Skilled migrants will have their Australian visa applications dealt with faster if they move to regional areas under a $19.4 million plan revealed by the federal government.
Department of Home Affairs officials will also travel to regional areas to help local businesses get more skilled workers.
“There are a number of regions outside Sydney, Melbourne and southeast Queensland who are calling out for skilled migrants,” Immigration Minister David Coleman said on Friday.
“These regional initiatives will help these communities and local business attract migrants where they are needed most.”
Under the plan, there will be priority processing for visas sponsored by employers in regional Australia, as well as agreements where local councils are able to recruit workers from overseas.
The Designated Area Migration Agreements allow employers to sponsor overseas workers for positions they are unable to fill with locals.
There is already such an agreement running in the Northern Territory.
The federal government is in discussion with local governments in the Orana region in NSW, Cairns in northern Queensland and Warrnambool in Victoria.
People who come to Australia through the agreements can’t move elsewhere without applying for a different visa.
Mr Coleman says they’re also unlikely to get one and couldn’t become permanent residents if they did.
“So it’s about really encouraging people into those areas that have persistent problems in attracting people,” he told reporters on Friday.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said he’s open to discussing the measures but that infrastructure needs to keep up as cities swell.
Locals should also be the number one pick for jobs rather than overseas workers on temporary visas, Mr Shorten said.
“I certainly want to put public TAFE back in the centre of our plans, to train the workforce of the future rather than just relying upon overseas guest labour,” he told reporters in Sydney.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has previously flagged migrants could be asked to spend five years in a regional area if they want permanent residency.