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Foreign-born population – 2018

7.3 million, 51% women

29% of the population

Evolution since 2007: +34%

Main countries of birth:

United Kingdom (16%), China (9%), India (8%)

In 2017/18, Australia received 218 000 new immigrants on a long-term or permanent basis (including changes of status and free mobility), -3.9% compared to 2016. This figure comprises 5.8% immigrants benefitting from free mobility, 26.6% labour migrants, 57.4% family members (including accompanying family) and 10.1% humanitarian migrants.

Around 163 000 permits were issued to tertiary-level international students and 396 000 to temporary and seasonal labour migrants and trainees. Among those visas, 64 470 were granted to skilled temporary residents (-26.4% from the previous year), of which 58 900 were grants of the former Temporary Work (Skilled) visa (subclass 457) and 5 570 of the new Temporary Skill Shortage visa (subclass 482).

Overall, India, China and the United Kingdom were the top three nationalities of newcomers in 2017/18. Among the top 15 countries of origin, Iraq registered the largest increase (6 700) and New Zealand the largest decrease (-7 100) in flows to Australia compared to the previous year.

In 2018, the number of first asylum applicants decreased by 20%, falling to around 29 000. The majority of applicants come from Malaysia (9 800), China (6 600) and India (1 800). The largest increase since 2017 concerned nationals of Malaysia (1 800) and the largest decrease, nationals of Iran (-4 300). Of the 35 000 decisions taken in 2018, 27% were positive.

Emigration of Australians to OECD countries increased by 14.2%, to 42 000 in 2018. More than two in five (43%) migrated to the United Kingdom, 15% to New Zealand and 9% to Japan.

During 2018, Australia introduced significant reforms of the temporary and permanent employer-sponsored skilled migration programmes. In March 2018, the government introduced the Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa to provide businesses with access to critical skills needed for growth where no skilled Australian worker is available. The TSS comprises three streams: short-term (valid for up to two years with one onshore renewal, or up to four years if an international trade obligation applies); medium-term (valid for up to four years with eligibility to apply for permanent residence visas); and labour agreement (for exceptional cases where standard visa programmes are not available). The TSS replaced the 457 Temporary Work (Skilled) Visa; differences include higher English language skill requirements and fewer exemptions; expanded labour market testing requirements; and a requirement of at least two years of work experience. Employers who breach their obligations may be subject to sanctions. Processing has been streamlined through the automatic approval of low-risk nomination applications lodged by accredited sponsors, faster renewal for existing sponsors and a new standard five year sponsorship approval period.

Since August 2018, all employers nominating foreigners for a TSS, Employer Nomination Scheme (subclass 186) or Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (subclass 187) visa must pay a Skilling Australians Fund (SAF) levy. The levy replaces previous training expenditure requirements for sponsors. SAF revenue is directed to apprenticeships and traineeships in occupations in high demand which currently rely on skilled migration.

The labour market testing vacancy posting duration has been extended to four weeks (previously 21 days) within four months (previously six months) of lodging a nomination. Advertisements must specify skill or experience requirements. Labour market testing is not required where it would conflict with Australia’s international trade obligations.

In July 2018, the government launched a pilot Global Talent Scheme targeting highly skilled and specialised workers not covered by the standard TSS visa but with potential to pass, develop or transfer skills to Australian workers. It comprises two streams: one for established business and one for start-ups endorsed by an independent start-up advisory panel. Participating businesses must have demonstrated a commitment to improving Australian skills.

Changes to the Working Holiday Maker programme, in force from November 2018, aim to support regional and rural communities. Extensions of stay are now offered for work in regional agriculture, as well as longer work periods for agricultural employers. Caps for some countries have been raised and the age limit for others has been increased.

From mid-2019, Australian citizens, permanent residents, or eligible New Zealand citizens may apply to sponsor a parent with a Sponsored Parent (Temporary) visa. The five-year visa, capped at 15 000 annually, is an alternative to the temporary visitor visa, and to the permanent visa for parents which has a long waiting period. In 2018, a pathway was also opened for eligible Retirement (subclass 410) and Investor Retirement (subclass 405) visa holders to obtain permanent residence in Australia.

For 2019-20, the government has set the Migration program planning level at 160 000, down from the 190 000 ceiling in previous years, but close to the actual intake. Two new regional visas admit skilled workers to live outside major cities for three years after which they can apply for permanent residency.

For further information:

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Key figures on immigration and emigration - Australia
Key figures on immigration and emigration - Australia

Notes and sources are at the end of the chapter.


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