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.


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.


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.


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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{ 13 comments… add one }
  • Adam D April 20, 2021, 3:20 am |

    Would you be able to suggest anywhere I could approach to get some information on (a) whether the average processing time for a subclass 482 TSS visa (I’m in an occupation on the Priority Migration Skilled Occupation list [medical practitioner] if this makes any difference) currently advertised on the Department of Home Affairs website remains accurate in this COVID era; and (b) on getting this visa, roughly how long it might take to get an entry exemption to Australia given the current border closure, plus spot on a flight and in a quarantine hotel?

    I do have an offer of employment and willing employer sponsor.

    This would be really helpful for my planning with what to do with my remaining time in the UK. I’m planning to initially apply for a 482 TSS visa as processing times are shorter, but would ultimately like to get a skilled independent or skilled nominated PR visa (my employer would probably be willing to sponsor me for this).

    • BobinOz April 21, 2021, 8:19 pm |

      Hi Adam, that’s a difficult question for me to answer at the moment, everything seems to be hit and miss at the moment what with the pandemic.

      I’m wondering though, when you got this offer of employment with your prospective employer happy to sponsor you, if they also have a MARA registered migration agent working with them to sort the visa out for you? If they do, that would be who to ask, they may well be able to give you some idea of timing.

      If you are doing the application yourself, then once it’s received I think you should be allocated a case officer and they may be able to give you some idea at that point. Other than that, I think you may be stuck with a ‘wait and see what happens’ situation. Sorry I couldn’t be more helpful.

      • Adam D April 23, 2021, 6:11 am |

        Many thanks. I think my prospective employer does have an association with a MARA agent, so will see what they have to say once I get to that point.

        • BobinOz April 23, 2021, 4:39 pm |

          Perfect! Good luck, Bob

  • Andrew Middleton January 16, 2021, 6:26 am |

    Yes, visa applications are still being processed but given the travel restrictions onshore applications are generally being processed in priority to offshore ones.
    As regards a permanent work visa, as soon as your wife turns 40 she’ll lose 10 points in her application. But if she doesn’t have significant post-qualification work experience for the role she won’t gain any experience points anyway. Even if she first got sponsored for a temporary work visa in 3 years time, by which time she would have 5 points for work experience in the UK for a future permanent application, she’d have lost the 10 points for being over 40. If she then worked for 1 or 2 years in Australia on her temporary visa, she’d pick up another 5 points for Australia work experience. But again that would only offset the remainder of the 10 points she lost for being over 40. And as soon as she hits 45, her realistic permanent options are basically over.
    So I think she’s basically trapped between a rock and a hard place. She needs time to gain post qualification experience to get enough points for a permanent skills visa but as time passes she’s butting up against the age limit.
    She would need to engage a registered agent to help her carefully plot a route in through non-standard means (e.g. doing a doctorate in order to boost her education points). I think this could help to get her enough points to technically “pass” but her points total may still be low relative to other applications.

    • James Rollinson January 19, 2021, 3:10 am |

      Thankyou again for your advice. Once she has qualified as a social worker (July 2021) she will then be working in the role but also boosting her qualification to Masters level so hopefully she will get more points for that? She has also worked for 17 years in a social care settings which if worded correctly may count as experience ? What do you think ? Yes we will work with BobinOz and Simon Earles to help navigate the best route. ??

  • James Rollinson January 15, 2021, 11:53 pm |

    Hi Simon Thank you for your reply. Can you still apply for visas at the moment even though there is not currently any travel ? Ps my wife turns 40 in may so are we running out of time. Thanks for your advice. James

    • James Rollinson January 15, 2021, 11:54 pm |

      Sorry I meant Andrew ?

  • James Rollinson January 15, 2021, 10:29 pm |

    Hey Bob. A few years back we had and assessment and a Skype meeting with Simon Earles regarding our options for visa etc. Unfortunately the employment myself and wife were in did not match for Oz. We have both retrained and are hoping this may give us another chance (obviously once Covid had gone). I am now a police officer and my wife will be a fully qualified social worker shortly. My question is I am 47 years old my wife is 39. Would me been an old fart stop me from gaining a visa? Not sure if you are able to answer this with the information I’ve given you or if we would need to go through a further assessment. Anyway I look forward to hearing from you with as always amazing advice. Thanks in advance James and Amy Rollinson

    • Andrew Middleton January 15, 2021, 11:04 pm |

      Your age will mean you can’t get additional points for your wife’s skills visa but doesn’t preclude her from getting that skills visa or preclude you from getting a partner visa. But get cracking ASAP because it will be much harder for your wife to get enough points once she turns 40!

      • BobinOz January 16, 2021, 5:04 pm |

        Sounds like you are in the exact same position I was in when we first applied to move to Australia back in 2006 James. I was also 47 and my wife was 39, so we had to make the application in my wife’s name and I was allowed in as her partner. My details were quite irrelevant, although of course I did have to pass the medical and the character test.

  • RaoulDuke December 2, 2020, 6:30 am |

    I think most Aussies would be expecting the government to turn on the immigration tap as soon as international travel opens up again.

    • BobinOz December 4, 2020, 5:46 pm |

      Yes, I agree. Australia simply cannot grow without a specific level of immigration and it also needs the return of international students which is a huge source of income for Australia.

      Like yourself, I think as soon as international travel opens up again, the Australian government will once again target skilled migration to address various skills shortages across the country. Hopefully it will be sometime next year.

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