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Perth and Gold Coast now categorized as ‘regional areas’ to entice skilled migrants

Skilled migrants are now being encouraged to move to Perth and the Gold Coast as the Federal Government grapples with congestion in Australia’s three biggest cities.

For the first time, the two destinations will be added to the list of locations migrants can move to on a regional visa.

Immigration Minister David Coleman denied it was a backflip, despite earlier this month insisting the cities would not be included in the program.

“We have had advocacy from governments from all sides of politics in relation to those two places and decided to include them in our program because close to 70 per cent of our total population growth is in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.”

In another tweak to the scheme, Mr Coleman said 2,000 extra skilled foreign workers would be required to settle in regional Australia.

While the migration cap of 160,000 places remains unchanged, there will now be 25,000 regional visas set aside for migrants who agree to work outside the major cities, up from 23,000.

Those that agree to spend a three-year stint in regional Australia will have their applications elevated to the top of the list.

They will also be eligible to apply for permanent residency.

It’s a deal the Immigration Minister said sparked a flurry of activity.

“In the first quarter of this year we had a 124 per cent increase in regional visas granted,” he said.

The Federal Opposition argued it was not so much a rush to the regions but rather the Coalition playing catch-up with a backlog of visa applications.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese said the scheme was unlikely to succeed unless migrants were offered proper support.

“It’s a matter of matching up where the job opportunities are, making sure there’s settlement processes available. The Government needs to ensure all of that occurs if this is to be a success,” he said.

The decision to include the Gold Coast and Perth on the list of destinations followed a big push from universities, who were keen to attract more international students.

“We’re absolutely stoked. They will be welcomed with open arms,” Study Gold Coast chief executive officer Alfred Slogrove said.

“It will boost the confidence of universities to increase their investment in new research, new programs, new facilities.”

It also prompted an about-face from WA Premier Mark McGowan, who conceded it was his decision to declassify Perth as a regional destination that left it off the list of possible locations.

“If mistakes have been made we’re making sure they’re fixed today,” Mr McGowan said.

Source: ABC News

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