In 2018, Australia received 193 000 new immigrants on a long-term or permanent basis (including changes of status), -11.6% compared to 2017. This figure comprises 7.3% immigrants benefitting from free mobility, 27.1% labour migrants, 57% family members (including accompanying family) and 8.4% humanitarian migrants. Around 163 000 permits were issued to tertiary-level international students and 397 000 to temporary and seasonal labour migrants.

India, China and New Zealand were the top three nationalities of newcomers in 2018. Among the top 15 countries of origin, New Zealand registered the strongest increase (+2 700) and India the largest decrease (-6 000) in flows to Australia compared to the previous year.

In 2019, the number of first asylum applicants decreased by 5%, to reach around 27 000. The majority of applicants came from Malaysia (7 100), China (5 100) and India (2 500). The largest increase since 2018 concerned nationals of India (+700) and the largest decrease nationals of Malaysia (-2 700). Of the 26 000 decisions taken in 2019, 15.1% were positive.

The Australian Government announced a series of migration initiatives to support regional Australia, including three new skilled regional visas, effective in November 2019: the Skilled Work Regional (Provisional) visa (subclass 491); the Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional (Provisional) visa (subclass 494) and the Permanent Residence (Skilled Regional) visa (subclass 191). They replace the previous Skilled Regional (Provisional) visa (subclass 489) and the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme visa (subclass 187).

Regional Australia was redefined as all of Australia except Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. Once holders of the new visas have lived, worked or studied in regional Australia for at least three years, and have met income requirements, they will be able to apply for a Permanent Residence (Skilled Regional) visa commencing in November 2022.

Australia deploys Regional Outreach Officers to the regions to promote skilled migration initiatives and provide dedicated support to regional employers.

In November 2019, the Global Talent – Independent programme was officially launched. It provides for a streamlined, priority visa pathway for highly skilled individuals to work and live permanently in Australia. Candidates need to be highly skilled for work in one of the seven target sectors that have been identified as future-oriented and either obtain a salary above a certain income threshold (in 2019-20 AUD 148 700) or be a highly-graded recent PhD or Master’s graduate. Candidates also need to be endorsed by a domestic nominator who has a national reputation in the same field.

On 1 July 2019, new Work and Holiday visa arrangements commenced with Greece (capped at 500 per year) and Ecuador (capped at 100). Since July 2019, there is the option of a third year visa for WHMs who complete six months of regional work in their second year.

On 1 July 2019, the Department of Home Affairs assumed responsibility for the settlement of refugees, humanitarian entrants and migrants, and programs to support adults to acquire English language. The role of the Commonwealth Coordinator-General for Migrant Services was established in December 2019 to provide national leadership and drive better results for refugees and migrants with a focus on employment, English language acquisition and community integration.

In January 2020, there have been changes in the support for newly arrived refugees, with the aim of providing them with additional time to settle in Australia and learn English before having to look for work, while also providing more support for those job seekers who are work-ready.

To respond to the COVID-19 crisis, the government allowed those within the Pacific Labour Scheme, Seasonal Worker Program and working holiday makers to continue to work in agriculture and food processing until the sanitary crisis has passed. In addition, Working Holiday Makers working in critical sectors are exempt from the six month work limitation with one employer and are eligible for a further visa to keep working in these sectors if their current visa is due to expire in the next six months. Finally, the 40-hour a fortnight work limit for student visa holders has been temporarily relaxed for those working in critical industries.

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