Mar 28 2019

New Population Policy to Reduce Migration Ceiling, Encourage Migration to Regional Australia


At a Glance

In its recently published 2019-2020 population policy, the Australian government announced plans to:

  • Reduce the overall migration ceiling by 15%, while increasing the number of spaces for employer-sponsored permanent visas for skilled workers by nearly 10%;
  • Encourage foreign nationals to settle in regional areas through the introduction of two regional skilled visa categories; and
  • Create initiatives to attract international students to regional areas.

The situation

On March 20, 2019, the Australian government released its population policy for 2019/2020.

Reduction of migration ceiling

  • Overall ceiling reduced. The migration ceiling will be reduced by 15% in the 2019/2020 visa program year, from 190,000 to 160,000 places, a figure that is roughly equal to the intake for 2017/2018, the lowest level in over a decade.
  • Skilled migration increases. The number of permanent Employer Sponsored skilled visa spaces will increase to 39,000, up from the current year’s number of 35,528 due to high demand in this category.
  • Impact. Skilled foreign nationals will find additional opportunities to immigrate to Australia, particularly in regional areas, despite the overall decrease in the migration ceiling.


Additional regional skilled visa options

In order to encourage foreign nationals to settle in regional areas, the following two new five-year temporary visas will be introduced in November 2019 with a total of 23,000 dedicated spots:

  • Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional (Provisional) visa. This visa will allow foreign nationals in almost 700 eligible occupations to be sponsored by an employer in Regional Australia.
  • Skilled Work Regional (Provisional) visa. This visa will allow foreign nationals in more than 500 eligible occupations to be nominated by a State or Territory government or by an eligible family member and receive additional points in the application process to live and work in regional Australia.
  • Details of new visa programs. Benefits of the new visa programs will include:
    • Priority processing. These two new visa categories will have priority processing arrangements, which allow the visas to be processed ahead of other non-regional visas.
    • Permanent residence. A Permanent Residence (Skilled Regional) visa will be available beginning in November 2022 for regional visa holders who have lived and worked in a regional area for at least three years.
    • Expanded definition of ‘regional’ Australia. Beginning November 2019, for the purposes of all skilled visas, the definition of ‘regional’ Australia will expand to include all of Australia except for the following metropolitan areas: Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Gold Coast and Perth.
  • Impact for foreign nationals. The new Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional (Provisional) visa will provide additional opportunities to foreign nationals with employers in the expanded ‘regional’ areas through access to an additional 450 occupations, priority visa processing and a pathway to permanent residence.
  • Impact for employers. Due to the expanded definition of regional Australia, employers in areas such as Newcastle and Wollongong, which were previously classified as metropolitan areas, will be allowed to participate in the new regional programs.


Initiatives for international students

  • New scholarships. In order to incentivize students to study in regional Australia, the government will make AUD 15,000 scholarships available to more than 1,000 local and foreign post-graduate students each year in certain regional areas. 
  • Temporary Graduate visa. International students studying at regional universities will be able to access a second Temporary Graduate Visa for an additional year of work authorization after completion of their studies when:
    • They graduated from the regional campus of a registered university or institution with a higher education or postgraduate qualification;
    • They maintained ongoing residence in a regional area while holding their first Temporary Graduate (subclass 485) visa; and
    • They maintain ongoing residence in a regional area.
  • Impact. Foreign nationals will have additional opportunities to study and work post-graduation in Australia, creating incentives for skilled foreign nationals to remain in these areas.




Looking ahead

Australia’s future immigration policies are expected to continue to favor highly-skilled foreign nationals under the current government.

This alert is for informational purposes only. If you have any questions, please contact the global immigration professional with whom you work at Fragomen or send an email to [email protected].

MARN: 0004980