491 visa replacing 489 visa in November 2019

On the 16th of November 2019, the Skilled — Regional Sponsored (Provisional) (Class SP) subclass 489 visa will be replaced by the Skilled Work Regional (Provisional) (Class PS) 491 visa.  This article intends to provide a comparison of these two visas as well as provide scenarios where it would be more favourable to apply for the 489 visa while it is still available, or wait and apply for the 491 visa when it becomes available.


Similarities of the 489 and 491 visas

Both visa subclasses require the applicant to first be invited to apply for these visas and should apply within the specified period of time as stated in the invitation.  Both visas also require that the applicant has not turned 45 years old, has a nominated role enlisted on the appropriate skills occupation list, has at least competent English (at least 6.0 in IELTS or equivalent) and has a valid proof of skills assessment.


Two streams are available on both visas – one under state nomination and another for family sponsorship (sponsored by a relative who is over 18 years old and is an Australian citizen, and an  Australian permanent resident or eligible New Zealand citizen).


Regarding the migration points test scores, both of these visas require the applicant not to have  a score less than the score they had when they were invited to apply for the visa,  and they should pass the qualifying score requirement.


Differences of the 489 and 491 visas

There are differences relating to the migration points scores that can be claimed under the state nomination or relative sponsorship and under the specialist education qualification.   Under the 491 visa two additional points criteria will be introduced pertaining to having a spouse with competent English (attracting 5 points) or 10 points can be claimed if the applicant is single.


See the comparative table below.

Criteria Points under 489 Points under 491
Specialist educational qualification (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics qualifications completed in Australia for at least 2 years) 5 10
No spouse or de facto partner 0 10
Having a partner (under a combined visa application) with competent English 0 5
Nominated by a state or sponsored by a family member 10 15


Another difference between these two visas is the visa grant duration.  The 489 is valid for four years while the 491 visa has a validity of five years from the date when it is granted. However, even if the 491 visa’s validity is longer than that of a 489 visa, applying for a Permanent Residency visa under the 491 visa can take longer (3 years); while in just two years, a 489 visa holder can apply for a PR visa (887) if he/she has lived in the specific area identified when the visa was granted and if he/she has worked full time for at least a year.


The PR visa pathway for 491 visa holders is to apply for the 191 visa which will be available three years  after  the 491 visa is launched (16th of November 2022).  The 191 visa will also have a minimum salary requirement and it will also require the 491 visa holder to have worked for at least three years.  It is still unclear whether the work requirement as full time or part time is acceptable and the required salary amount is still unpublished.


Lastly, holders of 491 visa have more restrictions and more visa conditions.  For example, 491 visa holders will only be able to apply for a 189, 190, or 186 visa if they have held the 491 visa for at least three years at the time of application.


Apply for the 489 visa now or wait for the 491 visa?

The answer to this question will depend on one’s current and future scenario and objectives.  If a visa applicant is currently eligible for the 489 visa and has a high chance to get invited and is able to lodge his/her visa application before the 16th of November 2019, then it would be more beneficial to apply for the 489 visa because of the shorter time required to apply for a PR visa (887).

If a visa applicant does not have enough migration points, then it would be best to wait for the 491 visa to get access to the new additional points that will become available.

With these changes happening in a few months, it would best to get advice based on your unique circumstance from a Registered Migration Agent or an Immigration Lawyer.