Australia needs more skilled migrants. Here are the visa opportunities in each state
The states and territories have been relaxing visa conditions to help attract skilled workers from overseas. Here’s a guide to some of the opportunities available.
Australia’s states and territories have been easing certain visa conditions as they compete to attract the best skilled migrants.
There is a shortage of skilled migrants in the country, something the Federal Government hopes to tackle at its Jobs and Skills Summit, which starts on Thursday.
What is state sponsorship?
Many migrants are sponsored by employers for a visa to stay in Australia generally. But state and territory authorities can also nominate skilled workers for visas under the State Nominated Migration Program, and they are increasingly relaxing their criteria to make it easier for people to apply.
Workers sponsored by state authorities don’t have to be tied to a particular employer but they do have to be aged under 45 years old. There is also no guarantee of a job in the state, so they have to find their own position.
Successful applicants are given a permanent visa allowing them to live in the country indefinitely in the case of the Skilled Nominated subclass 190 visa or provided with a pathway to become a permanent resident after working in regional areas as part of the Skilled Work Regional (Provisional) (subclass 491) visa. A small number of visas are also available for those who own their own business.
How many places are there?
The Department of Home Affairs has made almost 50,000 state nominated visas available this year, with New South Wales allocated the highest amount. It’s possible that allocation may be revisited after the first quarter of 2022/23.
Some states have pushed hard to get more spots this year, with Western Australia doubling its number of visas after the government lobbied the federal government for an extra allocation. It will now offer 8,140 places this financial year.
WA Premier Mark McGowan said the changes would help boost skilled migration in areas of high demand by making migrating there easier.
“WA’s strong economic growth, very low unemployment rate and high demand for skilled workers mean there is a need to attract in-demand workers through a variety of channels to help sustain our economy,” he said.
Which skills are included?
WA, along with other states, has also loosened its occupation lists and other criteria.
Migration agent Ivanna Cheng of Melbourne-based Southern Cross Visa and Migration Services said Victoria had opened up its list of occupations to include almost every industry.
“Last year was very targeted, they were looking at people with STEM skills only in certain sectors, including healthcare and medical research,” she said.
“If you didn’t meet that specific criteria … you weren’t eligible to be selected for state sponsorship.”
Even though the criteria had been eased, Ms Cheng said it was still quite restrictive and it had always been reasonably competitive to get a spot. Authorities also still prioritise specific occupations and industries.
“Victoria is saying, ‘if you’ve already got a job in Victoria and you’ve been working here for some time, we’re going to prioritise you,'” she said.
Many states ask potential applicants to enter their details in the Department of Home Affairs’ Skillselect system. Candidates with the right type of qualifications are then invited to apply for state nomination.
But Ms Cheng warned: “There’s not a lot of transparency so you could express your interest and never really get a good indication as to whether you stand a chance of being selected”.
Can you apply from overseas?
Restrictions on people living overseas applying for nomination have also been eased in many jurisdictions. Ms Cheng said Victoria stopped accepting overseas applicants during the COVID-19 pandemic but had dropped this restriction.
But people already living in Australia are generally banned from applying for nomination in other states, partly because they are considered less likely to move if they’ve already established themselves.
“Although you declare that you’ll live in Victoria for at least two years, once the visa is approved, there’s no way they can really hold you to that,” Ms Cheng said.
Those who receive a regional visa are more restricted to living in certain areas as they don’t get permanent residency straight away but Ms Cheng said “regional” was defined quite broadly and basically included anywhere outside of Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.
“So you could go and live in Canberra, or Adelaide or Perth,” she said.
The criteria for state-nominated visas can vary widely. See some specific information for different jurisdictions below.
WA now has the third largest allocation of state-nominated spots after NSW and Victoria, with 5,350 subclass 190 visas and 2790 regional visas available. More than 100 extra jobs were added to its skilled occupation list this year, bringing the total to 276.
Mr McGowan says other temporary measures will also be introduced, including waiving the $200 application fee, halving the requirement for an employment contract from 12 months to six months, and reducing the requirements for applicants to show they have sufficient funds.
Extra English requirements for professional and manager positions will also be removed, and work experience requirements will be reduced.
The temporary changes will be implemented over the next month.
Victoria has the second highest number of state nominated visas available with a quota of 11,570 places for 2022/23. It has the highest number of subclass 190 visas (9,000), as well as 2,400 regional visas and 170 business visas.
The state has expanded its eligible list of occupations to include more than 420 jobs on the Commonwealth’s skilled list. It will also allow applicants living overseas, as well as those already living in Victoria, to apply for its visas.
The list of eligible occupations in Queensland has been expanded to include 114 occupations in 2022/23. Overseas applicants will also be able to apply for the first time since the emergence of COVID-19.
A spokesman for the Training and Skills Development department said the Queensland Government had requested a higher quota of state-nominated visas than in previous years, to “allow us to nominate more migrants to meet critical skills needs”.
This year it will have 3,000 subclass 190 visas, as well as 1,200 regional visas and 235 business visas.
SA has already opened applications for its sponsorship program, with more than 500 occupations eligible. It will also select overseas applicants who have lodged an expression of interest on the SkillSelect database.
SA has been allocated 2,700 subclass 190 visas, as well as 3,180 regional, and 70 business visas.
The Northern Territory is one of the few jurisdictions that won’t accept applications from those living overseas. It also asks that successful applicants agree to live and work in the NT for at least three years.
The applicant’s occupation must be included as one of the more than 420 jobs on the Commonwealth’s skilled list, but the NT also points to a shorter list of more than 200 jobs that are in demand in the territory.
New South Wales
NSW has the largest allocation of state-nominated positions, with more than 12,000 places.
A spokesperson for Investment NSW said it had developed simplified nomination criteria to “improve the client experience and streamline application processing” this year.
The spokesperson said the occupation list was still under development and would be published on the NSW migration website in the coming weeks.
“Following the publishing of the list NSW will begin accepting applications for nomination,” the spokesperson said.
Australian Capital Territory
The ACT’s occupation criteria is very broad and includes more than 420 jobs on the Commonwealth’s skilled list.
It has 800 subclass 190 visas available, another 1,920 regional visas and 10 business visas.
The program in Tasmania expects to open imminently for registrations of interest from people who are currently working in any skilled role related to their skills assessment, before opening more generally in October.
Priority will be given to those working in a critical role and then those on Tasmania’s list of more than 250 skilled occupations (up from more than 120 occupations last year) who have also worked in the state for at least two years.
But the Tasmanian Government says all occupations on the Commonwealth’s broader skills list would be eligible for consideration for the large number of expected remaining places.
Anyone who has lived in Tasmania for at least two to three years may also be considered for the established residence pathway if they have solid Tasmanian employment experience, subject to available nomination places which will be allocated according to the priorities stated above.