Australia, along with New Zealand, The United States, and Canada, is ranked as a major ‘immigration nation’. This should come as no surprise since 28.2 percent of Australia’s entire population are not native but were born overseas. In fact, since the creation of the initial federal immigration portfolio, more than seven and a half million people have emigrated here.
There are two programs that have been established for permanent migrants to come into the country. The first is the Humanitarian Program for Refugees and the second is the Migration Program for Skilled and Family Migrants. Every year quotas are established by the Australian government to allow individuals or families to permanently migrate here through one of these two programs.
Up until 2010, the United Kingdom held the title of being the primary source of individuals immigrating to Australia. However, in 2010 and 2011, China surpassed the UK and held that distinction. And, since that time India and China have maintained the status of providing the greatest number of permanent migrants to Australia. A high number of New Zealanders also continue to figure prominently in the number of migrants. However, unless they are granted a permanent visa, they do not fall under the quotas of Australia’s Migration Program.
Established quotas for the migration program have changed over the years to better fit the political and economic agendas of the government in office at the time. A comparison of policy focus at the program’s inception to current day reveals a marked shift in overall priorities when it comes to attracting migrants. In 1945, the focus was on bringing in general migrants primarily from the United Kingdom. However, for a number of years now, the focus has been on attracting economic temporary and permanent migrants that are considered “skilled”. Since about 2012, the planning figure has been at a record high of 190,000 places with migrants who fall into the “skilled” category making up the majority.
Since the 1980s, the Immigration Department has provided annual statistics on the number of visas granted through the Migration and Humanitarian Program. These statistics give a realistic view of the number of individuals planning to migrate. In addition, the data that is collected by the Australian Bureau of Statistics or ABS is also consulted to predict the number of migrants or settlers. However, because these stats are not always used correctly, the resulting rhetoric in the public arena to describe migration streams is not always accurate and oftentimes misleading. Changes to the methods of data collection by the various governmental agencies as well as policy changes have contributed to the difficulty in accurately interpreting the data. This, in turn, makes a comparison of statistics over time even more complicated.
Commonly consulted data sets along with limitations include:
Net Overseas Migration or NOM has been utilized since 1925 by the ABS to calculate and describe population growth. This does not provide the number of permanent migrants coming into the country in a given year because it measures not only the arrival and departures of permanent migrants but also that of temporary migrants and the increase or decrease in the overall population as a result. Because the method used to calculate NOM has undergone notable changes, one should be wary when using it.
The ABS also compiles settler arrival stats, which may be a better gauge of permanent migrant streams than NOM; however, these stats also include citizens of New Zealand and other migrants who, while not permanent, have indicated a desire to stay longer term. Overseas departures and arrivals compiled by the ABS could track multiple departures and arrivals of migrants not the total number of individuals.
Granted visas that have been recorded by the Department of Immigration supplies the most precise stats on how many permanent migrants plan to take up residence in Australia, but just because an individual is granted a visa does not mean they will actually settle here. Prior to 1980, the data cannot be relied upon as accurate so it is necessary to make use of settler arrival stats.
Updates to 2020 – 2021 Australian Immigration
For nearly 12 years our operation as a Migration Agency has exposed us to nearly every scenario imaginable. However, we never envisioned the impact of a global pandemic on the Australian Migration Program. The closures of borders on the 20th of March has had a notable impact on the number of migrants coming to Australia already. A decrease of 30 per cent is anticipated in a comparison of the 2018/19 to 2019/20 financial year with expectations that the numbers will drop even more during the current year (2020/21).
However, the government of Australia understands the important role that immigration will play in the country’s economic recovery. The creation of new jobs and investment in Australia that will come from migrants will enable to the country to get back to pre-COVID economic stability.
So, what can we expect in the 2020/21 financial year? The Migration Institute of Australia, considered an authoritative source reports that the visa cap for 2020/21 will remain at the levels previously set for 2019/20. The cap will be 160,000 places with the majority of places (108,682) going to the Skill stream, 47,732 to Family stream, 3,350 places to child visas, and 236 to Special Eligibility stream.
Although the overall number of places allotted to the categories referenced above have been announced, the number of visas that will be allocated to States and Territories has not yet been determined. This means that states and territories cannot provide approval for nominations in visa subclasses such as skilled permanent, skilled temporary, and innovation and investment. While allocations for subclasses are typically released each year in May, COVID-19 has caused postponement until October.
The current focus of the Australian government is rightly consumed with addressing the immediate impact that the global pandemic is having on the health and economy of the country. For the present, the 2019/20 Migration Program will continue to be followed which includes the size and composition of the program.