494 Regional Employer Sponsor Visa

The subclass 494 visa (often referred to as “SESR visa”) is a temporary employer sponsored visa that permits the holder to enter and stay in Australia for a period of 5 years from the date of visa grant. The Subclass 494 SESR visa requires applicants to remain resident in regional Australia in return for a potential avenue to permanent residency via the Subclass 191 visa.

The Subclass 494 SESR visa is designed to respond to labour shortages in regional Australia. It provides concessions to regional employers for recruitment of skilled overseas workers who are willing to live and work in a region on an ongoing basis. The visa can only be used if the employer is genuinely unable to source appropriately skilled Australian workers.

 

Subclass 494 Visa Streams

There are 3 streams under the Subclass 494 SESR visa program:

  • Employer Sponsored stream: for employers in regional Australia to recruit skilled overseas workers to work in specified skilled occupations for. Visa holders become eligible to apply for permanent residency after 3 years; 
  • Labour Agreement stream: for employers in regional Australia who have a labour agreement with the Commonwealth to source skilled overseas workers. The applicant’s occupation must be specified in the labour agreement. Visa holders become eligible to apply for permanent residency after 3 years.
  • Subsequent Entrant stream: The visa application for family members of the primary applicant should be submitted concurrently with the main visa application. When applying for the visa, you must provide written documentation to confirm that the primary visa holder’s employer is aware of this. However, in some cases, it may not be possible to apply at the same time.

 

Stages of the Subclass 494 Visa

As with most employer sponsored visas, there are 3 stages in sponsoring an overseas worker under this visa program:

  • 494 Sponsorship: The employer applies for approval as a standard business sponsor (SBS) or seeks to enter into a labour agreement with the Commonwealth. This SBS approval is the same class of sponsor as is required for the Subclass 482 TSS visa program. Australian businesses with a valid SBS approval do not need to apply again.
  • 494 Nomination: The sponsor must nominate a prospective visa applicant or an existing visa holder to undertake employment in a specified occupation.
  • 494 Visa application: The person identified in the nomination applies for a visa in the stream (either the Employer Sponsored stream or Labour Agreement stream) which corresponds with the nomination.

In relation to the aforementioned stages, it is important to note the following:

  • The 3 stages identified above must be initiated sequentially, however it is not necessary to wait for a decision on the preceding application. For example, an online application to be an SBS can be immediately followed by an online nomination. The online nomination can be immediately followed by an online visa application. The approval process then cascades in the same way. The nomination cannot be approved unless the sponsorship has been approved, and the visa cannot be granted unless the nomination has been approved.
  • The visa holders who continue to work in their nominated occupation can change employer on the basis of a new nomination by the new employer (SBS or employer with a labour agreement). 494 visa holders cannot change their employer before a nomination by the new employer is approved, unless they are in a specified occupation. Specified occupations are largely restricted to doctors and senior corporate executives.

 

Standard Business Sponsorship (SBS)

Standard business sponsorship approval requirements under this subclass are largely identical to those applicable to Subclass 482 TSS sponsors. For more information on Standard Business Sponsorship requirements, see our SBS page

 

Visa Application

Upon lodgement of a nomination application, the prospective 494 visa holder must satisfy all primary criteria for visa grant. Other members of the family unit who are applicants for a visa of this subclass need satisfy only the secondary criteria. Furthermore, all criteria must be satisfied at the time a decision is made on the application.

The basic eligibility criteria under the Employer Sponsored stream are as follows:

  • All applicants meet Australian’s health requirements (Please see our comprehensive health criterion article).
  • The applicant will work in the nominated occupation for the nominating business
  • The applicant is under the age of 45 
  • The primary applicant holds a positive skills assessment for their occupation
  • The primary applicant has at least three years of work experience in the nominated occupation
  • The primary applicant can demonstrate “Competent English”.

 

Age Requirement

The applicant must have been under the age of 45 or be a person in any of the five categories of applicants specified in a relevant legislative instrument. Proscribed exemptions include:

  • Lecturers and faculty heads sponsored by an Australian University
  • Regional medical practitioners
  • Science applicants, such as researchers, scientists and technical specialists
  • Certain Subclass 444 or 461 visa holders
  • High income earning Subclass 457 or 482 visa holders

 

Skills Assessment

Each nominated occupation has an associated skills assessor. The skills assessor is a body tasked with assessing the skills, education and experience of a prospective migrant. Each assessor imposes its own criteria, meaning the skills assessment prerequisites vary with each different occupation. 

In short, at the time of application, the primary applicant must:

  • Have had their skills assessed as suitable for the nominated occupation by the relevant assessing authority; or
  • Have previously had their skills assessed as suitable for the nominated occupation by the relevant assessing authority in order to be granted a subclass 457 or TSS visa; or
  • Be a person in either of the 2 categories of applicants specified in a legislative instrument, namely: academic applicants, or subclass 444 or 461 visa holders.

 

Employment History

At the time of application, the primary applicant must have been employed in the nominated occupation for at least 3 years, on a full-time basis, and at the level of skill required for the occupation, or be a person in either of the 2 categories of applicants specified in a legislative instrument, namely academic applicants, or subclass 444/ 461 workers.

The 3 years of employment does not need to be continuous and does not need to have occurred immediately before the application was made. Any period of employment during which an applicant changed careers, was unemployed, or took extended leave without pay will be excluded when calculating the period of employment.

Unpaid and volunteer work cannot be counted as employment experience. 

Casual employment, which is not undertaken on a full-time basis, will also not be counted towards the experience requirement.Consistent with the National Employment Standards (NES), employment will be considered ‘full-time’ where the visa applicant worked 38 hours per week. Employment experience may also be considered ‘full-time’ where the visa applicant worked for between 32 and 45 hours per week under an industry award or an agreement that was consistent with the NES, where applicable.

In some circumstances, decision makers may consider periods of part-time employment that are equivalent to 3 years full-time, where they are confident that the applicant’s experience and skills remain relevant and current.

 

Restrictions on applying for other permanent visa

To ensure that Subclass 494 visa holders remain living and working within regional Australia, they will be unable to make a valid application for the following visa subclasses for at least 3 years after their Subclass 494 visa grant:

 

494 Visa Application Charges

First Instalment:

  • Base application charge: $4,640
  • Additional applicant charge for an applicant who is at least 18: $2,320
  • Additional applicant charge for an applicant who is less than 18: $1,160

 

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