Australia’s new temporary regional visa elevated to permanent visa status.

Up to the early 90s Australian governments successfully developed a migration program that was the envy of other countries. The independent points based permanent visa used to be a prized possession for the most skilled in demand overseas workers. It was managed and implemented by experienced migration policy makers in Canberra. Since then Australia’s nation building migration program has passed through a radical transformation process reaching the point where lower  level criteria based temporary visas attain the same level as points based permanent visas. New provisional skilled regional visas (which will commence in November 2019) will have access to social security payments and certain government services on the same terms as permanent visa holders.[1] Yes that is right the Morrison government think it is good public policy to provide regional temporary visa holders with the same rights as permanent visa holders – access to social security benefits, pensions, disability services and fee help higher education.

The costs of new regional visas?

Who will pick up the tabs for the regional visas additional social security benefits? You guessed it the Australian taxpayer. The Explanatory Memorandum to the Bill states that the amendments will have a ‘low financial impact’.[2] But this is a temporary visa, which means it is uncapped and comes with all the benefits attached to a permanent visa. I am surprised the Federal government do not suspect this new amendment will incur significant growth in demand from temporary visa holders already in Australia, particularly Foreign students and also from overseas applicants. Further the Morrison government intends to allocate 92,000 places for regional visas in the migration program over the course of there term in office.

What is the reason for the significant change in regional visa entitlements?

The rationale behind the introduction of these visas is set out in the Australia government’s ‘Plan for Australia’s Future ’ which argues that population growth in Australia has been unevenly distributed across metropolitan and regional areas. [3] The plan states that managing population growth is a shared responsibility Involving Commonwealth, State, Territory and Local governments working together. It goes on to state that this represents the beginning of a new bottom-up process to ensure that population growth is understood, and its pressures are managed and addressed.[4]

But this is questionable. In Western Australia the State Labor government has already set out to their plans to grow Perth using the highest growth projections (3.5 million for Perth and Peel to 2050) adopted from the Australian Bureau of Statistics population series. [5]There has been little public debate on this. With no direct questions on what type of population growth the Perth public would prefer as opposed to the Labor government’s very high growth plans. At the local government level there attitude to population growth appears to take the lead from the State government.

How will the new regional visas impact West Australia.

The Commonwealth Government will also offer States and Territories a greater say on migration by increasing the number of state nominated places.[6] This means the WA government may also decide to choose migrants with certain characteristics or those migrants willing to live and work in the regions.[7] This will probably have a significant impact in Western Australia. Compared to other states and territories ,West Australia is the largest recipient of regional visas. For example, the majority of persons granted a Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (RSMS) visa in 2017–18 indicated they would reside in Western Australia (31.5%).[8] Regional visas require the migrants to live and work anywhere outside Greater Perth for a period of 3 years. But there is nothing to stop them doing so. And of course after a 3 year period how many thousands of regional visa holders will move to Perth with permanent visas?


[1] Harriet Spinks, ‘New Skilled Regional Visas (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2019’, 2019 <> [accessed 19 October 2019]..

[2] Harriet Spinks.

[3] Australian Government, ‘Planning for Australia’s Future Population’, 2019 <;.

[4] Australian Government.

[5] Australian Bureau of Statistics, ‘3222.0 – Population Projections, Australia, 2017 (Base) – 2066’, 2018 <> [accessed 5 May 2019].

[6] Australian Government.

[7] Australian Government.

[8] Australian Government Department of Home Affairs, ‘2017-18 Migration Program Report’, 2018 <> [accessed 2 September 2019].

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