Permanent migration slashed to 160,000; 186/187 visa numbers increasing; two new regional visas announced

It had been rumoured for a couple of days now, however, finally the prime minister gave details on the cut to Australia’s permanent migration numbers as well as introducing two visa visas to incentivise new migrants to settle in regional areas. These changes, tipped to be supported by the opposition Labor Party, meaning its implementation is effectively assured, stems from population and infrastructure pressures in Melbourne, Sydney, and South East Queensland.

In his media release today, he clarifies that permanent migration places will be reduced by 30,000 to 160,000 places. It seems that independent skilled visas will be in the crosshairs as employer sponsored visas, which consist of the Subclass 186 – Employer Nomination Scheme visa and the Subclass 187 – Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme visa will actually increase from 35,528 in 2017-18 to 39,000 places in 2019-20, and Family visas will remain at 47,732 places. This makes sense as the demand-driven employer sponsored program has seen better labour market outcomes than all other visa programs.

Where independent skilled visas are receiving attention is with the introduction of two new regional visas complete with promises of priority processing and a more eligible occupations. Unlike the Subclass 489 – Skilled - Regional (Provisional) visa which requires holders to live in a regional or designated area for at least two years and work in that area for at least one year to meet a criterion for a permanent Subclass 887 – Skilled – Regional visa, these new visas will require holders to live and work in a regional area for at least three years before being eligible to apply for a permanent visa. There will be 23,000 places for these regional visas.

They appear very similar to 489 visas, which have mandatory visa conditions (8539 and 8549), which if not complied with will see holders not meet the criteria for an 887 visa at best, and could have their visas cancelled at worst. It may be that 489 visas will be eventually abolished in the future.

Lastly, international students who study at a regional university will receive an additional year on a post-study work visa. This appears to translate to an additional year of a Subclass 485 – Temporary (Graduate) visa under the Post-Study stream, which is for graduates of bachelors, masters, and doctoral degrees. Unfortunately, given the terminology used, 485 visas under the Graduate Work stream will probably not benefit.

These announcements should not come as a surprise and was predicted in October 2018, the last paragraph being particularly divining!