Perth and Gold Coast to be regional

Perth in Western Australia and the Gold Coast in Queensland are set to be classified as ‘regional’ for immigration purposes once changes are introduced in November this year.

Longer 485 Graduate Visas

The Western Australia and Queensland State Governments requested for Perth and the Gold Coast – respectively – to be classified as ‘regional’ in order to attract more international students. This is because from November, students who study in regional areas will be able to access a longer Subclass 485 Graduate post-study work visa.

From 16 November, students in regional cities and major regional areas, including Adelaide, Sunshine Coast, Canberra, Newcastle/Lake Macquarie, Wollongong/Illawarra, Geelong, Hobart, and now Perth and the Gold Coast will be able to obtain an additional year on their Graduate visa.

Students from all other regional areas could obtain an additional 2 years on their Graduate visa.

Who else does this impact?

With the November introduction of one definition of ‘regional’ across all visa categories, the reclassification of Perth and the Gold Coast as regional areas mean businesses in these areas will be able to attract skilled workers through the new Subclass 494 Skilled Regional Employer Sponsored (Provisional) visa, and migrants can also consider the new Subclass 491 Skilled Work Regional (Provisional) visa. Further information on these visas is available on our blog here.

The WA Government has advised at this stage that the current Western Australian Skilled Migration Occupation List (WASMOL) for the Subclass 190 Skilled State Nominated visas will remain the same.

The Queensland Government has not provided an update on their state migration program as this is currently closed to skilled visa applicants.

Visa Processing

The Department of Immigration has also announced an additional 2000 places in the regional visa quota, increasing to 25,000 out of the 160,000 total places available. Applicants for the regional visas will also have priority processing of their visa applications

What can applicants do now?

Even though the changes will not be implemented until mid-November, it is a great idea to start reviewing your visa options. Migrants with relatives in Perth and the Gold Coast may now have new opportunities for visa sponsorship, and those who currently reside in these areas could now have greater options to obtain permanent residency.

Why are Skilled Independent Visas Taking So Long to Process?

Alarming new statistics relating to processing times for Subclass 189 – Skilled Independent Visas which were recently published by Home Affairs state that 90% of cases take 22 months to finalise (no, this is not a typo).

For those who may not be aware, Skill Select process was introduced on 1 July 2012 and was largely a product of prior failed GSM system where due to the large volume of applications lodged with the Department, it became impossible to process these applications.

SkillSelect is an online service that enables skilled persons who are interested in obtaining an Australian visa to submit an Expression of Interest (EOI) that includes information about their skills and other attributes.  SkillSelect then issues invitations to apply to migrate based upon a ranking of the attributes of nominees and subject to ceilings on occupation numbers.  The rationale behind the new system was to reduce processing times and to control the number of applications lodged with the Department of Home Affairs to ensure that applicants who receive an invitation, are also afforded faster processing time.

The three-stage process involves the following:

Once an invitation is issued, the role of Home Affairs is to verify the claims made on EOI.  The idea behind issuing the invitations at an appropriate rate is to ensure that the processing times remain reasonable.

Let’s rewind to September 2018.  Back then, there were 2500 invitations issued and the average processing time for subclass 189 visa was 5 to 6 months.  Fast forward to September 2019, a mere 100 invitations were issued and the processing time has increased by almost 400%.

There appears to be little explanation in relation to this discourse.  Perhaps further information will be published in December when Home Affairs releases their annual report.

It is nonetheless concerning that we appear to be heading back to the GSM system where average process time was in excess of 2 years.  There is no doubt that Australia needs skilled migrants.  One can simply view the number job advertisements in regional areas which stay unfilled for months.  Business (regional or otherwise) struggle to retain the best and the brightest as chances of receiving permanent residence appear to diminish.

Whilst permanent migration intake has been reduced to 165 000 for this migration year, it is difficult to comprehend how this quote is going to be filled given the current situation.

Which are the best regional areas to live in east Australia?






Living in a regional area does not mean having to live in the middle of nowhere. Australia has several beautiful regional areas which Subclass 491 and 494 Regional Provisional Visa holders can live in. Here are some of the best regional areas in east Australia:

Hervey Bay is approximately 3.5 hours away from the capital city of Brisbane. It is a coastal city also known as the “Whale Watch Capital of the world”. The city is known for its safe, sheltered waters and easy approach to the Fraser Island which is on the World Heritage List.

The following industries are growing in Hervey Bay:

– Construction

– Manufacturing

– Tourism and Hospitality

– Social Assistance (incl. Aged Care)

– Health Care

Besides an international airport, Cairns also has several colleges and Universities. It is also a booming hub for the agriculture sector. Also, the famous Great Barrier Reef and Daintree Rainforest are just a stone throw away.

The following industries are growing in Cairns:

– Agribusiness

– Tourism

– Marine industry

– International education


Located in northeast NSW, Tamworth is known for its yearly Country Music Festival. The Music Festival is known to feature big international names every year as well as the famous Big Golden Guitar. It is a wine country with fertile farmlands and is a foodies delight.

The following industries are growing in Tamworth:

– Education

– Health Care

– Manufacturing

– Retail Trade

– Nature Tourism

– Agriculture


Located in the north coast of NSW, Byron Bay is closer to Brisbane than to the capital of NSW, Sydney. Byron Bay is well-known for celebrity visitors and its beach-side lifestyle.

The following industries are growing in Byron Bay:

– Information Technology

– Agriculture

– Construction

– Creative Industries

– Transportation


Thanks to numerous goldfields in the area, Ballarat is one of the richest places in Australia. The city in Victoria holds immense historical and cultural importance. The city has the Sovereign Hill which is a major tourist attraction in Australia.

The following industries are growing in Ballarat:

– Tourism, Hospitality & Professional sector

– Agriculture

– Mining

– Information Technology

– Manufacturing

– Renewable Energy


Nature enthusiasts throng Mildura which has a Mediterranean climate. The city is brimming with native wildlife, national parks, pink lakes and indigenous culture. The city also offers several outdoor activities like golf, water sports, boating etc.

The following industries are growing in Mildura:

– Manufacturing

– Agriculture

– Horticulture

– Mining

– Tourism

– Construction

– Food and Beverage

Australian migration intake drops to the lowest in a decade

Australia admitted 160,000 permanent migrants last year which has been the lowest in a decade. Industry leaders had warned the Govt. about an impending labour crunch which could severely affect several infrastructure projects in the pipeline.

Addressing these concerns Mr David Coleman, Immigration Minister, said that it was important to fill in employment gaps all across Australia. He is driving the Global Talent Independent Program which has 5,000 visa places. This program aims to attract the best and the brightest foreign workers to Australia.

Australia has put an annual cap of 160,000 on permanent migration for the next 4 years. Out of these, 23,000 visa places will go to the Regional Visa Scheme.

Due to the cap, Australia expects a further drop in the number of permanent migrants in the coming 4 years. Permanent migrants hit 190,000 during 2012-13 and 2013-14 while between 2011-12 and 2016-17 the number remained well above 183,000.

Here is the breakdown of the same:

Skilled Stream 2017-18 2018-19 Change
Employer-sponsored 35,528 42,012 6484
General Skilled Migration 68,111 60,240 -7871
Distinguished Talent 200 200 0
Business innovation & investment 7260 7261 1
Skilled Total 111,099 109,713 -1386
Family Stream
Partner 39,799 39,918 119
Parent 7,371 6805 -566
Other family 562 524 -38
Family total 47,732 47,247 -485
Child 3350 3,248 -102
Special eligibility 236 115 -121
Grand Total 162,417 160,323 -2094


Mr Coleman said that Australia’s population plan aimed at decongesting the major cities. At the same time, the plan aimed at helping regional areas and smaller cities grow.

Australia has announced two regional visas which will come into effect from November 2019. 23,000 visa places have been set aside for these visas which will help fill in thousands of job vacancies in regional Australia. Regional centres in Australia have reported more than 60,000 vacant jobs. Hence, the Australian Govt. is trying to redirect the migration to regional areas and smaller cities to fill up the available jobs.

The Australian Govt. granted a Designated Area Migration Agreement to Warrnambool in June this year. The DAMA aims to tackle the chronic labour shortage in regional areas.

Australia will also deploy officials from the Dept. of Home Affairs to locations like Singapore, Dubai, Washington and Shanghai. These officials will try and attract high-skilled migrants to Australia. These officials will also be responsible for scouting recruits from prestigious institutions like Oxford, MIT and Stanford.

There will be no further cuts to migration numbers

The Australian Govt. has announced that there will be no further cuts to migration numbers. However, the Govt. will focus on how to encourage migrants to move to the regional areas.

Julian Leeser, Liberal MP, said that Australia’s quality of life depends on solving the challenge of how to better redistribute Australia’s migrant population. The immigrant population in Australia will increase by 25% to 31.4 million in the next 15 years, as quoted by The Guardian.

Mr Leeser says that most of the population growth is expected in major cities like Melbourne, Sydney, Perth and Brisbane. The Govt. is not looking to make any further reductions in the immigration intake. However, the permanent visas places will be capped at 160,000 per year.

Mr Leeser also adds that it is not about how many people should be in the country. The bigger question is that where should all these people go. He says that the Govt. is trying to formulate policies which will encourage the immigrant population to move to regional areas. The goal of the Govt is to currently encourage more people to move to regional areas to address the skill shortages in these areas.

The Coalition Govt. has been focusing on pushing more people to the regional areas. However, many critics have raised concerns that the regional visa push is not workable.

A report by Infrastructure Australia found that it will cost $40 billion in annual infrastructure to cope with future population growth. The population in Australia is forecasted to grow to 31.4 million by 2034. The report points out that most cities are not equipped to handle the current rate of population growth.

Mr Leeser says that people of his electorate often complain that there are too many people in Sydney. However, even though these people agree with the annual cap on migration numbers, they also believe that more people should move to regional Australia. Many jobs go unfilled in regional Australia due to a shortage of labour.

Mr Leeser also adds that regional areas in Australia offer a high quality of life. There are many opportunities available in regional areas. Plus, the cost of living is much lower and getting around is much easier in the regional areas.


Extra 1 year visa for international graduates from regional institutions

The Department of Home Affairs has announced a new initiative for an additional Temporary Graduate visa with an extra year of post-study work rights for international students who:

The second Temporary Graduate visa will require ongoing residence in a regional area.

The definition of regional Australia for this purpose will be the same as the definition for skilled migration – all of Australia except Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane and the Gold Coast.

Increase in post-study work rights based on Australian qualification:

In order to be eligible for this visa extension, students need to graduate from a regional institution and then spend at least two years residing in a regional area. The additional Temporary Graduate visa will be officially implemented in November 2019, and be available to the first eligible graduates from 2021.

Existing Temporary Graduate visa holders may be eligible, provided they can meet these requirements.

Regional areas may include Newcastle, Wollongong, NSW Central Coast, Adelaide, Hobart and Canberra.


Skilled Regional Visa Transition Update

In the lead up to the introduction of the new Skilled Regional visas in November, Immigration has announced further details on the implementation dates for the 491 and 494 visas, and transitional arrangements for Subclass 489 and RSMS visas.

Lodgement deadlines

Most importantly, Immigration advises that the last date to be invited for a Subclass 489 Skilled Regional (Provisional) visa will be 10 September 2019. The last date to then lodge an application based on an invitation would be 15 November 2019.

The last date to lodge a Subclass 187 Regional Skilled Migration Scheme nomination or visa through the direct entry stream will also be 15 November. Any direct entry RSMS nominations not finalised by 16 November will be automatically withdrawn unless the corresponding visa application has also been lodged.

The RSMS temporary residence transitional stream will remain open to certain 457 visa holders eligible through ‘grandfathering’ provisions, and those who held or had applied for a 482 visa prior to 20 March 2019.

Subclass 186 Employer Nomination Scheme (ENS) visa applicants will not be affected by these changes.

Regional Area Definition

The definition of ‘regional Australia’ will be simplified to include anywhere outside of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, the Gold Coast, and Perth. Immigration will provide a list of postcodes to assist applicants to determine whether their area falls into the above metropolitan areas or if it is acceptable for regional migration.

Subclass 491 Skilled Work Regional (Provisional) visa

It will be possible to lodge an Expression of Interest for this visa from 16 November 2019, and States/Territories will also be able to nominate and invite applicants from this date.

This is designed to replace the Subclass 489 visa, with both the State/Territory and Family sponsored pathways available. This visa will be valid for 5 years, with a number of compliance conditions including the requirement for all family members to live, work and study only in a designated regional area, and to notify Immigration of any reportable changes within 14 days. Immigration can also ask visa holders to provide evidence of their activities or attend an interview. Failure to comply with these conditions can lead to visa cancellation and/or loss of a pathway to permanent residency.

Subclass 494 Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional (Provisional) visa

The Subclass 494 visa process mirrors the one for TSS applications as there needs to be a Business Sponsorship (or Labour Agreement), and a Nomination either approved or submitted before a visa application can be lodged.

From 16 November 2019, businesses will be able to use this current sponsorship to nominate employees and lodge the corresponding subclass 494 visa application.

Nomination applications must include evidence that Labour Market Testing has been undertaken, as well as advice from a Regional Certifying Body confirming that the market rate is acceptable for the local area. A Skilling Australians Fund (SAF) levy is payable. Applicants must be less than 45 years of age, and hold a successful skill assessment at the time of lodgement.

Once granted, the visa will be valid for 5 years with the same regional compliance conditions as the 491 visa. Holders are also eligible for Medicare, so private health insurance is not required.

Visa holders will also be subject to a work limitation condition similar to the TSS visa, in that they are only able to work for their nominating employer. Should this employment cease, the holder has 90 days to find a new sponsor or to depart Australia.

Permanent residency pathway

Migrants who hold a Subclass 491 or 494 visas must remain on these visas in a regional area for at least 3 years before they can be considered for any other skilled visa. This includes applications for other GSM visas (189, 190), Employer Nomination Scheme, and Business visas. In addition, applicants are barred from applying for an onshore Partner visa until the 3-year residence requirement is met.

In order to be eligible for the Subclass 191 Permanent Residence (Skilled Regional) visa, applicants must meet the 3-year residence requirement, along with evidence that they have earned a minimum taxable income for three years as the holder of a regional provisional visa (amount to be confirmed) and have complied with the conditions of their 491 or 494 visa.

Amended GSM points test

The current GSM points test will be updated on 16 November, giving Skilled visa applicants additional points as follows:


Migrants interested in applying for the Subclass 489 visa must ensure they are able to lodge an EOI as soon as possible, as there are now only 2 months remaining for his visa pathway (invitations must be issued by 10 September 2019).

Similarly, migrants and businesses interested in a direct entry RSMS visa should immediately start looking at the RCB, Nomination, and Visa application requirements. Regional Certifying Bodies often have different or additional requirements to those set out by Immigration, including the need for Labour Market Testing (advertising the role) in set locations and for set periods of time.

Australia immigration changes to watch out for July

The 1st of July marked the beginning of the new immigration program year for Australia. This is when the Australian Govt. sets quotas for skilled migration. The Govt. also plans levels for state sponsorship spots at the beginning of the immigration program year.

With the beginning of the new program year, here are the changes to watch out for:

  1. Visa fee increase

Beginning on the 1st of July, most visa subclasses will see a 5.4% increase in the Visa fee. Student Visa fee increases from $575 to $606. Skilled Migration Visa fee increases from $3,755 to $3,958 while Partner Visa fee increases from $7,160 to $7,547.

However, the Visa fee for Contributory Parent Visa (Subclass 143) and Visitor Visa (Subclass 600) will remain unchanged.

  1. Changes in the points-test system for skilled migration

The changes in the points-test system for skilled migration will come into effect from November 2019. Some noteworthy changes are extra points to single applicants and awarding points for partner English skills.

  1. Partner Visa rules to become tougher

The Partner Visa of Australia will undergo procedural changes from 1st July. Starting from July, Australian partners would need to be approved first before they can sponsor their spouse or common-law partner. The background and character assessment of the Australian sponsor has to be approved before lodging the Partner Visa application. These procedural changes will also make the processing time longer.

  1. DAMA (Designated Area Migration Agreements)

The DAMA allows employers from a particular region to recruit overseas workers. The DAMA allows them to sponsor workers who may not be on the Australian occupation list. The workers also receive a concession on salary, experience and English requirement.  The DAMA also provides a pathway to Permanent Residence for these overseas workers.

The below regions are currently eligible for DAMA:

Starting 1st July 2019, employers are able to submit applications for participating in the program.

This Australian sector is struggling with a massive labour shortage

Australia is planning a number of rail and infrastructure projects around the country. Once completed, they will make commuting much easier for passengers in Australia. However, the Building and Construction industry is struggling with a massive labour shortage. They are having a tough time filling in job vacancies to get these projects off the ground.

There is a major dearth of electricians and talented engineers in this industry. Building Contractors are finding it hard to find the right guys to connect the signalling systems to the new train lines.

As per the 2018 data from Seek, electricians were the most sought-after professionals in Australia in 2018. Electricians have the highest demand in the state of Victoria.

There are a number of current and projected infrastructure projects in the state of Victoria. This has significantly increased the demand for electricians in the state. With a large number of projects running, there is a huge demand for electricians with industrial and specialized experience.

Sebastian Fleury is the Regional Head of Rail Project Delivery of Aecom. He said that he could double his workforce provided he found enough skilled people to fill in the vacancies. He also said that Aecom currently has 40 to 50 open jobs. These are mostly civil, structure and geo-technical jobs.

With a large number of infrastructures projects, companies are competing with each other to attract and retain skilled workers. Companies often pay or steal workers from other contractors when they win two or three projects.

Joe Barr, CEO of John Holland, says that finding the right people especially in the engineering domain is a tough task. He said that his company focuses on developing and retaining the engineers that are currently working with them. His company gives them new opportunities and moves them into new projects when their old projects get over.

Pathways is an industry-first program in Melbourne. It helps skilled engineers from marginalized backgrounds get a foot in the door of the construction industry. These engineers are usually refugees or come from displaced industries.

It is not always possible to transfer skills from one industry to another. For example, domestic electricians are not qualified to work on railway tunnels. This is further forcing companies in Australia to look overseas for skilled workers.

What are the health requirements of an Australian Visa?

The Migration Regulations 1994 outlines the health requirements for an Australian Visa. This is under Schedule 4 of the Public Interest Criteria.

As per the Govt, there are 3 major objectives:

  1. To ensure public safety and to safeguard Australians against infectious diseases like TB
  2. To safeguard access for Australians to medical supplies which are in short supply like organ transplants
  3. To limit the spending on community and health services

The present protocol for enforcing the policy states that it is crucial for the country and its visa programs. It is to ensure that public health risks and health costs do not spike due to incoming travellers and migrants.

Advocates have, however, been critical of the cost of health requirement. They believe that it targets those with a permanent disability. This is a breach of the international human rights that Australia is obligated to follow. This is under the United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The Australian Govt. decides if the health costs need to be increased or not on something called the “Significant cost threshold” policy. Visa applicants who have a disability or medical condition do not meet the requirement. This happens when a Medical Officer of the Commonwealth deems that the cost of the medical condition is higher than that of the threshold. Australia has currently fixed the “significant cost threshold” at $40,000, as per SBS News.

For a Temporary Australian Visa, the probable cost of services is assessed for the validity of the visa. For example, an Australian Student Visa is usually valid for a period of 4 years. Thus, the predicted health costs are calculated at approximately $12,000 per year. Someone who does not meet this threshold will not be able to fulfil the requirement.

For Australia PR applicants who are under 75 years, whether the cost is exceeded or not is calculated by the costs incurred over 5 years. For Australian PR applicants who are above 75 years, the cost is calculated by the costs incurred over a period of 3 years.