A fast-tracked visa is on offer for skilled migrants willing to move to regional Australia, as part of the Federal government’s new population plan.
The government will spend $19.4 million over four years to help local businesses in regional areas attract more skilled workers.
“There are a number of regions outside Sydney, Melbourne and southeast Queensland who are calling out for skilled migrants,” said Immigration Minister David Coleman.
“These regional initiatives will help these communities and local business attract migrants where they are needed most.”
Under the latest agreement – which is an extension of the preexisting Designated Area Migration Agreements (DAMA) – priority processing will be given to visa applicants sponsored by employers in the designated regions.
The Temporary Skill Shortage visa (subclass 482) can currently take up to 74 days to be processed, according to the Department of Home Affairs, while other visas can take upwards of 18 months.
But the government is expecting those that enter Australia under the new agreement to commit to the regional communities, as opposed to using it as a loophole.
“The visa will require people to work in that area,” Coleman said. “You can't just go and work somewhere else.”
The nominated workers will have to reapply for another visa if they wish to move, however Coleman warned that “it would be unlikely they would obtain it and they would not be able to obtain permanent residency”.
The Department of Home Affairs will send officials to regional areas “to discuss regional migration opportunities with regional employers and communities, and also hear first hand the local labour issues they face,” Coleman said.
The plan will also allow local councils to recruit overseas workers.
The latest extension to the DAMA follows a similar initiative targeting the Northern Territory.
The population problem
The latest skilled migration plans followed meetings between Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and state treasurers as part of the inaugural Treasurers’ Forum on Population.
“The states and the Commonwealth need to work closely together in managing population change,” Frydenberg said.
“We need to have better data sharing arrangements, a better understanding of what the future skills needs will be.”
Australia’s population last year reached 25 million – a feat that at one point was not expected to occur until 2040.
With population growth now accelerating at a faster-than-expected rate, the government is working on solutions to address associated challenges.
The forum also agreed to establish two working groups on Regional Analysis and Data and Forecasting.
In November last year, Prime Minister Scott Morrison signaled his intention to reduce permanent migration by 30,000 in a bid to address overpopulation problems.