Latest release

Overseas Migration

Statistics on Australia's international immigration and emigration, by state and territory, country of birth, visa, age and sex.

Reference period
2020-21 financial year
Released
17/12/2021
Next release 16/12/2022
First release

Key statistics

  • Overseas migration 2020-21 - net loss of 88,800 people - the first loss since 1946 and second lowest on record
  • Immigration fell 71% to 145,800 from 506,900 arrivals a year ago
  • Emigration fell 25% to 234,600 from 314,200 departures a year ago
  • A decline was recorded in net overseas migration in every state and territory in 2020-21.

The data presented in this release are annual, for years ending 30 June unless otherwise noted. For the latest quarterly migration estimates, see the ABS publication National, state and territory population. For Australia's regional overseas migration estimates, see the ABS publication Regional Population.

Impact of COVID-19

The World Health Organisation (WHO) commenced daily situation reports of the COVID-19 outbreak on 21 January 2020 and identified it as an international health emergency on 30 January. This was less than a month after the first suspected cases were reported in Wuhan, China. Initially the Australian Government placed travel restrictions on those travelling to Australia from mainland China commencing 1 February 2020. Restrictions on other countries soon followed. From 20 March 2020, there were border restrictions put in place for all overseas travel. For more information, see the Prime Minister's media release on border restrictions. From 19 April to 23 July 2021 a travel bubble with New Zealand was in place.

Many of the changes observed in the recent data in this release are mainly due to the impact of the pandemic. This release covers data up to 30 June 2021 and therefore includes the first 15 month of the pandemic period.

The Australian Government's national plan for re-opening borders has four phases. Each phase will see additional changes to overseas migration statistics.

In the meantime, the pandemic continues to disrupt international travel and migration patterns. 

More timely releases

The ABS has changed the way it publishes the content of the former publication Migration Australia.

In its place will be two new publications: this release, Overseas Migration, along with another publication called Australia's Population by Country of Birth which is due for release in April 2022.  These publications will be more timely, accessible and reduce duplication where possible.

There will be no loss of data through these changes.

Most data in this release are rounded to the nearest 10. As a result, sums of components may not add to totals.

Net overseas migration

Net overseas migration is the net gain or loss of population through immigration to Australia (overseas migrant arrivals) and emigration from Australia (overseas migrant departures).

In the year ending 30 June 2021, overseas migration contributed a net loss of 89,000 to Australia's population. This was the second lowest on record after a loss of 129,000 during World War 1.

Traditionally, more people immigrate to, than emigrate from Australia each year. Historically, overseas migration data shows a pattern of variability over time, due to the ever changing global and domestic factors affecting migration. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic added to this variability.

From 2006 to 2020, net overseas migration contributed more each year to Australia's population growth than natural increase (births minus deaths).

The last time Australia saw an annual net loss due to overseas migration was 75 years ago at the end of World War 2.

a. Estimates from 1972 are year ending June, prior to this they are year ending December. Estimates for 2020-21 are preliminary. See revision status on the methodology page.

  • 1860 (earliest records) to 1913 (pre WW1) - average gain of 20,000 people per year with some annual losses 
  • 1916 - the largest net loss in a single year of 129,000 due to WW1 - mainly young men
  • 1919 (post WW1) to 1929 - average gain of 46,000 per year - includes troops returning 
  • 1930 to 1945 - punctuated with annual losses due to Great Depression and WW2 (1939-45) 
  • 1946 (post WW2) to 2006 - average gain of 90,000 per year - post-war migration program started
  • 2007 to 2020 - average net gain of 226,000 per year - more temporary migration
  • 2021 (preliminary estimates) - net loss of 89,000 people from overseas migration due to impact of COVID-19 pandemic - the second lowest on record.

 

The flows of overseas migration affect the growth, size, structure and geographical distribution of Australia's population. These flows, in both directions, impact on issues such as:

  • economic growth and the national income
  • skilled and unskilled labour supply
  • social cohesion
  • family reunion
  • educational services provided to international students
  • international obligations to assist refugees
  • housing availability
  • cultural diversity.

Variations in volume and characteristics of migrants impact on policy and future planning at all levels of government.

Arrivals (immigration)

Overseas migrant arrivals (immigrants) are incoming international travellers who are added to Australia's population. 

In 2020-21, immigration fell 71 per cent to 146,000 from 507,000 arrivals in the previous year. This was due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

In the decade prior, the average number of migrant arrivals was 493,000 per year. During this time, the majority (56%) arrived on temporary visas which include international students. In 2020-21, this proportion had dropped to 19 per cent.

a. Estimates for 2020-21 are preliminary. See revision status on the methodology page.
b. The visa at time of traveller's overseas migration arrival date. The number of visas here should not be confused with information on visas granted by the Department of Home Affairs as visas can be granted onshore.
c. Includes Australian citizens and permanent visa holders.
d. New Zealand citizens are granted a Special Category visa (subclass 444) upon entering Australia.

Departures (emigration)

Overseas migrant departures (emigrants) are outgoing international travellers who are subtracted from Australia's population.  

In 2020-21, emigration fell 25 per cent to 235,000 from 314,000 departures in the previous year. This was due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the decade prior, the average number of migrant departures was 277,000 per year. During this time, the largest group (49%) departing were on temporary visas, which include international students. In 2020-21, this proportion had increased to 63 per cent.

a. Estimates for 2020-21 are preliminary. See revision status on the methodology page.
b. The visa at time of traveller's overseas migration departure date. The number of visas here should not be confused with information on visas granted by the Department of Home Affairs as visas can be granted onshore.
c. Includes Australian citizens and permanent visa holders.
d. New Zealand citizens are granted a Special Category visa (subclass 444) upon entering Australia.

Country of birth

Net overseas migration

The contribution of net overseas migration to Australia's population, from all countries of birth, changed due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The majority recorded a net loss from the population. 

a. Estimates from September quarter 2020 are preliminary. See revision status on the methodology page.
b. Top 5 countries of birth as flows contributing to NOM based on year ending June 2021.
c. Excludes SARs and Taiwan.

In the decade prior to the impact of the pandemic, analysis of the top five countries shows there were increases of those born in India and China. However, a decline of the Chinese-born was seen from late 2017, well before the pandemic. In 2020-21, both of these countries recorded a net loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, those born in the United Kingdom and New Zealand also recorded net losses from Australia's population. 

Historically, there was a net loss from the population of the Australian-born, as more depart than return to Australia each year. Due to the impact of the pandemic this long-term pattern has been reversed. 

Arrivals

The volume of overseas migrant arrivals for all countries of birth experienced change due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The majority of countries traditionally providing the largest flows of immigrants show substantial declines from 2019-20 to 2020-21, with more moderate declines for Australia and New Zealand.

However, over the decade leading up to the impact of the pandemic, immigration had:

  • been stable for Australian-born with around 50,000 arrivals returning home each year
  • increased for Chinese-born - driven by international students (mainly for the higher education sector)
  • increased for Indian-born - also driven by international students (mainly for the higher education sector)
  • decreased for UK-born - due to declines in working holiday makers, those on temporary skilled visas and permanent visa holders
  • decreased for NZ-born - consistent with change in the difference between New Zealand and Australia's unemployment rates (Armstrong and McDonald 2016, p.2).

a. Estimates from September quarter 2020 are preliminary. See revision status on the methodology page.
b. Top 5 countries of birth based on year ending June 2021.
c. Excludes SARs and Taiwan.

The graph above also indicates changes in travel behaviour of those who had arrived prior to the pandemic but were impacted by it and various travel restrictions.

For example, Australian-born migrant arrivals increased from September 2019 to March 2020. This was largely due to some Australian expatriates having changed their travel plans after arriving and remaining despite originally having planned a short trip. Due to this, some then met the 12 month duration rule to be counted as an overseas migrant arrival.

This was also observed for other nationalities such as those from China and India. Some in the older age groups arrived on visitor visas but ended up staying long enough to be counted as a migrant arrival. 

Departures

The volume of overseas migrant departures for all countries of birth experienced change due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Most, but not all, show a decline during 2019-20 and 2020-21.

However, over the decade leading up to the impact of the pandemic, emigration data showed:

  • Australian-born - as the largest group departing each year historically, recorded 65,000 departures each year on average
  • Chinese-born - increasing departures due to international students departing. However due to COVID-19, many were recorded as emigrants in 2018-19 when they had left Australia prior to the pandemic to visit their home country but were unable to return to Australia to continue studies  
  • Indian-born - departures remaining stable even though there were increases in international student arrivals during this period. Like China above, in 2018-19 some were recorded as emigrants after being unable to return to Australia due to the pandemic
  • UK-born - most departures were Australian Citizens born in the UK, working holiday makers, temporary skilled and permanent visa holders
  • NZ-born - departures rising in the middle of the decade to 23,000 before declining again at the end of the decade.

a. Estimates from September quarter 2020 are preliminary. See revision status on the methodology page.
b. Top 5 countries of birth based on year ending June 2021.
c. Excludes SARs and Taiwan.

World regions

The mix of countries where Australia's immigrants are born has changed considerably over time. A decade ago, in 2010-11, the largest group (20%) was from North-West Europe. By 2018-19, the year prior to the pandemic, this had changed substantially with the largest group (28%) of immigrants coming from South and Central Asia. 

In 2020-21, immigration from all regions of birth declined due to the impact of the pandemic. During this time Australia's nearest neighbours in Oceania became the largest group immigrating to Australia with just over 20,000 arrivals. The majority (61%) of these were born in New Zealand.

a. Estimates for 2020-21 are preliminary. See revision status on the methodology page.
b. Based on the Standard Australian Classification of Countries. See classifications on the methodology page.

Visa

Arrivals

Immigration fell overall by 71 per cent in 2020-21. However, the falls differed among the various visa groups.

  • Collectively all temporary visa holders arriving saw a 91 percent fall from one year ago
  • Collectively all permanent visa holders - a 48 per cent fall
  • International student arrivals almost stopped during the pandemic - a 99 per cent fall
  • Likewise, arrivals for working holiday makers (98%) and the special eligibility and humanitarian group (96%) also experience large declines.
Table 3.1 Overseas migrant arrivals by visa groupings(a)
  2018-192019-202020-21Annual change 2019-20 to 2020-21
Visa groupings(b)'000'000'000%
Permanent visas    
 Family24.320.315.7-22.6
 Skilled (permanent)38.227.314.6-46.6
 Special eligibility & humanitarian15.313.00.6-95.6
 Other (permanent)7.510.36.4-38.2
Total permanent visas85.470.937.2-47.5
Temporary visas    
 Student - vocational education and training22.611.40.1-99.0
 Student - higher education111.376.00.7-99.1
 Student - other30.423.10.8-96.7
 Skilled (temporary)32.622.89.1-60.2
 Working holiday49.144.01.1-97.5
 Visitors91.2117.77.9-93.3
 Other (temporary)13.418.78.5-54.7
Total temporary visas350.7313.728.1-91.0
      
New Zealand citizens (subclass 444)30.522.217.0-23.5
Australian citizens (no visa required)78.996.462.4-35.3
Total(c) 550.4506.9145.8-71.2

a. Estimates for 2020-21 are preliminary. See revision status on the methodology page.
b. The visa at time of traveller's overseas migration arrival date. The number of visas here should not be confused with information on visas granted by the Department of Home Affairs as visas can be granted onshore.
c. Includes unknown visas.

Departures

Emigration fell overall by 25 per cent in 2020-21, however, the falls differed among the various visa groups.

  • Collectively all permanent visa holders departing saw a 23 per cent fall from one year ago
  • Collectively all temporary visa holders - a 24 per cent fall
  • Working holiday makers - the largest fall (69%) as many had not arrived during the pandemic to be able to depart
  • Departures from the vocational education and training (VET) sector - a 49 per cent fall.
Table 3.2 Overseas migrant departures by visa groupings(a)
  2018-192019-202020-21Annual change 2019-20 to 2020-21
Visa groupings(b)'000'000'000%
Permanent visas    
 Family5.86.44.3-32.6
 Skilled (permanent)7.58.56.9-19.3
 Special eligibility & humanitarian0.20.10.1-10.7
 Other (permanent)8.19.57.5-21.0
Total permanent visas21.624.518.7-23.4
Temporary visas    
 Student - vocational education and training17.022.211.4-48.7
 Student - higher education40.966.044.2-33.1
 Student - other9.512.77.7-39.6
 Skilled (temporary)15.713.611.4-16.6
 Working holiday25.125.57.9-69.2
 Visitors27.316.915.1-10.4
 Other (temporary)33.039.851.128.3
Total temporary visas168.5196.8148.7-24.4
      
New Zealand citizens (subclass 444)22.420.819.4-7.0
Australian citizens (no visa required)85.960.444.3-26.7
Total(c) 309.1314.2234.6-25.3

a. Estimates for 2020-21 are preliminary. See revision status on the methodology page.
b. The visa at time of traveller's overseas migration departure date. The number of visas here should not be confused with information on visas granted by the Department of Home Affairs as visas can be granted onshore.
c. Includes unknown visas.

Age and sex

Arrivals

In 2020-21, during the pandemic, the age profile had changed from that observed prior to the pandemic:

  • those aged 31 were the greatest volume arriving
  • the median age of immigrants increased to 32 years.

However in 2018-19, prior to the pandemic, when there were greater volumes of international students:

  • those aged 23 were the greatest volume arriving
  • the median age of immigrants was 26 years - also the average over the previous decade.

Note: Median age is the age at which half the population is older and half is younger.

a. Estimates for 2020-21 are preliminary. See revision status on the methodology page.

The sex ratio of immigrants had increased from 102 in 2018-19, prior to the pandemic, to 103 in 2020-21.

Note: Sex ratio is the number of males per 100 females. 

Departures

In 2020-21, during the pandemic, the summary figures of those emigrating showed little change from prior to the pandemic:

  • females aged 24 and males aged 25 remained as the greatest volume departing
  • the median age of emigrants was higher at 29 years.

However in 2018-19, prior to the pandemic:

  • females aged 24 and males aged 25 were the greatest volume departing
  • the median age of emigrants was 28 years - also the average over the previous decade. 

While the overall volume had decreased in 2020-21, this was not the case for all ages. For example, there were more females in their 60s departing in 2020-21 than prior to the pandemic in 2018-19.

Note: Median age is the age at which half the population is older and half is younger.

a. Estimates for 2020-21 are preliminary. See revision status on the methodology page.

The sex ratio of emigrants had decreased slightly from 109 in 2018-19, prior to the pandemic, to 107 in 2020-21. This aligns with a trend where the sex ratio has been dropping over recent years. 

Note: Sex ratio is the number of males per 100 females. 

State and territory

Net overseas migration

In 2020-21, Australia recorded a net loss of 89,000 people from the national population due to overseas migration and the impact of COVID-19.

Every state and territory also recorded a net loss from their own populations:

  • NSW with a net loss of 5,500 people
  • Vic. - loss of 56,100 people
  • Qld - loss of 14,400
  • SA - loss of 3,300
  • WA - loss of 5,600
  • Tas. - loss of 440
  • NT - loss of 380
  • ACT - loss of 3,100.

However, in the decade prior the impact of the pandemic, there was an annual net gain from overseas migration for each state and territory. 

a. Estimates from September quarter 2020 are preliminary. See revision status on the methodology page.
b. Based on the states with the largest volume of migrant arrivals and migrant departures.

a. Estimates from September quarter 2020 are preliminary. See revision status on the methodology page.
b. Based on the states and territories with the smallest volume of migrant arrivals and migrant departures.

Country of birth

Historically, migrants have provided a net gain to Australia's population through overseas migration from many countries across the globe.

During the pandemic, many historical patterns of migration changed, with net losses recorded for many countries of birth. However, this varied between the states and territories.

In 2020-21, the net overseas migration data reveals for:

  • Chinese-born migrants - large net losses from each state and territory population
  • Indian-born - also with losses from each state and territory but followed at a distance behind China
  • Australian-born - net gains for some states but net losses for Victoria and the two territories (ACT and NT)
  • NZ-born - a net gain in NSW but every other state and territory recorded a loss.

a. Top 5 countries of birth as flows contributing to NOM based at the Australia level.
b. Estimates for 2020-21 are preliminary. See revision status on the methodology page.
c. Excludes SARs and Taiwan.

In 2018-19, the year prior to the pandemic, the net overseas migration data shows for:

  • Indian-born migrants - large net gains to each state and territory
  • Chinese-born - largest flow volume in and out of the country, but their net gain to each state and territory was generally much lower than those from India
  • Australian-born - net loss from the populations of each state and territory - historically more emigrate from, than immigrate back to, Australia each year.

a. Top 5 countries of birth as flows contributing to NOM based at the Australia level.
b. Excludes SARs and Taiwan.

Age

In 2020-21, the age profile had changed from that observed prior to the pandemic.

The median age of:

  • immigrants varied from 31 to 33 years of age across the states and territories - a substantial increase of 4 to 6 years compared to 2018-19
  • emigrants varied from 28 to 32 years of age - an increase of 1 to 2 years.

In 2018-19, prior to the pandemic the median age of :

  • immigrants varied from 26 to 28 years of age across the states and territories 
  • emigrants varied from 27 to 30 years of age.

These changes, in part, are due to the decreased volume of younger travellers such as international students and working holiday makers during the pandemic period.

Table 5.5 Migrant arrivals and departures - Median age(a) by state and territory - compared
  NSWVic.QldSAWATas.NTACTAust.(b)
  age age age age age age age age age 
2020-21(c) (during COVID)        
 Arrivals32.331.832.332.232.531.131.332.532.2
 Departures29.428.128.929.331.630.731.127.929.0
2018-19 (pre-COVID)        
 Arrivals26.525.926.726.227.626.927.626.526.4
 Departures28.628.028.328.329.728.829.827.328.5

a. Median age is the age at which half the population is older and half is younger.
b. Includes Other Territories.
c. Estimates for 2020-21 are preliminary. See revision status on the methodology page.
 

Sex

In 2020-21, the sex ratio had changed due to the impact of the pandemic on the behaviour of those migrating.  The changes were greater for some states and territories than for others.

The sex ratio of:

  • immigrants varied from 98 to 153 (males per 100 females) across the states and territories
  • emigrants varied from 100 to 147 males per 100 females.

In 2018-19, prior to the pandemic, the sex ratio of:

  • immigrants varied from 98 to 123 (males per 100 females) across the states and territories 
  • emigrants varied from 104 to 206 males per 100 females.
Table 5.6 Migrant arrivals and departures - Sex ratio(a) by state and territory - compared
  NSWVic.QldSAWATas.NTACTAust.(b)
  ratioratioratioratioratioratioratioratioratio
2020-21(c) (during COVID)        
 Arrivals99.697.5112.3109.8106.8140.4152.999.1102.9
 Departures108.4106.3100.4111.7111.8114.5147.3105.2107.0
2018-19 (pre-COVID)        
 Arrivals101.7103.298.4100.6100.7101.4123.397.7101.6
 Departures106.6104.4111.2106.3117.0114.9205.7104.4108.9

a. Sex ratio is the number of males per 100 females.
b. Includes Other Territories.
c. Estimates for 2020-21 are preliminary. See revision status on the methodology page.

Related ABS publications

National, state and territory population
- includes quarterly data on net overseas migration and net interstate migration estimates.

Regional population
- includes annual data on regional overseas migration and regional internal migration estimates.

Overseas arrivals and departures, Australia
- monthly statistics on all international travel arriving in and departing from Australia.

Personal income of migrants, Australia
- statistics on personal income of migrants including employee income, own unincorporated business income, investment income and other income.

Understanding migrant outcomes - insights from the Australian Census and migrants integrated dataset, Australia, 2016
- statistics about permanent migrants: their employment, education, income, housing and geographic distribution.

Insights from the Australian Census and temporary entrants integrated dataset, Australia, 2016
- statistics about temporary entrants: their employment, education, income, housing and geographic distribution.

Migrant data matrices
- provides users with links to available summary data on migrants from a wide range of ABS surveys and outputs.

Inquiries

For further information about these publications and related statistics visit www.abs.gov.au/about/contact-us

Data downloads

Excel data cubes

I-note

Estimates for 2020-21 are preliminary. Preliminary estimates are based on outputs from a propensity model and data is, therefore, an aggregate rather than a true count of each individual. Please take care when using the variables of preliminary estimates at this level of granularity. See revision status on the methodology page.

The estimates in these tables use the 12/16 month rule methodology for calculating net overseas migration. They have not been used in compiling Australia's official estimated resident population (ERP) until September quarter 2006 and onwards. See method used on the methodology page.

To confidentialise, estimates have been rounded to the nearest 10. As a result, sums of the components may not add to totals. Calculations made on rounded data may differ to those published. See confidentiality on the methodology page.

Country classification and codes are from the Standard Australian Classification of Countries (SACC), 2016 (cat. no. 1269.0).

The visa information in these tables are the visa at time of traveller's specific overseas movement date. The number of visas here should not be confused with information on visas granted by the Department of Home Affairs as visas can be granted onshore. Over time, new visas created by Home Affairs are added to the visa hierarchy while the use of other visas may expire. Care should be taken in the analysis of overseas migration data by visa over time.

1. Net overseas migration by country of birth, state/territory - financial years, 2004-05 to 2020-21

2. Overseas migrant arrivals and departures by visa groupings, state/territory - financial years, 2004-05 to 2020-21

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Data Explorer datasets

Caution: Data in the Data Explorer is currently released after the 11:30am release on the ABS website. Please check for the current reference period when using Data Explorer.

For information on Data Explorer and how it works, see the Data Explorer user guide.

I-note

Estimates for 2020-21 are preliminary. Preliminary estimates are based on outputs from a propensity model and data is, therefore, an aggregate rather than a true count of each individual. Please take care when using the variables of preliminary estimates at this level of granularity. See revision status on the methodology page.

The estimates in these tables use the 12/16 month rule methodology for calculating net overseas migration. They have not been used in compiling Australia's official estimated resident population (ERP) until September quarter 2006 and onwards. See method used on the methodology page.

To confidentialise, estimates have been rounded to the nearest 10. As a result, sums of the components may not add to totals. Calculations made on rounded data may differ to those published. See confidentiality on the methodology page.

Country classification and codes are from the Standard Australian Classification of Countries (SACC), 2016 (cat. no. 1269.0).

The visa information in these tables are the visa at time of traveller's specific overseas movement date. The number of visas here should not be confused with information on visas granted by the Department of Home Affairs as visas can be granted onshore. Over time, new visas created by Home Affairs are added to the visa hierarchy while the use of other visas may expire. Care should be taken in the analysis of overseas migration data by visa over time.