As an example, a major criticism of the Canadian immigration strategy is that the vast majority of temporary residents (work and student visa holders) settle around Toronto or Vancouver, which drives out locals by pushing up the real estate prices:

Canada opens door to immigrants, adding fuel to hot housing market. Immigrants tend to buy in large urban centres, like greater Toronto and Vancouver, where home prices are now above $1.12 million

One possible solution would thus be to ban new temporary residents from settling within Ontario or British Columbia and instead redirecting them to live in less populated provinces.

Are there countries which implement this immigration strategy in practice?

  • BTW recent news - Canada bans foreign home buyers for two years to cool market. Commented Apr 8, 2022 at 15:07
  • Another way a country could go about this is to not outright forbid immigrants from settling where they want, but provide carrot or stick incentives to choose a less-populated area. For example, there could be a "new immigrant tax break" for Alberta residents that is substantial enough to draw immigrants there. Commented Jan 28, 2023 at 16:37

2 Answers 2


Yes - Australia does.

Australia has a number of (temporary) "regional" work visas (such as the Skilled Regional (provisional) (subclass 489) visa) which require you to live and work in a regional area. Once you have satisfied the 2-year residence and work requirement, you are then eligible to apply for permanent residency under the Skilled Regional (subclass 887) visa.

Further information can be found on the Department's website.

  • That’s a great answer and a great datapoint against all the naysayers claiming it cannot be done. Yes it can - Australia is doing it! Commented Mar 20, 2022 at 7:58
  • 2
    Are there any stats on what % of immigrants end up staying in those regions long term? Commented Mar 20, 2022 at 7:58
  • @JonathanReez there's a whole bunch of research into regional migration (including this parliamentary inquiry), but I'm not sure whether there are any stats.
    – molypot
    Commented Mar 20, 2022 at 9:52
  • There's been an element of this since the end of World War II. If the Australian government paid for the travel expenses of refugees from war ravaged Europe, the new migrants were required to reside in a particular location for 2 years. After that, they were free to reside where ever they wanted. It's one way how the Australian government acquired people to work on the Snowy Mountains Scheme.
    – Fred
    Commented Apr 7, 2022 at 6:49

Even Canada does that to some extent by making some types of immigrants to spend some time living in Quebec, etc - before they can move to Toronto or Vancouver like they wanted originally.

Russia has a program of repatriating "Russian speakers" which let the applicants to move into a specific Russian region (Capitals are mostly excluded) and that was enforced to some degree. The program has recently sparked controversy due to corruption and, more importantly, due to built-in uncertainity of who should be considered Russian speaker, but that is not relevant here.

Generally speaking, freedom of movement is a major right in a modern state and it's hard to enforce limitations to it in practice. Once you grant citizenship to an applicant, they are free to relocate wherever they prefer. So such programs are usually not fruitful.

The described limitations are also akin to probation so we are talking about treating immigrants like criminals if this is to be enforced fully.

  • In most countries it takes at least 5 years to become a permanent resident and assuming that you've spent 5 years outside the biggest cities, there's a good chance you'll continue living there. So yes - there would still be a problem where people bail as soon as they become permanent residents, but presumably it would be much smaller than today. Commented Mar 20, 2022 at 0:38

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