Skilled Work Regional (Provisional) Visa – Subclass 491

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

The 491 visa has a validity period of up to 5 years.

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 two streams – what are the requirements?

State/Territory sponsored stream

  • Must be nominated by State/Territory Government
  • Review rights for refusal to grant this visa to an offshore applicant will extend to State/Territory authorities

Family member sponsored stream

  • Must be sponsored by a family member who is over 18 and is an Australian Citizen, Australian permanent resident or eligible New Zealand citizen
  • Sponsor must usually be a resident in a designated regional area
  • Sponsor must be related to the primary applicant or their spouse/defacto partner
  • Family member is defined as – parent, child or step-child, brother, sister, adoptive brother, adoptive sister, step-bother or step-sister; or an aunt, uncle, adoptive aunt, adoptive uncle, step-aunt to step-uncle; or a nephew, niece, adoptive nephew, adoptive niece, step-nephew or step-niece; or a grandparent; or a first cousin
  • A family member has an obligation to assist the visa holder to the extent necessary, financially, with accommodation and to participate in an English language program for 2 years

New Schedule 6D Points Test – how will they be allotted?

A revised points system will introduce new ways for applicants to earn points towards their scores. The changes to the points will be beneficial – no applicant with a pending application, nor intending migrants will be adversely affected as the changes provide for the award of additional points. Points will be awarded for attributes that are linked with the applicant’s ability to make the greatest economic contribution.

This is a notable change, as the current point system does not allocate appropriate weight to the skill of a partner. Greater emphasis is placed on the assessment of secondary applicants (skilled spouses or de facto partners), so that these applicants with skills and other desirable employment-related characteristics (the community, workforce and and economy) contribute significantly to the points score of the primary applicant.

More points will be available to 491 visa applicants. New points for age, qualifications, overseas and Australian work experience, Australian study and English points will apply.

The new Points Test is amended to award:

  • 15 points for nomination by a State or Territory government agency or sponsorship by a family member residing in regional Australia, to live and work in regional Australia
  • 10 points for certain Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) qualifications

Partner points – 10 points if one of the following apply:

  • skilled spouse or de facto partner (skills assessment and competent English); or
  • applicants without a spouse or de facto partner.
  • 5 points if your partner has competent English. Your partner can be over 45 years of age, and does not need a Skills Assessment.

The extra points allotted to partners with competent English acts as an incentive for couples as a unit to improve their English competency in order to be more competitive in points test rankings. These additional points ensure the best and brightest skilled migrants are selected – single or partnered.

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

Applicants will need to meet 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

Permanent residency?

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 satisfy the following requirements:

  • lived, worked or studied in the designated regional area for at least 3 years, whilst holding a 491 visa; and
  • show 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.


  • VAC – Base application charge: primary applicant $3,755; additional applicant over 18 years: $1,875; under 18 years: $940
  • Second VAC instalment if required – Less than functional English over 18 years: $4,890; any other applicant: nil

I am currently on a 489 visa – what do I do?

The holders of a current 489 visa, and those who lodge a 489 prior to 16 November 2019 will not be affected by the new visa, and continue to have a PR pathway through the 887 visa.

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