The Coalition government may introduce a proposal which would see the minimum time period that migrants on regional visas have to remain in the area of their employment extended from two to five years.
According to a report published in The Australian, the Morrison cabinet is currently considering a plan to extend the mandatory regional settlement period for some migrants.
The legislation—which was previously under consideration by the Turnbull government—would potentially affect a number of visa streams, including the 489 Skilled (Provisional), Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (RSMS), and Skilled Regional (Permanent) 887 visa program.
The idea was first brought to the previous Turnbull government’s attention after data from the Department of Home Affairs was published showing that one out of ten migrants who come to Australia under a regional visa program subsequently move to a city like Sydney or Melbourne within 18 months.
However, many expect the legislation to make a potential reappearance, following Scott Morrison’s “next generation” cabinet reshuffle.
The reshuffle saw former Minister for Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs, Alan Tudge—who was previously in charge of the proposed regional visa scheme—moved to the newly created position, Minister for Cities, Urban Infrastructure and Population.
This means a revival of the proposal is considerably more likely, as Tudge may push for its’ reintroduction as a way of achieving the “congestion-busting” goal handed to him by the Prime Minister.
When asked by the media, the newly appointed Minister for Immigration, David Coleman, said that he was not yet in a position to comment on the policy proposal, having only just taken on the role.
Questions still remain over how the policy would effectively be implemented, with many pointing to possible legal disputes involving the restriction of freedom of movement.
Labor’s Shadow Minister for Defence—and former Shadow Minister for Immigration and Border Protection—Richard Marles, has questioned the government on how the proposed visa changes will function in practice.
“I’m not sure that mandating new immigrants living in regional Australia is going to work.”
“I’m not actually sure there is the power to put that in place, to actually mandate that they do live there. So I am a little worried about the particular prescription they are putting in place to bring this about,” Marles said.
The CEO of Absolute Immigration, Jamie Lingham, was supportive of the proposed changes, saying that the program’s current settings are clearly failing to work as intended.
“Absolute Immigration support the notion of delivering a visa solution for regional Australia, and also to ensure that visa applicants have a genuine intention to remain and settle in these areas,” Lingham said.
“We have known of a number of migrants who have obtained the visa and left the area as soon as possible, heading to metropolitan areas.”
“The government has a number of methods at their disposal to attract and retain people to these areas, and it is apparent that the current program and its’ time constraints are not effective,” he said.
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