In 2021, Australia received 169 000 new immigrants on a long-term or permanent basis (including changes of status), 2.4% more than in 2020. This figure comprises 2% immigrants benefitting from free mobility, 21.3% labour migrants, 73.2% family members (including accompanying family) and 3.5% humanitarian migrants. Around 62 000 permits were issued to tertiary-level international students and 166 000 to temporary and seasonal labour migrants.

India, China and the United Kingdom were the top three nationalities of newcomers in 2021. Among the top 15 countries of origin, Viet Nam registered the strongest increase (+2 700) and the United Kingdom the largest decrease (-900) in flows to Australia compared to the previous year.

In 2022, the number of first asylum applicants increased by 36.4%, to reach around 19 000. The majority of applicants came from Iran (1900), India (1 600) and Afghanistan (1 500). The largest increase since 2021 concerned nationals of Iran (1 100) and the largest decrease nationals of Malaysia (-1 100). Of the 23 000 decisions taken in 2022, 18% were positive.

Emigration of Australian citizens to OECD countries increased by 6% in 2021, to 17 000. Approximately 20% of this group migrated to the United States, 19% to New Zealand and 16% to the United Kingdom.

From July 2023, the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT) increased from USD 53 900 to USD 70 000. New nomination applications from this date will need to meet the new TSMIT of USD 70 000 or the annual market salary rate, whichever is higher.

By the end of 2023, the Temporary Residence Transition (TRT) stream of the Employer Nomination Scheme (subclass 186) visa will be available for all Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa holders whose employers wish to sponsor them. These changes are in line with the government’s commitment to expand pathways to permanent residence for temporary skilled sponsored workers. They will provide more certainty to TSS visa holders and their employers about the permanent residence pathways available. Employers will be able to alleviate skills shortages by ensuring a permanent employer sponsored pathway is available for a wider range of occupations.

In April 2023, the Australian Government announced a direct pathway to Australian citizenship for New Zealand citizens residing in Australia. Starting from July 2023, New Zealand citizens who have lived in Australia for at least four years are eligible to apply directly for Australian citizenship, eliminating the need for a separate permanent visa application. This change applied to New Zealand citizens holding a Special Category (subclass 444) visa (SCV) who arrived in Australia after 26 February 2001. To facilitate this process for long-term New Zealand residents in Australia, their period of permanent residence will be backdated to meet the 12-month requirement under the general residence rule outlined in the Australian Citizenship Act 2007. This provision allowed applicants to demonstrate lawful presence in Australia for four years, including 12 months as a permanent resident, immediately before the application date.

In October 2022, a new Ministerial Direction (No. 100) came into effect, for processing priorities for certain skilled visa applications. The direction formalises the Australian Government’s prioritisation of healthcare and teaching occupations, as well as offshore permanent and provisional applications. The direction helped improve processing times, clear visa backlogs, and assist small businesses in recruiting overseas workers. This includes ending the Priority Migration Skilled Occupation List (PMSOL) and priority sectors. Removal of the PMSOL and priority sectors enables the Department to consider applications that were previously not prioritised while managing steady volumes of incoming visa applications.

In June 2023, the Australian Government announced a package of measures to tackle migrant worker exploitation targeting employers. New legislation will be introduced into Parliament to make it a criminal offence to coerce someone into breaching their visa conditions; introduce prohibition notices to stop employers from further hiring people on temporary visas where they have exploited migrants; increase penalties and new compliance tools to deter exploitation; and repeal section 235 of the Migration Act which actively discourages people from reporting exploitative behaviour. The reforms also include enhanced whistle-blower protections for temporary migrants to encourage individuals to report exploitative employers.

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