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Pros and cons of the newly-announced Australian regional visas

Regional visas
The rules of the new regional visas mean migrants must spend at least 3 years living in regional Australia before they can apply for permanent residency. Source: SBS News
The two new regional visas that came into effect mid-month open the door for skilled migrants to obtain permanent residence and eventually, citizenship. Learn about some of their advantages and disadvantages.

Do you want to live in Australia? The good news is there are two new migration routes, but there’s a catch: you must live and work in a regional area.

If you meet this requirement, then the door opens for you to obtain permanent residence. After a few years, you could even apply for citizenship.

As of Saturday, qualified migrants who commit to living and working in a regional area will have access to two new provisional visas, the Australian government announced.

The list includes hundreds of occupations. Now, real estate agents, journalists, accountants, paramedics, filmmakers, historians, among others, will be able to apply for this visa.

Those who obtain regional visas will be able to apply for permanent residency if they prove they have lived in a regional area for at least three years.

The two new visas:
— The Skilled Employer-Sponsored Regional (Provisional), which is aimed at migrants who are sponsored by an employer from a regional area of Australia.

— Skilled Work Regional (Provisional), which targets people who are nominated by a state or territory government, or sponsored by an eligible family member to live and work in a regional area of Australia.

The Pros
The government has also simplified the definition of regional Australia. The entirety of Australia, except for Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, has been re-classed as regional for migratory purposes.

This means qualified migrants can settle in satellite cities, such as Wollongong, Newcastle or Geelong, near Sydney or Melbourne. Another option is the Gold Coast, an hour’s drive from Brisbane.

Migrants in regional areas will also be «eligible for Medicare, which will lower the cost of living for families,» Rincon explained. Children will also have access to public education.

«Apparently the states are very interested in this … as it creates an incentive to live in small cities,» he added.

Gold Coast is now considered as a regional area for 491 and 494 Visa subclass consideration.
Gold Coast is considered as a regional area for 491 and 494 Visa subclass consideration.

Additional benefits for international students
For international students, the ‘graduate visa’, which is available to those who have studied in Australia, will be extended “to three or four years” in some cases where students have undertaken their courses in regional cities for two years, according to the agent.

In addition, «the vast majority of states have permanent residency nomination programs for their graduates, so study becomes a path to permanent residency.»

The Northern Territory

The Northern Territory also offers interesting opportunities for people who speak different languages, with the increasing development of industries such as tourism, agriculture, mining, renewable energy and the space industry.

AUSTRADE NT Director, Martin Ferreyra, told SBS Spanish that the Northern Territory’s geographical position offers unique market opportunities within Australia and abroad.

“The southern part of the NT has access to a market of more than 24 million people in Australia, plus five hours north from Darwin, there is a market of 400 million people in South and Southeast Asia and China,» he explained.

«For Latin-American migrants, this represents an important opportunity because the NT offers a good lifestyle, and great work opportunities,» Ferreyra said.

He believes «Latin America is yet to discover that the Northern Territory offers exciting lifestyle options for study and work.”

The Cons: Visa requirements and lack of infrastructure

One of the difficulties that migrants on these new visas will face is that even if they spend three years in a regional area when applying for a permanent visa, there is a minimum salary of A$53,900 a year to qualify for permanent residence, something the Australian Migration Institute has criticised.

Rincon also believes this requirement to be unfair.

«Permanent residence for three years cannot be made contingent on the income of nearly A$54,000. I would expect there to be an adjustment as time passes,» he said.