Go regional and get an extra few years on your visa, or even migrate!🛂
Updated: Sep 16, 2021
But what IS regional? 🤔
As someone who’s looking at their options for extending their stay in Australia, it’s not long before you come across the phrase – Go regional for more options / a longer stay.
But if you’re anything like us, ‘regional’ in your country means something very different to what it means here. ‘Going regional’ is likely to flood you with ideas of putting on a cowboy hat, and living alone in an old farm house with nothing but the three old but faithful farm dogs and a few friendly cows to keep you company.
And yes, there are some parts of Regional Australia that would not be too dissimilar to that picture, but there’s a whole heap of towns and even cities that are considered ‘regional’ here in Aus. So let’s break it down.
What counts as regional Australia?
Australia classifies 3 categories of locations in Australia:
Category 1 – Not regional. This only includes major cities such as Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. The rest of Australia is considered regional.
Category 2 – Cities and major regional areas not including those listed as category 1. Perth, Adelaide, the Gold Coast, the Sunshine Coast, Newcastle / Lake Macquarie, Wollongong / Illawarra, Canberra, Geelong and Hobart.
Category 3 – All other regional centres and regional areas including all other regional locations excluding those in Category 2.
So yes that’s right, Byron Bay counts as regional our hippie friends.
And the Gold Coast counts as regional too, our surfer dudes.
It’s also a common commute to live and study in the Central Coast or Wollongong and commute to Sydney for the weekends.
Still not sure whether your region counts as regional?
You can check the list of regional postcodes here
OK so now you know what counts as regional. But do you know the benefits of going regional?
Firstly, depending on the visa you’re going for and your occupation, it opens up a few possibilities for you. We’ll explore a few below:
More visa options
Category 2 Regions have access to the following regional incentives:
Priority processing of regional visas
Access to the Regional Occupations List – more jobs compared to non-regional lists
International graduates with a bachelor or higher qualification from a regional campus of a registered institution will be eligible to access additional year in Australia on a post-study work visa
Category 3 will also have access to the dedicated 11,200 regional places, priority processing of regional visas, and the Regional Occupations List. Additional incentives include:
International graduates with a bachelor or higher qualification from a regional campus of a registered institution will be eligible to access an additional 2 years in Australia on a post-study work visa.
Priority in negotiating region-specific Designated Area Migration Agreements (DAMAs)
Regional Visas 494 &491
From 16 November 2019 the Department of Home Affairs introduced two new skilled regional provisional visas with a new permanent visa pathway
Skilled Work Regional (Provisional) subclass 491 visa
This visa is for skilled applicants that wish to live and work in regional Australia for up to five years and does provide a permanent residency pathway. Applicants are not required to have an employer to sponsor them, but do need to be nominated by a State or Territory government or sponsored by an eligible family member living in regional Australia. More information here
Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional subclass 494 visa
This visa is for skilled applicants that wish to live and work in regional Australia for up to five years and does provide a permanent residency pathway. Applicants are required to have an employer in regional Australia to sponsor them. More information here
408 - COVID-19 (Pandemic Event) Visa
This visa allows you to extend your stay in Australia if you cannot leave Australia due to the pandemic (this stream usually does not grant you working rights and only around 3 months), or to remain in Australia if you work in a critical sector (the critical work stream grants you a stay for up to 12 months with working rights).
Critical Sectors include agriculture (which would usually require you to go regional), food processing, health care, aged care, disability care, child care, or tourism and hospitality).
You will need to have a current contract or a job offer from an eligible employer in order to apply via the critical sector stream.
Rack up those skilled migration / permanent residency points.
Eligible applicants can get an additional 5 points (from 10 - 15) under the Skilled Migration Points Test if nominated to live and work in a designated regional Australia.
Eligible applicants can get an additional 5 points if study is completed in a designated regional area and meets the Australian Study Requirement.
Go Regional to extend your options for staying after your studies.
If you complete a Bachelor degree or higher (certain eligibility criteria also apply – check out our blog post on 485 Temporary Graduate Visa for more info on this) you can apply for a temporary graduate visa which allows you to remain in Australia for an extra 2 years after you complete your studies.
If you attended a University in Regional Australia (you must have studied and lived in the regional campus) you can get an additional year on your 485 visa (for Category 2 regions) and an extra 2 years on your 485 visa if you lived and studies at a University in a Category 3 region. Huzzah! You cannot study at a metropolitan campus of a regional institution to be eligible, however you can attend a regional campus of a metropolitan university.
OK, we may have simplified it a little there.
Do note that you can’t just have studied in a regional area and then moved to a metropolitan area on your 485 visa if you wish to take advantage of the longer Temporary Graduate Visa. In order to gain access to the additional years, you must have continued to live and work in a regional area whilst you held your 485 visa. It is a compulsory Residency requirement that you lived in a regional area for at least two years immediately before applying for your second 485 visa. If you have any dependents attached to your visa (partner or family), they will also have to meet the residency requirement.
It’s also important to mention that if you are applying for the extra 485 visa, that you must have worked as well as studied in regional Australia.
For example, however tempting it might be to study at Wollongong but live and work in Sydney, this could make you ineligible if you wish to apply for the second 485 visa.
However, you CAN apply for your second 485 visa once you have met the 2 year residency requirement. And remember, that the 2 years residency requirement can be partially made up with time on your student visa or bridging visa whilst you waited for your 485 visa to be granted.
Do note that condition 8610 may be applied to your second 485 visa. This conditions stipulates that you must continue to work in a category 2 or 3 regional area (for those applying for the 1 year category 2 visa) or category 3 only (for those applying for a 2 year second 485 visa based on category 3 regional studies).
Hong Kong passport holders who successfully complete a bachelor, masters or doctoral degree will get their first 485 visa for 5 years.
Bypass certain conditions on your Working Holiday Visa (WHV)
If you live and work in a regional location in an eligible agriculture occupation, you may be eligible to work for longer than 6 months with one employer.
Bypass certain conditions on your Student Visa
International students are temporarily allowed to work for more than 40 hours per fortnight during their study period if working in agriculture. This could change based on the COVID-19 situation but is true as of 24th September 2021.
Go regional to save the big bucks!
Besides Visa opportunities, going regional also has the benefit of being much cheaper to live than in the metropolitan areas of Australia.
As an example, even going regional within NSW can see house prices (and hence rents) decrease by 50%! With the minimum wage remaining the same, you can imagine just how much you can save (or just how much more space your $300 a week will get you)!
Experience the pure beauty of the Australian Natural Landscapes
Australia is one of the most diverse and stunningly beautiful countries in the world.
Whether you’re into the tropical vibes of the North, the dry and deserty terrain of the centre, the glistening beachyness of the East or West, or the more temperate and lush surrounds of the South, Australia has a home waiting for you.
When you live regionally, you will live much closer to areas such as the Great Barrier Reef, Uluru, the Daintree Rainforest, the Whitsundays, the hot springs and National Parks of Katherine or the lush mountains and forests of Tasmania.
So not only are these amazing natural wonders on your doorstep, but you also get to pay much cheaper rent to enjoy them too.
Regional can offer more job opportunities
The reason that some occupations only exist on the Regional Occupation List is that employers in the regions struggle more to fill the positions.
When you apply for a job in a metropolitan area, your competition is much greater. But when you apply for a job in a regional area, you can have less competitors, making your chances of getting the position higher.