The 494 Visa Regional Sponsorship Visa enables regional employers to address identified labour shortages within their region by sponsoring skilled workers where employers can't source an appropriately skilled Australian worker.
Australia offers a wide range of work visas catering for different needs. The one you need will depend on whether you are applying through the regional migration, innovation, investment, temporary skilled shortage, permanent work, or short stay pathways. In this article, we will take a look at how to secure an Australian 494 regional sponsorship visa, including the eligibility requirements, the costs and processing times, and whether it is possible to gain permanent residency (PR).
The full name of the subclass 494 visa is the ‘Skilled Employer-Sponsored Regional (Provisional) visa’. It is intended to allow employers in Australia to address labour shortages within their region by enabling them to sponsor skilled workers from overseas if they are unable to find suitably skilled candidates already in the country. This can often be a challenge for employers in Australia’s more regional and remote areas due to the smaller population. Successful applicants can stay in Australia for up to five years to live, work, and study, but they must remain in their designated region of Australia during this time.
To make a successful application for a Skilled Employer-Sponsored Regional (Provisional) visa, you must:
In addition to these requirements, applicants must also meet the health and character criteria, not had a previous visa cancelled or application refused, and sign the Australian values statement confirming they will respect the Australian way of life and obey Australian laws. In terms of where you can live, work and study, 494 visa holders are restricted to designated regional areas (essentially anywhere in the country outside of the main centres of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane).
The objective of a skills assessment in Australia is to demonstrate that the applicant has the skills necessary to undertake the role they are being employed for. For this reason, it is important to apply for and gain a positive skills assessment from the relevant authority before applying for a visa. A full list of assessing authorities is available online. To get a skills assessment, you will first need to contact the relevant assessing authority for your occupation. They will explain the process and carry out your assessment.
According to the latest guidance from the Australian Department for Home Affairs, 75% of applications are processed within 78 days and 90% of applications within five months. This is clearly a large range, however, this is to cater for the fact that some applications are more complex and require more information than others. By engaging an immigration lawyer, you can ensure that the processing time for your 494 visa application is as short as possible.
The Skilled Employer-Sponsored Regional (Provisional) visa often comes with a specified condition (8608 - must work only in the nominated occupation). The guidance states, “You cannot work in a different occupation unless you apply for and are granted a new Skilled Employer-Sponsored Regional (Provisional) visa”.
The guidance also explains, “Unless an exemption applies, you can only work for the business that nominated you, if your visa was granted under a Labour agreement for the business that nominated you or an associated entity if your visa was granted under a Standard Business Sponsorship”. It is possible to work for another employer as long as “the occupation is specified by the Minister in an instrument or your employment is ending, and you are serving out a notice period”. If either of these applies to you, you will still need to get your new employer to lodge a nomination for you, and this must be approved before you can switch to their employment.
If you are unsure if you can switch employers, speak to an immigration Solicitor who will be able to advise you.
To sponsor an overseas worker on a subclass 494 visa, the employer must be a Standard Business Sponsor or have lodged an application to become a sponsor. To make a successful application to become a Standard Business Sponsor, your business must be legally established and currently operating. There must also be no adverse information that may lead to a refusal. The Department of Home Affairs will also check that the applying business has a strong record of, or a demonstrated commitment to, employing local labour, and they will not engage in discriminatory recruitment practices.
The cost for a prospective overseas employee of a 494 visa is currently AUD$4,045. There is no nomination fee payable by the employer.
It is not possible to extend or renew the 494 visa (it is intended to be temporary). It is possible, however, to apply for permanent residency after three years from the date the 494 visa is granted.
The Skilled Employer-Sponsored Regional (Provisional) – subclass 494 visa offers a considerable advantage over other temporary visas as it provides a route to PR in a relatively short period of time. Given the range of visas available in Australia, it is always advisable to seek clarification that you are on the best path for your needs and those of your family. Speak to immigration lawyers if you are unsure if the 494 visa is correct for you.
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