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PERMANENT MIGRATION TO AUSTRALIA - AN OVERVIEW BY ELIGIBILITY CATEGORY
IMMIGRATION TO AUSTRALIA
Immigration to Australia is administered by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) and entry into the country is broadly divided into two separate programs, Permanent and Temporary. All applicants for migration are assessed against the requirements set out in the Migration Act 1958 and Migration Regulations and these programs regulate the flow of people allowed entry into Australia.
An exception to the planned program are New Zealand (NZ) citizens who enter using a Special Category Visa (SCV), introduced in 1994. The level of NZ entrants is not capped under the planning levels but entrants are included as permanent additions and settler arrivals to Australia, as long as there is an intention to settle for 12 months or more. Whilst this article presents data relating to NZ settlers in the Permanent Migration totals, the focus is largely on the Migration and Humanitarian programs.
In all cases of data relating to migration, the individual applying for entry into Australia is regarded as the primary applicant. It is the primary applicant that must satisfy the conditions of the visa being applied for, according to the Migration Regulations. A secondary applicant is a member of the family unit of the primary applicant, i.e. their spouse, an interdependent partner, a dependent child or a dependent relative of the primary applicant or spouse. In terms of counting 'grants' or 'arrivals', the primary applicant and any accompanying secondary applicants are categorised under the primary applicant's visa category. For example, for a family in which the primary individual is granted a Skilled visa and the applicant has a spouse and two dependent children, this will be reported as four skilled grants in the migration program outcomes data. Similarly when they reach Australia there are an additional four settler arrivals on a skilled visa. For more on this topic see Migrant Characteristics and Settlement Outcomes of Secondary Applicants, a related article in this series.
The Permanent Program is the main mechanism for permanent entry into Australia for people born overseas. Within the Permanent Program, individuals can enter under the Migration Program, or the Humanitarian Program. The three streams of the planned Migration Program are Family, Skill and Special Eligibility:
For more detailed explanations of these categories, refer to the glossary.
Under the Humanitarian Program, permanent resettlement is offered for refugees and others in special humanitarian need. The Humanitarian Program responds to the needs of those affected by events in their homeland.
Each financial year the permanent migration planning levels (DIAC, Fact Sheet 20) are set and capped according to the Federal Government's priorities. The actual number of visas granted each year under the Migration Program are reported as Migration Program outcomes (DIAC, Migration Program Statistics). The number of permanent visas granted each year for the period from 1984-85 to 2007-08 is shown below, excluding NZ settlers. The total number of permanent visas granted has increased steadily over the past ten years.
Permanent visas granted by category for the last ten years (DIAC 2000 to 2005-06, 2007, 2008c; DIAC 2008a) is tabled below. A total of 206,135 permanent visas were issued in 2007-08, a 9% increase on the previous year and more than double the levels of 1997-98. The table includes the components of permanent migration with visas granted under the Migration Program and the Humanitarian Program as well as the non-program migration of New Zealand citizens.
The Migration Program outcome of 158,630 migrants for 2007-08 was a record high level and significantly above the previous peak observed in the late 1980s (124,700 migrants in 1988-89). The program also shows ten years of growth since 1997-98. The outcome for 2007-08 was 158,630 migrants, a 7% increase on the previous year 2006-07 (148,200) and more than a two-fold increase on the 1997-98 level (67,090).
The planned Migration Program level for 2008-09 was even higher at 190,300 - comprising 42,500 Family stream grants and 133,500 Skill stream grants. Due to a worsening global economic situation however, the Government subsequently announced that there would be a 14 per-cent cut in the 2008-09 Permanent Skilled Migration Program intake.
The level of visa grants for Humanitarian entry has, over the past decade, ranged from 9,960 in 1999-2000 to 14,144 in 2005-06. The level for 2007-08 is 13,014 Humanitarian migrant visas and the planning levels for 2008-09 is 13,500 visas.
Permanent Migration Outcomes by Visa Eligibility
Permanent Migration outcomes by eligibility stream (visa category) for the period 1984-85 through to 2007-08 are shown in the following figure. Of particular interest is the increasing intake of Skill stream migrants since 1997-98.
Between the years of 1984-85 and 1996-97 the highest proportion of visa grants in each year was under the Family stream, although this varied from a high of 81% in 1984-85 to a low of 55% in 1990-91. In 1997-98, the number and proportion of grants issued under the Skill stream was greater than those issued under the Family stream (52% and 47% of the Migration Program respectively) for the first time. Since that time the proportion of visa outcomes under the Skill stream has continued to increase and in 2007-08 was at a record level of 68%. This equates to 108,540 places in the Skill stream, an 11 percentage point increase on the previous year. In terms of Skill sub-categories, 'Employer Nomination Scheme' and 'Independent' streams account for the major components of the Skill category (45% and 43% respectively). For further details see Skilled Migration, a related article in this series.
Whilst the relative share of Family visas has declined since 1997-98, the overall number of Family visa grants has increased in absolute terms, rising from 31,310 in 1997-98, peaking at 50,080 in 2006-07, to 49,870 in 2007-08. This amounts to an almost 60% increase over the ten year period. Partner visas, including Spouse, Prospective Marriage (fiancé) and Interdependency visa subclasses account for 80% (39,931) of Family visa places in 2007-08.
Onshore Residence Outcomes
Although the majority of applicants for migration apply offshore i.e. from outside Australia, there is an increasing number of people who apply for permanent residence onshore i.e. while they are already in Australia on a certain temporary resident visas. A temporary resident visa can therefore be a pathway to securing permanent residence in Australia. For example a person living in Australia on a temporary spouse visa will be granted a permanent spouse visa provided that they can demonstrate their relationship is genuine. Similarly a person working full-time on a long stay business (subclass 457) visa can be sponsored for permanent residence under the Employer Nomination Scheme.
For interest on the subject of Temporary migration, refer to Temporary Migrants in Australia, a related article in this series.
The number of onshore visas granted to temporary entrants (both short and long term) has increased since 2000, particularly on the basis of skill. Provisions have been introduced so that overseas students completing their courses in Australia can apply onshore and be granted permanent residence through the General Skilled visa category, without the need to leave Australia (DIAC 2008b). This development, combined with the general rise in the number of temporary skilled workers applying for permanent residency has resulted in a three-fold increase in onshore visa grants from 15,282 in 1997-98 to 54,400 in 2007-08. This figure represents over one-third (34%) of the Migration Program outcomes in 2007-08. The level of both onshore and offshore outcomes for the years 1997-98 to 2007-08 (DIAC 2008) is shown below.
Onshore Residence Outcomes by Visa Eligibility
The large increase in the number of onshore visas granted is largely the result of a five-fold increase in the number of onshore Skilled visas granted, from a level of 7,648 in 2000-01 to 42,065 in 2007-08. The growth within the onshore Skill stream is largely attributed to the introduction of the Independent category, in 2001-02. The Skill sub-categories of Employer Nomination Scheme and Independent account for the majority of onshore skill outcomes (45% and 43% respectively in 2007-08). Within the onshore Family stream, Spouse and Fiancés sub-category typically contributes between 80% and 90% of the onshore Family outcomes. The following figure displays the onshore outcomes by visa category for the major categories of the Migration Program (non-humanitarian).
New Zealand Citizens
Since the 1920s, there has been virtually unrestricted movement between the people of Australia and New Zealand (DIAC, Fact Sheet 17). Under the 1973 Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement both Australians and New Zealand citizens have had reciprocal right to visit, work and live in either country, without the need to apply for authority to enter. More recently, changes made to the Migration Act 1958 in 1994 resulted in the legal requirement for all non-citizens to hold visas resulting in the Special Category Visa (SCV) being introduced for New Zealand citizens. This change had minimal practical impact but administratively a SCV would be electronically recorded and the passport stamped with a date of arrival into Australia. Statistically, New Zealand citizens are not counted as part of Australia's annual planned migration program but the figures are included in the Settler Arrivals reports and net overseas migration (when the intention is to arrive or depart for more than a 12-month period).
As shown in the Permanent Visa outcomes (Figure 2), the level of New Zealand citizens arrivals has over the past decade, ranged from a low of 16,364 in 2002-03 to a high of 42,257 in 2000-01. There were 34,491 New Zealand citizens entering Australia in 2007-08. This represented a 22% increase on the previous year and 23% of all settler arrivals.
LIST OF REFERENCES
ABS 2006, A Picture of the Nation: the Statistician's Report on the 2006 Census, cat. no. 2070.0, ABS, Canberra.
ABS 2008, Australian Demographic Statistics, September 2008, cat. no. 3101.0, ABS, Canberra.
DIAC 2008a, Annual Report 2007-08, <http://www.immi.gov.au/about/reports/annual/>.
DIAC, Fact Sheet 1, viewed 10 November 2008, <http://www.immi.gov.au/media/fact-sheets/>.
DIAC, Fact Sheet 4, viewed 10 November 2008, <http://www.immi.gov.au/media/fact-sheets/>.
DIAC, Fact Sheet 17, viewed 10 November 2008, <http://www.immi.gov.au/media/fact-sheets/>.
DIAC, Fact Sheet 20, viewed 22 October 2008, <http://www.immi.gov.au/media/fact-sheets/>.
DIAC, Fact Sheet 24, viewed 22 October 2008, <http://www.immi.gov.au/media/fact-sheets/>.
DIAC, Fact Sheet 29, viewed 22 October 2008, <http://www.immi.gov.au/media/fact-sheets/>.
DIAC, Fact Sheet 60, viewed 6 November 2008, <http://www.immi.gov.au/media/fact-sheets/>.
DIAC 2008b, Immigration Update 2007-08, <http://www.immi.gov.au/media/publications/statistics/>.
DIAC 2002-03 to 2006-07, Immigration Update 2002-03 to 2006-07, <http://www.immi.gov.au/media/publications/statistics/>.
DIAC, Migration Program Statistics, viewed 22 October 2008, <http://www.immi.gov.au/media/statistics/statistical-info/visa-grants/migrant.htm>.
DIAC 2008c, Population Flows - Immigration Aspects 2007-08, <http://www.immi.gov.au/media/publications/statistics/>.
DIAC 2007, Population Flows - Immigration Aspects 2006-07, <http://www.immi.gov.au/media/publications/statistics/>.
DIAC (2000 to 2005-06), Population Flows - Immigration Aspects, 2000 edition to 2005-06, <http://www.immi.gov.au/media/publications/statistics/>.
Parliamentary Library 2005, Department of Parliamentary Services, Research Note no. 48, 10 May 2005, <http://www.aph.gov.au/library/pubs/rn/2004-05/05rn48.htm>.
Reserve Bank of Australia 2007, Bulletin, September 2007, <http://www.rba.gov.au/PublicationsAndResearch/Bulletin/bu_sep07/immig_lab_supply.html>.
Permanent Migration Program descriptions
The Permanent Migration Program is the main mechanism for permanent entry into Australia for people born overseas. The program comprises over 300 sub-classes of visas with the list of eligible visas changing regularly as a result of legislative and regulatory changes. In general terms the rules for each category (DIAC, Fact sheet 1) are:
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