Temporary visa holders in Australia methodology

Latest release
Reference period

Temporary visa holders

This release provides information on the social and economic characteristics of people who held a temporary visa and were present in Australia on Census Night, 10 August 2021. The release particularly focuses on those temporary visa holders who indicated they would usually be resident in Australia for at least a year. This population is referred to as temporary residents.

Data collection

Data sources

The statistics in this publication were compiled from the 2021 Australian Census and Temporary Entrants Integrated Dataset (ACTEID). ACTEID links data from the 2021 Census of Population and Housing (Census) with temporary visa holder data from the Department of Home Affairs (Home Affairs).

The ABS acknowledges the continuing support from Home Affairs for the ACTEID project. The provision of data as well as ongoing assistance provided by the agency is essential to enable this work to be undertaken.

For information about the 2021 Census and collection methodology please refer to Census methodology.


ACTEID represents select types of temporary visa holders who were present in Australia on Census Night (10 August 2021). Specifically, ACTEID only includes the following temporary visa subclasses:

Temporary skilled

  • Temporary Work (Skilled) (457)
  • Temporary Skill Shortage (482)


  • Student (Temporary) (500)
  • Schools Sector (571)
  • Vocational Education and Training Sector (572)
  • Higher Education Sector (573)
  • Postgraduate Research Sector (574)
  • Non-Award Sector (575)

Special Category (New Zealand citizen)

  • Special Category (444)

Working Holiday Maker

  • Working Holiday (417)
  • Work And Holiday (Temporary) (462)

Other temporary

  • Bridging A (010)
  • Bridging B (020)
  • Bridging C (030)
  • Bridging (General) (050)
  • Other bridging visas
  • Temporary Work (Short Stay Specialist) (400)
  • Training And Research (402)
  • Temporary Work (International Relations) (403)
  • Investor Retirement (405)
  • Training (407)
  • Temporary Activity (408)
  • Retirement (410)
  • New Zealand Citizen Family Relationship (Temporary) (461)
  • Skilled - Recognised Graduate (476)
  • Temporary Graduate (485)
  • Temporary Protection Visa (785)
  • Safe Haven Enterprise (790)
  • Sponsored Parent (Temporary) (870)
  • Diplomatic (Temporary) (995)

Processing the data

Data integration

Statistical data integration involves combining information from different data sources such as administrative, survey and/or census to provide new datasets for statistical and research purposes.

Data linking is a key part of statistical data integration and involves combining records from different datasets using shared data items. Data linkage is performed on unit records that represent individual persons.

The ABS enforces a robust framework of protections for its data linking projects that work together to protect privacy, strengthen the security of data, and meet legislative requirements. For more information, see the Privacy section below.

Linkage between temporary visa holder data and the 2021 Census

The 2021 temporary visa holder records were linked to the 2021 Census data using a deterministic linkage method.

Deterministic data linkage, also known as rule-based linkage, involves assigning record pairs across two datasets that match exactly or closely on common data items.

Linkage results

At the completion of the linkage process 1,075,852 (65.6%) out of 1,638,838 records from the temporary visa holder data were linked to the 2021 Census data.


The estimates in this release have been calibrated to the total number of temporary visa holders in Australia on Census Night, to help account for unlinked records. This is accomplished by assigning a weight to each linked record in ACTEID to represent the units that did not link. This calibration helps the estimates be more representative of all temporary visa holders in Australia on Census Night. The calibration methodology in 2021 is broadly consistent with the 2016 method and accounts for characteristics such as age, sex, visa information and country of birth.


The ABS respects individual’s rights to privacy and is committed to keeping information safe and secure. The ABS is subject to legislation protecting the confidentiality of information, including the Census and Statistics Act 1905 which makes it a criminal offence to breach secrecy provisions.

For more information see the 2021 Census Privacy Statement, and Keeping integrated data safe.


In accordance with the Census and Statistics Act 1905, data are subject to a confidentiality process before release. This is undertaken to avoid releasing information that may allow the identification of individuals, families, households, dwellings, or businesses.

One technique used to guard against identification of confidential information is the random adjustments to cells with very small values. In these cases, data may not sum to totals but the size of the difference between summed cells and the relevant total will generally be small.

For more information see Introduced random error / perturbation.

Data limitations

Unlinked records and linkage errors

While the linkage between the temporary visa holder data and the 2021 Census is of high quality, some records could not be linked, and there is also a chance of linkage error (false links).

False links are influenced by the similarity of linking information in records that represent different individuals. This may be due to random chance but is primarily driven by low-quality information in linking data items: the less information available to discriminate two individuals, the more likely they will match by chance. The calibration process does not mitigate against this error.

Although approximately one third of records could not be linked in ACTEID, calibration will help account for this. For more information, see the Calibration section in Processing the data.

COVID-19 pandemic

The 2021 Census was conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic, when international borders were closed and much of the Australian population was required to isolate at home under health directives.

The Australian Government imposed travel restrictions on those travelling to or from Australia from March 2020, which were gradually lifted from 1 November 2021. This impacted the number and type of temporary visa holders who were present in Australia on 10 August 2021.

For more information on Australia’s international migration see Overseas Migration.

The Census is the most comprehensive snapshot of Australia and tells us about the economic, social, and cultural make-up of the country. The 2021 Census occurred at a unique time for Australia and the data used in ACTEID allows us to understand outcomes of temporary visa holders who were present in Australia during the pandemic.

For more information on the collection of 2021 Census data during the pandemic see COVID-19 and the Census.

Quality of Census data

Information about the data quality of the Census is available on the ABS website in Understanding data quality.

Comparability of data

Estimates in this release are based on temporary visas held on 10 August 2021. Visa conditions and rules can vary over time, which should be noted if comparing estimates to the 2016 ACTEID. For example, student visa work restrictions were relaxed throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, including during the 2021 Census.

Estimates from the 2021 ACTEID may differ from Home Affairs temporary visa holder data and from other ABS collections. For example, Census includes data for all people in Australia on Census Night, whereas ACTEID only includes data for temporary visa holders. The Census can also be used to look at a range of cultural diversity characteristics, but unlike ACTEID, it does not contain visa information.

For more information on migrant data sources see Understanding migrant statistics in the Census and other data sources.

Estimates from ACTEID will also differ from Census and visa data obtained from the Multi-Agency Data Integration Project (MADIP) product. This is because: 

  • The two products use a different linkage methodology. Specifically, ACTEID directly links temporary visa holder records to Census, while MADIP links all datasets to the person linkage spine. See Multi-Agency Integration Project (MADIP) for more information on MADIP linkage.
  • ACTEID, unlike MADIP, is calibrated to temporary visa holder data from Home Affairs.


Show all

In addition to the glossary, see the Home Affairs website for more information on visas and the Census dictionary for more information on Census data items.

Bridging visa

A temporary visa granted to permit a person to stay in Australia lawfully while their immigration status is resolved. Bridging visas often act as a bridge between the lodgement of a visa application and the determination of that application.

Citizenship country

The country of citizenship of the visa applicant or visa holder. Where a visa applicant or visa holder has more than one citizenship country, either the citizenship of the travel document or the citizenship nominated by the visa applicant is used.

Country of birth

Country of birth has been classified according to the Standard Australian Classification of Countries (SACC), 2016.


Persons aged 15 years and over who, during the week prior to the Census on 10 August 2021 worked for one hour or more for payment or profit, or as an unpaid helper in a family business; had a job from which they were on leave or otherwise temporarily absent; or were on strike or stood down temporarily.

A number of regions across the country were in various stages of lockdown on Census day, and the week preceding it, resulting in a greater number of people being temporarily stood down. Even if lockdowns impacted a person's normal working hours, respondents were asked to answer this question accurately per their current situation.

Employed full-time

Employed persons who usually worked 35 hours or more a week (in all jobs) and those who, although usually working less than 35 hours a week, worked 35 hours or more during the week prior to Census Night.

Employed part-time

Employed persons who usually worked less than 35 hours or more a week (in all jobs) and either did so during the reference week or were not at work in the week prior to Census Night.


Industry of the main job held by the employed person in the week prior to Census Night. It is classified according to the Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification (ANZSIC), 2006 (Revision 2.0).

Labour force

Persons aged 15 years and over who were in the categories 'employed' or 'unemployed' as defined.

Level of highest educational attainment

A person’s overall highest level of educational attainment, whether it be a school or non-school qualification. Level of highest educational attainment is categorised according to the Australian Standard Classification of Education (ASCED), 2001.

Not in the labour force

Persons aged 15 years and over who, during the week prior to Census Night, were neither employed nor unemployed. They include people who were performing unpaid home duties, caring for children, retired, voluntarily inactive, permanently unable to work, in jail, trainee teachers, members of contemplative religious orders, and people whose only activity during the week prior to Census Night was jury service or unpaid voluntary work for a charitable organisation.

Other temporary visa

Includes all other temporary visa subclasses not included in the Special Category (New Zealand citizen) (subclass 444), Student, Temporary skilled and Working Holiday Maker categories. See the Scope section in Data collection for more details on the specific visas included.

Overseas visitors

The question on the Census form, 'Where does the person usually live?' allows for the identification of people who are usually resident in another country. Overseas visitors are those people who indicated at the 2021 Census that they would be usually resident in Australia for less than one year.

See the Census dictionary for more information.

In this release, statistics for temporary residents exclude overseas visitors.

Primary applicant

Generally, the person whose skills or proposed activities in Australia are assessed by Home Affairs as part of their visa application. They will usually have been specifically identified on the application form as the 'primary applicant'.

Secondary applicant

A person whose visa was granted on the basis of being the family member (e.g., spouse, dependent child) of a person who qualified for a visa. They will have been identified on the visa application as an 'other' or secondary applicant with the person who met the visa criteria being specifically identified on the visa application as the 'primary applicant'.

Secondary applicants are included in the same visa stream as the primary applicant. For example, family members granted temporary visas where the primary applicant has been granted a Temporary Work visa, will all enter Australia under a Temporary Work visa.

Special Category (subclass 444) visa

Permits New Zealand citizens to visit, study, stay and work in Australia. Special Category visas are granted on arrival in Australia and cease when the visa holder departs Australia.

Student visa

The permission or authority granted by Australia for foreign nationals to live in Australia temporarily to undertake study. In this release, student visa holders only include the following visa subclasses:

  • Student (Temporary) (500)
  • Schools Sector (571)
  • Vocational Education and Training Sector (572)
  • Higher Education Sector (573)
  • Postgraduate Research Sector (574)
  • Non-Award Sector (575)

Temporary resident

A temporary visa holder who indicated on their Census form that they would usually be resident in Australia for at least a year.

Temporary skilled visa

The permission or authority granted by Australia for foreign nationals to live and work in Australia temporarily on a Temporary Skill Shortage visa (subclass 482) or Temporary Work (Skilled) visa (subclass 457).

Note that the Temporary Work (Skilled) visa (subclass 457) was abolished in March 2018 and replaced with the new Temporary Skill Shortage visa (subclass 482).

Temporary visa

The permission or authority granted by Australia for foreign nationals to live in Australia temporarily. It allows the holder to either stay for a specified period, stay until a specified event happens, or stay while the holder has a specified status.


Persons aged 15 years and over who were not employed last week (at the time of the Census) and had actively looked for full-time or part-time work at any time in the last four weeks and were available and could have started work last week if the job had been available.

Visa type

The type of temporary visas held on Census Night were: 

  • Temporary skilled
  • Student
  • Special Category (New Zealand citizen)
  • Working Holiday Maker
  • Other temporary.

Please see the individual entries for each visa category in this Glossary for more information or the Scope section in Data collection for the list of visa subclasses included in each category. More visa information is also available from Department of Home Affairs - Visa list.

Working Holiday Maker visa

Permits foreign nationals (aged 18 to 30 years inclusive) to undertake short term work while holidaying in Australia. Includes visa subclasses 417 and 462.

Year of arrival

The year in which an overseas born person first arrived in Australia to live for one year or more. See Year of arrival (YARP) for more information.

Back to top of the page