Skilled migrants who agree to move to regional Australia will have their visa applications accelerated under a new plan.
Immigration Minister David Coleman announced the initiative last week at a meeting of state and territory treasurers in Canberra.
The meeting discussed population growth and urban congestion issues, which current Prime Minister Scott Morrison believes can be eased if Australia reduces its migration intake. Last year he suggested asking migrants to spend five years in a regional area if they want permanent residency, as well as cuts to the annual migration intake.
In December, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) cast doubt on that idea, releasing a policy that highlighted the boost migration gives to the businesses.
Under the $19.4 million plan, visas sponsored by employers in regional areas will be given priority, as well as agreements where local councils are able to recruit workers from overseas. Department of Home Affairs officials will travel to regional areas to help local businesses get more skilled workers.
"Our officers will be on the ground to discuss regional migration opportunities with regional employers and communities, and also to hear first hand the local labour issues they face," Mr Coleman said.
Mr Coleman also pointed out that visas obtained under the plan required migrants to remain in the regional areas. If they moved out, they would have to apply for a different visa.
Australia's permanent migration number is capped at 190,000 people each year, but has only reached about 160,000 over the past few years.