For individuals who hope to live permanently in Australia, there are multiple paths to permanent residency. However, many people are unaware of the family sponsored stream of the subclass 491 Skilled Work Regional Visa. It’s attracted little attention since it was introduced in 2019, but in light of the recent downturn in invitations for other general skilled migration visas, this is an option worth exploring for skilled individuals with relatives in Australia.
Under the 491 Skilled Work Regional Visa, there are two streams including the Points Tested Stream and the Family Sponsored stream. The Family Sponsored Stream allows skilled workers with family members living in regional areas of Australia to migrate and secure permanent residency after living and working in the regional area for three years.
Understanding the basics of the 491 subclass Visa
There are basic eligibility requirements that applicants for the 491 Regional Visa must meet.
A person has to be under 45 years old to apply, have competent English skills, and pass a skills assessment in their occupation. Under the family sponsored stream of the 491 Visa, they also need to be sponsored by a relative who is already living in a regional area of Australia, and their occupation must be included on Australia’s Medium to Long Term Skills Shortage List (MLTSSL).
This is distinct from the State/Territory nomination stream of the 491 Visa, where the occupation can be listed on any of the skilled occupation lists including the MLTSSL, the Short-Term Skilled Occupation List (STSOL), or the Regional Occupation List (ROL). Also, the occupation must be one that is in demand in the particular State/Territory.
Finally, the person must submit an expression of interest (EOI) with a points score of more than 65 points, and be invited to apply for the Visa.
While there are some requirements to fulfil in the initial application process, the 491 Visa has a broad scope due to the range of occupations available and the fact that it’s possible to qualify for the Visa even with the sponsorship of a relative who is not an immediate family member.
Who qualifies as an “eligible family member” under the 491 subclass Visa?
The benefits of this visa option are clear when you consider the Australian government’s definition of an eligible family member. A prospective migrant could be sponsored by someone who is at least 18 years old and is a:
- Child or step-child
- Brother, sister, adoptive brother, adoptive sister, step-brother or step-sister
- Aunt, uncle, adoptive aunt, adoptive uncle, step-aunt or step-uncle
- Nephew, niece, adoptive nephew, adoptive niece, step-nephew or step-niece
- First cousin
The sponsoring family member also has to live outside of Melbourne, Sydney or Brisbane.
Under these broad categories, options are available for many skilled migrants who haven’t received an invitation to apply for another type of skilled visa from the Government or sponsorship from an employer.
The best aspect of this visa is that it also provides a path to permanent residency after three years, so migrants have the opportunity to stay in Australia indefinitely if they abide by the terms of the visa.
Invitation trends for the 491 Visa
According to recent data in SkillSelect, in the June 2020 invitation round, there were 30 invitations issued to 491 applicants under the 491 Family Sponsored Stream with a points score of 70 or higher. Those who received invitations had lodged their Expression of Interest on or before April 2020, meaning that the time to receive an invitation was around two months.
Compared to other points-tested visas, such as the subclass 189 which requires very high points scores of 85 + and have much longer wait times, the 491 Family Sponsored Stream can be a faster pathway for those who can meet the criteria.
Key issues after receiving the 491 Visa
Once a person has successfully obtained the 491 Visa, they are allowed to live and work in a regional area of the State or Territory in which they were nominated. The visa is granted for five years and must be renewed at the end of the term. Visa holders will have access to Medicare, as well as full work rights.
The 491 Visa is an ideal fit for anyone with aspirations of permanent residency in Australia since it’s possible to apply for the subclass 191 Permanent Residence (Skilled Regional) visa within three years of obtaining the visa. It requires meeting some criteria, which includes earning an income above the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (currently $53,900) each year, residing in the regional area for the 3-year period, and fulfilling all other obligations of the visa.
If you receive this visa and hope to stay in Australia for the long-term, it’s essential to stay on top of deadlines and to thoroughly understand the restrictions and allowances of your specific visa. A track record that shows you’re conscientious and responsible for your visa obligations is invaluable when applying for permanent residency.
Applicants for this visa need to carefully consider their willingness to commit to living in regional Australia for the 3-year period, as there are restrictions on applying for other permanent visas, such as the 189, 190, or 820 partner Visa during the first three years of holding a 491 Visa.
What are the next steps?
If you meet the basic requirements for the Skilled Work Regional Visa and have an eligible family member in Australia, get in touch with The Migration Agency today – we’re here to help you build a compelling case for receiving your 491 Visa.
Our skilled specialists can help you navigate each step of the visa process and assist you with a visa strategy, documentation, and case management. Our proven strategic solutions are designed to help you receive timely approval for the visa of your choice.
TMA looks forward to being your trusted immigration partner – contact us today for a personal consultation.