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Pacific lottery visas seriously flawed: coalition

A green card-style lottery granting permanent residency to Pacific islanders is being opposed by the coalition, as the system has "serious flaws" and would create a brain drain in those nations.

Under Labor's policy, 3000 places a year would be offered under a new Pacific Engagement Visa to applicants aged between 18 and 45.

Successful migrants will be able to bring their family on the visa, if they have secured a job offer and passed health, character and basic English tests.

Opposition immigration spokesman Dan Tehan said permanent residency and citizenship should not be decided by lottery.

"Australia's immigration system should be nation building with a key focus on the economic contribution immigrants make to our country," he told parliament.

"Permanent residency that ultimately leads to citizenship in Australia is too important to be decided by having your name pulled out of a hat."

Mr Tehan said the government needed to develop a new approach to implementing the visa which in its current form had "serious flaws".

He said Pacific island nations had expressed concern the new visa would further exacerbate skills shortages in their own countries.

Mr Tehan said the scheme also ran the risk of allowing migrants to live off welfare after shortly arriving in Australia.

Unveiling the proposal last month, the government said the visa would increase permanent migration from the region to Australia and "build a stronger Pacific family".

Opposition international development spokesman Michael McCormack said the coalition was also concerned the lack of requirements for prior work experience in Australia, will "increase the risks of visa recipients and their families having unsuccessful settlement experiences in Australia".