491 Visa - Skilled Work Regional

Skilled Work Regional (Provisional) visa, subclass 491, is relatively a new and enhanced points-tested line of skilled migration visa to assist skill shortages in regional parts of Australia. It is a temporary visa that permits the visa holders to lawfully enter and remain in Australia up to 5 years from the visa grant and provides an opportunity to apply for permanent residency through the subclass 191 Permanent Residence (Skilled – Regional) visas. The 491 visa replaces the previous regional skilled visa in Australia, namely subclass 489 visa.

There are two (2) streams available under this visa program, where applicants can be nominated by a State or Territory authority, or sponsored by an eligible family member residing in a designated regional area. In both cases, applicants must specify an eligible nominated occupation, secure a state or family nomination, submit an Expression of Interest (EoI), and be invited by the Department of Home Affairs to apply for this skilled migration visa.

Skills Assessment

At the time of invitation to apply for the 491 visa, the relevant assessing authority must have assessed the applicant’s skills as suitable for the applicant’s nominated occupation. The assessment must not have been made for the purposes of a Subclass 485 (Temporary Graduate) visa.

For each eligible occupation, an authority is tasked with assessment of the suitability of applicants for the corresponding occupation. This process of assessment is known as a Skills Assessment. Each assessor operates with its own procedures and prerequisites, information for which may be found on each assessor’s website. Whilst an occupation generally has one assessor, certain occupations may have multiple bodies which may conduct skills assessments for migration purposes. Applicants must meet the skills assessment requirement of their chosen occupation prior to commencing an application for their skilled nominated visa.

For any general skilled migration visa, the skills assessment is always the first step. If you are looking to commence your permanent residency journey, identifying an occupation and the skills assessment criteria applicable thereto is often a first step. Don’t commit to a course of study on the basis of rumor and hearsay, risking tens of thousands in school and visa fees. Book a consultation and obtain quality migration advice from our qualified migration solicitors. Our migration experts will look at your circumstances and your migration ambitions to plan out the best visa pathway for you and your family.

Points Test

As with the subclass 189 visa, 489 visa and 190 visa, applicants must reach a minimum points score on the applicable migration points test. More information on the points test can be found on our landing page for Skilled visas.

491 State Nomination

For valid Subclass 491 applications, the sponsor must sponsor every family unit member of the primary applicant and be:
Case officers are usually satisfied that nomination by a State or Territory Government authority continues and remains valid unless the Department is notified, in writing, by the relevant authority that the nomination has been withdrawn. If a nomination is withdrawn after visa application but before a decision is made in relation to the application, the visa application must be refused, as the applicant cannot satisfy the key requirements.

Much as will other forms of state and territory nomination visas, each state and territory imposes varying requirements on when and who they nominate. Depending on the state or territory you wish to seek a skilled work regional provisional visa nomination from, the applicable criteria will vary wildly. From residency requirements to differences in nominated occupation eligibility, it is important to know what option is viable long before you submit your Expression of Interest (EoI).

491 Family Sponsorship

The applicant must provide evidence that their family, who is to sponsor them for the 491 visa, satisfies the requisite criteria. A signed declaration is to be submitted to the Department as evidence that the family sponsor acknowledges their sponsorship obligations. Very few 491 visas are issued under this stream, with scarcity resulting in significant competition among prospective visa applicants.

Eligible Family Sponsor

For valid Subclass 491 regional provisional applications, the sponsor must sponsor every family unit member of the primary applicant and be:

  • At least 18 years old; and
  • An Australian citizen, Australian permanent resident or eligible New Zealand citizen; and
  • Usually resident in a designated regional area; and
  • An eligible relative in which the sponsor is directly related to either the primary applicant or the primary applicant’s spouse or de facto partner.

An eligible relative is:

  • a parent; or
  • a child or step-child; or
  • a brother, sister, adoptive brother, adoptive sister, step-brother or step-sister; or
  • an aunt, uncle, adoptive aunt, adoptive uncle, step-aunt or step-uncle; or
  • a nephew, niece, adoptive nephew, adoptive niece, step-nephew or step-niece; or
  • a grandparent; or
  • a first cousin.

In determining whether the sponsor is usually resident in a designated regional area, the Department is to consider the sponsor’s actual physical residence, that is, where they eat and sleep and have their usual abode. Establishing a familial relationship is central to ones application and must be substantiated to a significant degree.

Qualifying Visas

Onshore applicants must hold either a substantive visa or a Bridging visa A, B or C. Although secondary applicants do not necessarily have to hold the same visa, each of the secondary applicants must also hold a qualifying visa at the time of application if they are also in Australia.

Waiver of Visa Conditions

Some onshore applicants may be imposed with Visa Conditions 8503 or 8534.

Visa Condition 8503: The holder will not, after entering Australia, be entitled to be granted a substantive visa, other than a protection visa, while the holder remains in Australia.

*The Department’s system will automatically waive the condition to enable lodgement of the Subclass 491 application and grant an associated BVA.

Visa Condition 8534: The holder will not be entitled to be granted a substantive visa, other than:

  • (a) a protection visa; or
  • (b) a Subclass 485 (Temporary Graduate) visa; or
  • (c) a Subclass 590 (Student Guardian) visa;

while the holder remains in Australia.

*The Department’s system will waive the condition and allow lodgement of a Subclass 491 application, but the waiver is not automatically granted in every case.

Age

The primary applicant must not have turned 45 years of age at the time, or (the date) of the invitation. This restriction is applicable to any occupation or nominating state or territory. The age threshold is quite onerous.

English Proficiency

Applicants are required to demonstrate that, at the time of invitation to apply for a 491 visa, the applicant had competent English. State nomination for the provisional visa, subclass 491, may be subject to variations in the minimum English requirement depending on your nominated occupation.

Note that when applying for your skilled work regional provisional visa, subclass 491, it is important to be able to show you possessed the requisite English score as claimed in your Expression of Interest (EoI). Falsified test results cannot be remedied once an invitation have been received from the Department.

Criteria – One fails, all fail

The Subclass 491 primary applicant cannot satisfy the primary criteria and be granted a visa unless all members of the family unit members who are 491 visa applicants (and in some cases, members of their family unit who are not visa applicants) satisfy those criteria.

If you are looking to add members of your family unit to your skilled work regional visa, subclass 491, it is pivotal you consult with a migration solicitor to ensure no additional applicant prejudices your prospects for permanent residency.

Subsequent Entrant Applications

Subsequent entrants refer to secondary applicants applying for their subclass 491 visas when it has already been granted to the primary visa holder. This practice is allowed as Subclass 491 is a provisional visa that is still classified as a temporary visa.

These secondary applicants must be a member of the family unit of the primary a person who holds a 491 visa. A visa application made by a subsequent applicant can include more than one person seeking to satisfy the secondary criteria for the visa grant(s).

Case officers will closely review the declared relationship history, in conjunction with the information provided in the associated primary visa holder’s previous application in determining whether the subsequent entrant applicant is a member of the family unit. The Department will scrutinize any application where the 491 visa holder had declared themselves to be ‘single’ and were awarded the points, and the declared relationship with the subsequent entrant applicant commenced shortly after the associated visa holder was issued an invitation to apply for or was granted a Subclass 491 visa. If the de facto or spouse relationship commenced after the invitation to apply but before decision the visa applicant is required to notify the Department of the change in circumstances.

Bridging visa for Offshore Applicants

A person, who applied for a Subclass 491 visa whilst outside Australia, is eligible to apply for a BVA if he or she held a substantive visa at the time at which the visa application was lodged. A separate BVA application is required and can only be made in Australia. To the contrary, if the offshore applicant did not hold a substantive visa at the time of the visa application, neither a BVA or BVA can be issued.

Restrictions on applying for other permanent visas

The visa holders are unable to make a valid application for the following visa subclasses for at least three years:
  • Subclass 820 (Partner)
  • Subclass 124 (Distinguished Talent)
  • Subclass 132 (Business Talent) visa
  • Subclass 186 (Employer Nomination Scheme)
  • Subclass 188 (Business Innovation and Investment (Provisional))
  • Subclass 189 (Skilled – Independent)
  • Subclass 190 (Skilled – Nominated)
  • Subclass 858 (Distinguished Talent)
The above is designed to ensure the skilled work regional provisional visa operates to address difficulties in the labour markets of regional areas. It is not the intention of the Australian government that the Subclass 491 visa operate as a stepping stone to buy time for lodging a non-regional migration or employer sponsored visa. These stringent prohibitions enhance the ability of the this visa, 491 subclass, to deliver on the policy objectives for which the subclass 489 visa was previously designed. There is thus no way to expedite permanent residency once your skilled work regional visa has been granted. To ensure whether or not alternative options are available to you, it is best to obtain an assessment from a migration solicitor. Generally speaking, the visa subclass 491 is best utilized as a last resort, particularly in relation to those in an occupation with limited general skilled migration potential.

Eligible Family Sponsor

The holder must notify Immigration of a change to any of the following within 14 days after the change occurs:

  • (a) the holder’s residential address;
  • (b) an email address of the holder;
  • (c) a phone number of the holder;
  • (d) the holder’s passport details;
  • (e) the address of an employer of the holder;
  • (f) the address of the location of a position in which the holder is employed.

Visa Condition 8579

While in Australia during the regional residency period, the visa holder must live, work and study only in a part of Australia that was a designated regional area at the time the relevant nomination in relation to the primary person was made. This again enhances the ability of the 491 visa to fulfill the objectives of the regional skilled migration scheme.

Visa Condition 8580

If requested, in writing, by the Minister to do so, the holder must provide evidence of any or all of the following within 28 days after the date of the request:​

  • (a) the holder’s residential address;
  • (b) the address of each employer of the holder;
  • (c) the address of each location of each position in which the holder is employed;
  • (d) the address of an educational institution attended by the holder.

Visa Condition 8581

If requested, in writing, by the Minister to do so, the holder must attend an interview:

  • (a) at a place and time specified in the request; or
  • (b) in a manner, and at a time, specified in the request.

Occupations

Migration (LIN 19/051: Specification of Occupations and Assessing Authorities) Instrument 2019.