Regional 494 and 491 visas: Minimum salary/income threshold set to TSMIT $53,900 per year

In the latest edition of the Department of Home Affair’s Skilled visa newsletter it has been revealed that the minimum salary and taxable income thresholds for the new Subclass 494 – Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional (Provisional) visa and Subclass 191 – Permanent Residence (Skilled Regional) visa respectively, will be the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT) which is currently $53,900 per annum. This is one major component of these visas that is now known despite no legislative instrument being released.

There is, however, one big difference between these thresholds that 494 visa holders will want to be very wary. For 494 visas, this is minimum salary that an employer can nominate for a 494 visa, unless concessions apply, such as through a 494 labour agreement or under a Designated Area Migration Agreement (DAMA). For a 191 visa, this is the minimum taxable income that a 494 visa holder (and a 491 visa holder) must have earned in each income year.

What this means is that 494 visa holders who are on a salary close to the TSMIT will not want to claim tax deductions, even if they are eligible for them, as their taxable income may drop below the TSMIT if they want to apply for a 191 visa down the track.

The TSMIT now does some heavy lifting in Australia’s migration program, being a threshold for a number of visas, including:

  • Subclass 186 – Employer Nomination Scheme visa;

  • Subclass 187 – Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme visa;

  • Subclass 189 – Skilled – Independent visa under the New Zealand stream;

  • Subclass 191 – Permanent Residence (Skilled Regional);

  • Subclass 494 – Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional (Provisional) visa; and the

  • Subclass 482 – Temporary Skill Shortage visa.

One wonders whether having the TSMIT underpin a major aspect of these visas is a good idea considering the disparity in the cost of living between regional and non-regional areas, and especially after it was unsuccessfully floated in the recent federal election to increase the TSMIT to $65,000. Perhaps it may have been better to create a regional TSMIT instead?

The newsletter also heralds that regional visas will receive priority processing, which it does anyway except for 186 visas nominated by an employer who is party to a labour agreement under a DAMA or a Global Talent Scheme agreement.

As 494 visas will generally come under the standard business sponsor regime and while it is effectively replacing 187 visas under the Direct Entry stream, it is hoped these visas to be processed at the same pace, if not quicker, than 482 visas where currently 90 per cent of applications are processed within 54 days under the Short-term stream instead of the eyewatering 24 months for 187 visas under the Direct Entry stream.