Latest Visa News Update: February 2020

Simon Earles MARAThe following content has been written by Simon Earles, a MARA registered migration agent with whom I have been working closely on this website since March 2014. Simon has already helped hundreds of my readers to move to Australia through our Visa Assessment Service.

This is the fifth of his regular Australian Visas – News Updates with the latest news regards to visas, options and eligibility. The Australian government can change the rules at any time, so these updates will appear as and when required.

We hope you find this service useful.

New Skilled Regional Visas Plus Update On New Zealanders Pathways

In the current times of tightening immigration policy there are two areas which while not considered attractive in their earlier format, may now present opportunities if you can meet the criteria. Additional points also may impact upon eligibility not possible before.

Points required for the Skilled Independent SC189 visa as a result have climbed to 90 generally and up to 95 points for some of the more popular occupations. This means, that even with additional points also introduced for partners and specialised study, this independent visa will be out of reach for many candidates and certainly for most candidates over 39 years of age.

The first of these two areas which should be revisited, is the revamped range of independent/sponsored and state and territory nominated regional visas recently released. The second is permanent residence visa options for New Zealand citizens currently in Australia on temporary Special Category (SCV) visas, which has disadvantages compared to permanent residents or Australian citizens.

1. Regional visas

Since November 2019, the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) has introduced some new more generous regional visas.
Together with this change in approach is the increase of nomination points from 10 to 15 points. Increases in certain points mentioned earlier also apply to these visas.

(a) Skilled Work Regional (SWR) SC491 visa – Points tested visa

The new temporary SWR visa requires a state or territory nomination – either by invitation or application – depending upon the availability of your gazetted occupation on the nominating states and territories lists in demand and based upon published regional post codes.

Age remains at 45 years and Competent English is the entry level required.

It is a 5 year provisional visa requiring you to live in the nominating state or territory (or at least a regional area) which transitions to the Permanent Residence (Skilled regional SC191 visa after a minimum of 3 years earning a taxable income of at least $53,900 (NOAs as proof).

This visa works in conjunction with the existing Skilled nominated SC190 visa, which is also nominated by states or territories, but it is not restricted to regional areas within states and territories or states and territories which are deemed entirely regional.

(b) Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional (SESR) SC494 visa – sponsored visa

This is the revamped RSMS which is also a provisional visa requiring a sponsor in a regional area. This visa allows progression through to permanent residency via the new Permanent Residence (Skilled Regional) SC191 visa after working for a minimum 3 years in the regional area and earning a minimum taxable income of $53,900 similarly to the SWR visa (above).

The age qualification remains at 45 years although this is no longer required at the permanent visa stage if the other mandatory conditions are met.

N.B. One of the few exceptions to this age requirement is in the New Zealand visa options, which exists as a significant advantage over other skilled visa streams.

As noted above, there are more rigorous conditions to comply with, but if you can, then transition to permanent residency is automatic, with no other involvement from the nominating authority.

Skill assessment

Both these new regional options require a valid skills assessment which is standard across skilled visas, so this is not a new requirement.

For these reasons, the SWR visa is worth a closer look because the Skilled Independent SC 189 visa is becoming increasingly competitive, and the government will continue to manipulate the score to suit its ends. The sponsored SESR visa will always require a sponsor so may be a challenge if you are overseas, unless you have a global connection.

Feel free to contact us if any of these options appear relevant to your circumstances.

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2. Visa options for NZ citizens

This is the second category individuals should pay closer attention to, since the options offer significant advantages in respect of age, skills and language exemption, whereas most of the other skilled visas are age restricted, require skill assessments and have minimum English requirements.

There are visas which New Zealand citizens can apply for like any other applicant, such as the Skilled Independent SC189 visa/ Skilled Nominated SC 190 visa. Then there are visas available only for NZ citizens or where New Zealand citizens are exempt from certain criteria, depending as always upon individual circumstances. They are as follows:

(a) Skilled Independent SC189 visa NZ pathway

The most beneficial pathway to gain permanent residence for New Zealand citizens arriving in Australia between 27 February 2001 and 19 February 2016, is the Skilled Independent SC189 visa NZ pathway. If you have been in Australia on a SC444/SCV visa for at least 5 years arriving on or before 19 February 2016 and meet the residence, income, health and character criteria, then you may qualify for this visa.

Please note:
This extremely beneficial visa is based purely upon 5 continuous years of residence, meeting the minimum income requirement and having arrived before the deeming date of 16 February 2016.

Most other skilled visas are occupation focussed, age, language and skill assessment restricted, but this option is not. No age limit, no skill assessment, no designated occupations or English language minimums. It is based purely upon residence in Australia as at the deeming date and earning the required taxable income of $53,900 for each of those continuous 5 years. If your salary drops below that level, then you will have to start again!

Conversely, if as a New Zealand citizen, you arrived on a SCV after the deeming date, then this will not be available to you. If you arrived before the 26 February 2001 you would be an Eligible New Zealand citizen (ENZC)– see (f) below.

Please note:
However this is part of the Skilled Migration program which is under some pressure, so there is no guarantee how long it will continue into the future. As we have said before – if you qualify now, you should apply now!

(b) Non-points tested Employer nominated Scheme (ENS) SC 186 visa option

This visa is part of the ENS program but offers significant advantages to NZ citizens. NZ citizens can apply via the usual ENS Direct entry pathway, if they have not been working for the nominator on a 457 or 482 visa.

Exemptions offered for age, skill and English are available to NZ citizens, which are particularly useful given the dropping of the entry age for all permanent skill-based visas to 45 years. For NZ citizens this means you will be exempt from providing a skill assessment if you have been working for the nominator in an eligible occupation for at least 2 of the last 3 years in the nominated position and have commensurate qualifications.

You do, however, need an employer willing to nominate you and there are some extraordinary fees recently introduced.

(c) Business ownership

Eligibility to apply for a permanent visa under the BIIP (Sub-class 888) – Business Innovation Stream – without first having to hold a provisional BIIP Sub-class 188 visa.

(d) New Zealand Family Relationship SC461 (advantageous to NZ Citizens)

This is a visa allowing a New Zealand citizen (SCV /SC444 visa holder) to support a visa for his or her partner based upon the relationship which exists, without changing their current status as a Special Category visa (SCV) holder. It recognises the inability of NZ citizens to sponsor under usual partner rules, because they are not permanent residents. It includes any/all family members.

It is a 5-year temporary low-cost visa which is renewable, even if the relationship with the initial NZ Citizen no longer exists, as long as the SC461 visa holder has not become part of another person’s family unit.

(e) Resident Return visa (no dependents – personal application)

The last option is the Resident Return visa (SC155). Applicants must have been in Australia for at least a day prior to the 1st September 1994 and must be able to show that they have Substantive Business, Cultural, Employment or Personal ties to Australia and Compelling circumstances for absence in excess of 5 years from the last entry as a permanent resident (pre -September 1994).

This is a stand-alone option which means the criteria can only be met by the applicant, so is not beneficial for an applicant with family members.

This option is rarely straightforward, so a detailed timeline will be the starting point. The need to provide supporting historical evidence can also be a challenge, depending of course on your circumstances.

(f) Australian Citizenship fast-track for certain NZ Citizens

Eligible NZ citizens (ENZC) also known as Protected Special Category visa holders (PSCVs), are persons who were usually resident in Australia on the 26 February 2001 (with some exceptions). If you were, then you will be deemed the equivalent of a permanent resident and may be able to apply for Australian citizenship without needing a permanent visa first.

Feel free to contact us if any of these options appear relevant to your circumstances.

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In Summary

The new Regional visas offer more options to applicants who are prepared to consider regional options.

New Zealand citizens have a range of very beneficial visas or exemptions from existing requirements depending upon individual circumstances, particularly in terms of age or skill.

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Need professional assistance?

Simon is ready and available to help you with any migration issues related to these points of interest or any other, through our Visa Assessment Service.

To get started immediately, visit our Visa Assessment Service page, purchase an assessment and follow the instructions. After you have completed your questionnaire and returned it to Simon, you will receive your full written assessment report detailing potential options for you. You will then have direct access to him to discuss your situation further. In a follow-up Skype or telephone call, Simon can answer any further relevant questions you might have.

Full details of the service are available on the page.

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