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The Australian Government, in consultation with state and territory governments and regional development authorities introduced a range of State Specific and Regional Migration (SSRM) initiatives designed to help state and territory governments to:
- address skill shortages that may exist in their jurisdiction
- attract overseas business people to establish new or joint ventures in their regions
- encourage a more balanced settlement of Australia's skilled migrant intake.
These initiatives include flexible criteria which recognise the special circumstances of rural and regional areas. They aim to attract young, skilled, English speaking migrants to areas of Australia where they are most needed. Skilled migration visas which are sponsored by regional employers or state and territory governments receive priority processing. This enables state and territory governments and regional employers to influence the number and profile of skilled migrants settling in their areas in line with their skill needs and development objectives.
Research into population distribution in Australia shows three major factors in determining where migrants settle:
- the location of family members
- the availability of employment
- business opportunities.
The SSRM initiatives are consistent with these findings and are described below.
Skilled Regional (Provisional) visa
The Skilled Regional (Provisional) visa (subclass 489) is for skilled people who want to live and work in a specified designated area in Australia.
Successful applicants are granted a four year temporary visa to give them time to satisfy the residence and employment criteria for a permanent visa.
Applicants (including secondary applicants) must live, work and study only in a specified regional area of Australia for at least two years.
Further information on the requirements for the Skilled Regional (Provisional) visa (subclass 489) is available on the department's website.
Pathway to permanent residence
When a Skilled Regional (Provisional) visa (subclass 489) holder has held their visa for at least two years they can apply for the permanent Skilled Regional visa (subclass 887) provided they have lived for two years and worked full time for at least one year in a specified regional area in Australia.
Skilled Regional (Provisional) visa (subclass 489) holders also have the option of applying for a permanent visa under the direct entry stream of the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme visa (subclass 187) if they have the support of a regional employer in regional Australia at any time.
Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme
The Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (RSMS) is specifically designed to assist regional employers nominate skilled migrants to fill a full time vacancy (available for at least two years) when there is a genuine need for a paid employee in a business located in regional Australia.
The RSMS category is not points tested and applicants may be overseas or already in Australia on a temporary visa. RSMS covers all areas of Australia except Brisbane, Gold Coast, Newcastle, Sydney, Wollongong and Melbourne.
Generally, applicants under the RSMS need to be less than 50 years of age, meet a certain level of English language proficiency and have qualifications and skill requirements relevant to the nominated occupation.
There are objective exemptions available for age, skills and English language ability. Please see the following fact sheet for more information.
See: Age, Skill and English Language Exemptions – Permanent Employer Sponsored Programme
Regional Certifying Bodies
Regional Certifying Bodies (RCBs) are a diverse network of state and territory government agencies, local chambers of commerce, local government councils and regional development bodies. Advice provided by an RCB is intended to ensure all RSMS direct entry stream nominations have been scrutinised by a third party who is familiar with local labour market conditions and who may be able to provide information on regional matters which the department may not be aware of.
Currently there are a range of RCBs covering regional areas in all states and territories.
See: Regional Certifying Bodies
State/territory nomination for Business Innovation and Investment visa applicants
The Business Innovation and Investment visa programme is an entirely state and territory government nominated visa programme. This allows state and territory governments to attract entrepreneurs and investors to assist in the economic development of specific areas. In particular, state and territory governments are actively encouraging business skills migrants to set up business in regional, rural or low population growth areas.
Under this category the majority of business and investment migrants will enter Australia on a Business Innovation and Investment (Provisional) visa for four years.
After satisfactory evidence of a specified level of business or investment activity, holders of Business Innovation and Investment (Provisional) visas may apply for permanent residence under the Business Innovation and Investment (Permanent) visa.
The programme also provides for the direct migration of innovative and talented entrepreneurs with substantial experience in business through the Business Talent (Permanent) visa. The Business Innovation and Investment programme is designed to increase innovation, investment and entrepreneurial talent, thereby benefiting the Australian economy. It is positioned to target migrants that have a demonstrated history of success in innovation, investment and business and are able to make a significant contribution to the national innovation system and to the Australian economy.
Generally business migrants need to be less than 55 years of age, unless the business is determined to be of exceptional economic benefit.
Temporary Entry Initiatives
In addition to the regional migration initiatives above, which lead to permanent residence in Australia, the following initiatives relate to temporary residence.
Investor Retirement visa
The Investor Retirement visa (subclass 405) enables state and territory governments to sponsor self-funded retirees to reside in Australia.
Applicants must be 55 years or older, have no dependents other than a partner, be able to meet financial requirements including income and asset tests and make a significant long term financial investment in Australia. They are required to pay a second visa application charge each time they renew the visa to help offset possible costs to the Australian Government of having additional retirees in Australia.
This visa does not provide permanent resident status but does allow visa holders to remain in Australia indefinitely, subject to meeting the requirements for subsequent visa grants. As temporary residents, investor retirement visa holders do not have access to many of the Commonwealth and state/territory provided services available to Australian citizens and permanent residents.
Working Holiday visa
The Working Holiday visa (subclass 417) is a tourism and cultural exchange-based visa programme which allows young adults, aged 18-30, from eligible partner countries to have an extended holiday of up to 12 months in Australia, during which they can engage in short term work and study.
While predominantly a 'once-in-a-lifetime' opportunity for participants, first time working holiday visa holders who undertake at least three months (88 days) 'specified work' in the agriculture, mining or construction industries within regional Australia during their stay, acquire eligibility to apply for a second working holiday visa. The second working holiday (subclass 417) visa initiative, introduced in 2005, thus creates an incentive which encourages participants to travel to and work in regional Australia.
Australian state and territory governments encourage more skilled migrants to settle in many regions of Australia.
See: Regional Initiatives - Overview
Fact Sheet 26. Produced by the National Communications Branch, Department of Immigration and Border Protection, Canberra.
Last reviewed January 2014.