Skilled Work Regional (Provisional) Visa – Subclass 491

491 Visa

The subclass 491 visa allows eligible skilled workers and their dependant family members to live, work and study in designated regional areas of Australia for up to 5 years.

Like the 489 visa that proceeded it, the 491 is a points-tested visa for applicants sponsored by:

  • an eligible family member residing in a designated regional area of Australia; or
  • a designated regional area of an Australian state or territory.

Some things to note:

  • 45 year age limit;
  • competent English at time of application;
  • points tested; and
  • requires a positive/suitable skills assessment

What is the 491 visa?

The 491 visa is a skilled regional visa that allows you to live and work in a regional or low-population growth metropolitan area of Australia for up to four years. The requirements for a 491 visa differ considerably depending on the pathway used to apply.

For those considering living in regional Australia, the 491 can be a vital stepping stone between arriving in Australia, and permanent residency. As a skilled visa, the 491 lets you live and work in regional or low-population areas of Australia without needing sponsorship from an employer.

What are the benefits of the 491 visa?

  • priority processing of regional applications to help meet the demand in regional Australia
  • Incentives for migrants to stay in regional areas longer, to build ties in the community and workforce
  • more points available to the visa applicants

What parts of Australia are “designated regional areas”?

Any part of Australia excluding Sydney, Brisbane, Gold Coast, Perth and Melbourne. The 491 visa will also include the regions of Newcastle, Wollongong and the NSW Central Coast.

Visa holders can move between regional areas.

What are the pathways to the 491 visa, and their requirements?

There are three pathways to the 491 visa:

  1. The invited pathway
  2. The extended stay pathway
  3. The subsequent entry pathway.

The Invited Pathway

Most applicants new to regional Australia will be applying through the invited pathway. The invited pathway is very different to the extended and subsequent entry pathways, and has more in common with other skilled visa types.

There are two ways to enter the invited pathway. The first is through nomination by a State or Territory government. If you apply for a 491 visa through a State or Territory nomination, you must live and work in this State or Territory for the duration of your visa.

Sponsorship by a family member

The second way to enter the invited pathway is through sponsorship by an eligible relative living in a designated area of Australia. If you apply for a 491 visa through sponsorship, you will need to live and work in this designated area.

The eligibility requirements for invited pathway applicants are as follows:

  • You are nominated by a state or territory government agency or be sponsored by an eligible relative
  • You are invited to apply
  • You have a relevant occupation on the relevant skilled occupation list
  • You have a positive skills assessment for that occupation
  • You meet the points test pass mark of 60 points
  • You are under 45 years of age at time of invitation
  • You have Competent English
  • You meet the general eligibility criteria including health and character requirements

The Extended Stay Pathway

The extended stay pathway is for applicants who already hold, but have never held more than one, subclass 475, 487, 495 or 496 visa. The 475 and 487 are sponsored visas, while the 495 and 496 are legacy visas that are no longer issued.

A visa obtained through the extended stay pathway lasts for four years from the grant date of your current visa. So for example, if you have been on a 482 visa for 2 years, your 491 visa would last a further 2 years.

The eligibility requirements for extended stay pathways applicants are as follows:

  • You have held a 475, 487, 495 or 496 visa for at least two years
  • You have never held more than one of these visas
  • You meet the general eligibility criteria including health and character requirements

The Subsequent Entry Pathway

The subsequent entry pathway is for applicants who are a member of the family unit of someone who currently holds a 489, 491, 475, 487, 495 or 496 visa.

A visa granted through the subsequent entry pathway only remains valid until the visa that the family member holds ends.

The eligibility requirements for subsequent entry applicants are as follows:

  • A member of your family unit is the primary holder of a 489, 491, 475, 487, 495 or 496 visa.
  • You meet the general eligibility criteria including health and character requirements

There is no English language skill requirement for this visa, however if you do not speak functional English, you will be required to pay an extra fee.

Expression of Interest (EOI)

To be eligible for a 491 visa through the invited pathway you must first submit an Expression of Interest. You must then wait to be invited to apply. If you’re applying for State or Territory nomination, you can choose those you are interested in when submitting your EOI.

Listed Occupation

To obtain a 491 visa, you must select and apply for an occupation on the relevant occupations list. You will then need to obtain positive skills assessment for the occupation you have selected. The available occupations differ depending on whether you are applying for nomination by a State or Territory, or if you are sponsored by a family member.

Points Tested

Applicants for the invited pathway of the 491 visa are allocated a certain number of points based on personal criteria that includes work experience, qualifications, English level, and age. Like other Skilled Visas, the 491 requires a minimum of 60 points in order to qualify. However, applicants will be invited to apply in point order by occupation, meaning in some competitive occupations a higher number of points may lead to an earlier invitation.

What is the ranking system for an invitation to apply for a 491 visa?

Applicants will need to meet a minimum points score to apply. Invitations will be ranked in the following order:

  • First: primary applicants with a skilled spouse or de facto partner
  • Equal First: primary applicants without a spouse of de facto partner
  • Second: primary applicants with a spouse or de facto partner who can demonstrate competent English but does not have the skills for skilled partner points (age and skills)
  • Third: primary applicants with a partner who is ineligible for either competent English or Skilled partner points. These applicants will be ranked below all other cohorts, if all other points claims are equal

Moving from a 491 visa to Permanent Residency (PR)

The 491 is a 5 year visa. Applicants are eligible and able to access permanent residence through the Subclass 191 (Permanent Residence (Skilled Regional) visa if they have lived, worked or studied in the designated regional area for at least 3 years, whilst holding a 491 visa.

491 visa income requirement of $53,900 or above

An applicant will also need to demonstrate earnings of at least $53,900 annually for three years. For those including a partner in their 491 application, only one needs to show the three years of annual salary at or above $53,900. Alternatively, your partner can be the main applicant for the 191 visa if they can demonstrate this criteria.

Deciding which permanent visa to choose can be complex, and a migration agent or immigration lawyer will help you gain an understanding of the different options available to your circumstances.

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