granted

Each stage must be completed before the next stage is available.

If you don’t make it past any stage, your application stops there…

I would recommend you jump over to the subclass 190 explanation for these stages then jump back here, as the information is the same.

How Long Does It Take To Get Selected?

Skilled migration is still a points test competition in some ways – the fact that you get a 15 point boost for the subclass 491 visa itself, as well as the other ways of improving your score, it all helps.

The more in demand the application, typically the faster it is to get selected.

Typically selection takes anywhere from 3-12 months but depending on which state you are applying to, this timeline can drop as well.

The factors that make up the timeline includes:

  • Your total points score
  • If your occupation is ‘open’ for any states
  • Have you met all the state requirements (these vary from state to state)
  • How high demand your occupation is in the state

Once I Get Selected – How Long Does It Take For My Visa To Be Granted?

Since the regional parts of Australia are in more urgent need of skilled people, we’ve seen indications that the Department of Home Affairs is processing the final stage of the visa within 3 months or less, however this is subject to change.

In perspective, the subclass 189 and 190 visas at the same stage of the process can take up to 8 months to approve.

Visa Conditions

Take into account that the next stage of this process would be to fulfil all your visa conditions, after which you can apply for the subclass 191 visa (not yet available as it starts in 2022) – this is a permanent residency visa.

With the subclass 491 visa, you’ll need to fulfil the following criteria to qualify for the subclass 191:

  • Live and work in a regional part of Australia for 3 out of 5 years
  • Work full time during this period
  • Earn a taxable income of AUD$53,900 per year

Frequently Asked Questions

No – this visa starts as a 5 year provisional visa. If you fulfil your visa conditions you can convert it to permanent residency after 3 years.

You will make a commitment to the state that nominates you when you make your move to Australia.

However, note that the Department of Home Affairs has indicated the stay conditions is any regional state so just like the subclass 190, there is no legal requirement to stay in your nominating state for now.

I’ve discussed this with other migration agents and we agree that it’s a bit of a grey area, but conclude that you do have freedom of movement within regional Australia.

With this visa, you can legally live, work and study anywhere in regional Australia for 5 years.

During that time you will have Medicare access.

Note you will have to work for 3 years full time and be paid a taxable income of $53,900/ year to qualify to convert this visa to permanent residency

If you fulfil all the conditions (either you or your spouse is allowed to fulfil the requirements), then you can apply for the Permanent Residence (Skilled Regional) visa (subclass 191) when it becomes available in November 2022.

This visa allows you indefinite stay anywhere in Australia, not just the regional areas.

All visas can be self-submitted, but as a migration agency, we can tell you that migration law and regulations is very complex and time consuming.

One single mistake could cost you thousands and wasted 1-2 years of time.

If you are self-submitting, we recommend getting a professional document check to make sure your documents are of the required level for the Department of Home Affairs.

Alternatively, if you need a migration agent to do your application, you can see if you qualify and we would be happy to assist.

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