At a Glance
On November 16, 2019, the Australian government will be implementing several expansions to the regional migration program including:
- Adding 2,000 spots added to the program;
- Expanding the definition of 'Regional Australia' to also include Perth and the Gold Coast;
- Creating two new temporary regional visas; and
- Improving Temporary Graduate (subclass 485) visas for international students studying in regional areas.
In a joint media release with several Ministers including the Minister for Immigration, Citizenship Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that on November 16, 2019, the Australian government will be implementing several expansions to the regional migration program.
A closer look
" Expanded regional migration program spaces. The regional migration program will be increased by an additional 2,000 places, making the regional program eligible for 25,000 people, following 124% growth in regional visa grants over the past year.
" Expansion of regional definition. An expanded definition of 'Regional Australia' will take effect which will include Perth and the Gold Coast. The other existing cities considered 'regional' in Australia include Adelaide, Sunshine Coast, Canberra, Darwin, Newcastle/Lake Macquarie, Wollongong/Illawarra, Geelong and Hobart.
More foreign nationals will be eligible for the regional migration program. Benefits of the program include priority processing of their visas and access to additional occupations through the Regional Occupational List (to be published on November 16, 2019).
" New regional visas. Two temporary regional visas – the Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional (Provisional) (subclass 494) visa and the Skilled Work Regional (Provisional) (subclass 491) visa – will be introduced to encourage migration into regional areas in line with the government's population policy. The visas will be valid for five years.
" More foreign nationals will be eligible for the regional migration program, benefits of which include priority processing of their visas and access to additional occupations through the Regional Occupational List (to be published on November 16, 2019).
" Subclass 491 visa holders will also be eligible for more points in the points-based system for nomination by a state/government.
" Additional Temporary Graduate (subclass 485) visas for regional students. International students completing studies in regional universities in Australia will be able to access a second Temporary Graduate Visa for an additional year (for universities located in 'cities or major regional centres') or two years (for universities located in 'regional centres or other regional areas') of work authorization after completion of their studies where they:
Regional students will be able to apply for a second subclass 485 visa. Under the current subclass 485 visa rules, a maximum of one visa can be granted.
Australia has been focused on increasing migration to regional areas for over a year to bring needed skills to lesser-populated areas and to steer migrants away from overcrowded cities. Most recently, in March 2019, the government announced plans to encourage foreign nationals to settle in regional areas, and the two new visas are part of this policy approach.
Fragomen's analysis of upcoming policy in Australia remains the same as it was in following Prime Minister Scott Morrison's election win in May. The main policy predictions are:
- Focus on regional Australia. The focus on regional migration is expected to continue until skills needs are met in those regions. Fragomen also expects a continuation on the use of Designated Area Migration Agreements (DAMAs) to address skills shortages in regional Australia.
- Facilitating innovation. Fragomen expects immigration initiatives will continue to be part of the government's "Innovation Agenda." Programs such as the Global Talent Employer Sponsored program, further expanded through the Global Talent Independent program, are intended to provide new pathways for highly-skilled migrants and make Australia more competitive for top talent globally.
- Infrastructure agenda. During its election campaign, the Coalition Government committed to invest AUD 100 billion into transport infrastructure. Such an ambitious agenda will likely increase pressure on the construction and engineering sectors, which already face notable skills shortages. An increased demand for foreign labor would likely present challenges for a government seeking to slow population growth of the cities and encouraging migrants to settle in regional Australia.
- Reform and future visa service delivery. The Prime Minister has indicated that the government will require all departments to find savings and reduce budgets. Within the Department of Home Affairs, this would suggest that the digitalization and automation of visa processing may become a higher priority.
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