Migrants will be 'forced' to stay in regional or rural areas under federal government's new strategy

NEW IN TOWN: James Curgenven was sponsored to stay in Australia under the provisions of the  Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme visa, which is now subject to new tougher regulations. Picture: Emma Horn.
NEW IN TOWN: James Curgenven was sponsored to stay in Australia under the provisions of the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme visa, which is now subject to new tougher regulations. Picture: Emma Horn.

When James Curgenven came to Wagga, he did not expect to stay longer than six months.

Now, four-and-a-half years later, he is preparing for his citizenship.

Mr Curgenven moved from Britain in 2014 and applied for a Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (187) visa.

This kind of visa was designed to professionalise communities by bringing skilled migrants to rural centres. In 2016-2017, Regional Development Australia assisted 119 of these visa applications across the Riverina. 

But the Home Affairs Office has announced it is now considering changing the terms of the 187 and Skilled Regional (887) visas to make it harder for new migrants to leave the regions for the big smoke.

Federal multiculturism minister Alan Tudge said the crackdown is intended to ease the pressure on major cities where the housing market and infrastructure is struggling to keep up with demand.

Under the current guidelines, and those which Mr Curgenven has now fulfilled, a new migrant must be sponsored by a regional employer and stay in that job for a minimum of two years.

After 12 months in Australia, the migrant may be eligible for permanent residency. The new regulations have the potential to double the time before permanent residency is applied.

With the changes looming, Mr Curgenven said he is fortunate he arrived when he did.

“If I hadn’t been able to get in and do it when I did, I’d probably be a bit upset because it limits what I can do now,” he said.

“Personally I’m glad I’ve been able to get in just before the change, but it’s still not guaranteed until I get my citizenship.”

Responding to the regulations, deputy prime minister and Riverina Nationals MP Michael McCormack said the changes will help to strengthen Wagga’s economy.

“There are many regions in Australia which are now facing skilled labour shortages and we are working with local leaders and businesses to help find solutions.”

Recognising the potential pressures on infrastructure and housing Mr McCormack said Wagga is “ready, willing, and able”, to meet the demands of an increased population.

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