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Australia migration program 2020-22 and beyond

More temporary workers and international students. Less permanent residents. How Australia evolved from White Australians only to being Multicultural - and back.

Crispin Aranda

Australia migration program 2020-22 and beyond

Over a period of more than three decades, the various conflicts in Asia, the Middle East, China and Europe witnessed the flow of refugees and asylees to Australia: from Vietnam, East Timor, Lebanon, the Balkans and South America.

From a White Australia policy, the Oceanian continent inched toward multiculturalism. Then, under a Labor government, the country moved toward a policy of multiculturalism. Towards the end of the ‘80s multiculturalism had been promoted as official government agenda.  

Between 1975 and 1982, some 200,000 Asian migrants came to Australia, among them 2,000 “boatpeople” part of the – 56,000 refugees from Vietnam.

Before John Howard became Australia’s 25th Prime Minister in 1996, the Oceanian continent had been accepting 87,000 immigrants. The planned level was reduced to 68,000. This level gradually increased until it reached 171,318 in 2008.

All countries with permanent migration programs are subject to change emanating from socio-economic factors that translates to the changing of the guard.

The ruling political party may have shifted but the stated reason for immigration programs remains constant: to ensure that immigrants admitted would benefit the current and future economic and social development of the nation – the policy of national interest.

In 2003-2004, Australia planned to admit 110,000 permanent residents mainly along the Skilled and Family-based streams. The outcome showed 114,360 migrants granted residency status.

The pattern became the norm in the next four years. Then the numbers evened out – the outcome virtually matched the planned level from 2009 to 2014.

From 2015 to the current program year, the planning level remained at 190,000, but the official policy was to reduce intake. The outcome validates the official policy thrust. Currently, the figure being bandied about as potential outcome (“not a target”) is just a little above 160,000.

And future migrants are being directed to the regions where they must stay for 3 years before being qualified for permanent residency.

The current Migration Program is set at an annual planning ceiling of 160,000 places for four years from 2019-2020.

The permanent Migration Program consists of the following streams:

  • Skill – designed to improve the productive capacity of the economy and fill skill shortages in the labor market, including those in regional Australia. The majority of the places in the program are in the Skill stream (108,682 places, 69.5 per cent of the program).
  • Family – predominately made up of Partner visas, enabling Australians to reunite with family members from overseas, and provide them with pathways to citizenship (47,732 places or 30.5 per cent of the program).
  • Special Eligibility – visas for those in special circumstances. This can include permanent residents returning to Australia after a period of absence and is the smallest stream (236 places).
  • At least 3,350 Child places will be available outside of the planned level.

2019-20 Migration program planning levels

Stream and Category

2019-20

Skill stream

Employer Sponsored

30,000

Skilled Independent

16,652

Regional

25,000

Skilled Employer Sponsored

10,000

Skilled Work Regional

15,000

State/Territory Nominated

24,968

Business Innovation & Investment program

6,862

Global Talent

5,000

Distinguished Talent

200

Skill Total

108,682

Family Stream

Partner

39,799

Parent

7,371

Other Family

562

Family Total

47,732

Special Eligibility

236

Child (estimate; not subject to a ceiling)

3,350

Total

160,000

Migration and Population Planning

Australia’s population growth has shaped and strengthened the nation. With more than half of the growth coming from migration (58%) and 29 percent of Australia’s residents foreign-born, and the perceived increased need for infrastructure and social services by immigrants, Australia reviewed its planning policy.

Migration has contributed 58 per cent to population growth over the last decade, making it a vital consideration when planning population. Currently, around 29 per cent of Australia’s residents were born overseas.

On 20 March 2019, the Government released Planning for Australia’s Future Population outlining “initiatives to better plan for Australia’s future population growth.”

“The initiatives include significant investments in infrastructure and major transport projects, alongside immigration and social cohesion initiatives that encourage greater numbers of new migrants to live and work in regional Australia, where there are genuine skill shortages in labor force.”

Thus, the present pathways from temporary to permanent residency visas were born:

Stress on Regional Migration. The Government collaborates with all levels of government to inform and shape migration and population planning, recognizing that each state, territory, and local government has varying skills needs and therefore are best placed to identify those needs in their jurisdictions, particularly in regional areas.

Changes to the 2019-20 Migration Program settings provided a greater focus on allocating more places to the State/Territory Nominated and Employer Sponsored visa categories, including setting aside 25,000 dedicated places for regional Australia. To support this, the Government introduced two new skilled regional provisional visas, that commenced on 16 November 2019, which encourage migrants to live and work in regional areas.

Attracting the most highly skilled migrants who have the best prospects of contributing to Australia, but also meeting the changing needs of states and territories and businesses.

In its official report, the Department of Home Affairs explained that for Australia to compete globally, the country must not only attract but most importantly, retain the talent Australia seeks “to innovate in the face of intensified global competition.”

Category

2018-2019 Planning Ceilings

2018-2019 Program Outcomes

2019-2020 Planning Ceilings

Employer Sponsored

Employer-Nomination Scheme

Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme

48,250

 

42,012

33,025

8,987

30,000

 

Skilled Independent

43,990

34,247

16,652

State/Territory & Regional Sponsored

State / Territory Nominated

Skilled Regional

Skilled-Employer Sponsored Regional

Skilled – Work Regional

28,850

25,993

25,346

647

 

24,968

 

25,000

Business Innovation and Investment Program

Global Talent Program

7,260

7,261

6,862

5,000

Distinguished Talent

200

200

200

Skill Total

128,550

109,713

108,862

Family Stream

 

 

 

Partner

47,825

39,918

37,799

Parent

8,675

6,805

7,371

Other Family

900

524

562

Family Total

57,500

47,247

47,732

Special Eligibility

565

115

236

TOTAL MIGRATION PROGRAM

186,515

157,075

156,650

Child (outside the Migration Program ceiling)

3,485

3,248

3,350

TOTAL PERMANENT MIGRATION PLACES

190,000

160,323

160,000

For two consecutive years, 2012-2013 and 2013-2014, the planning level of 190,000 were both reached. Since then, the program outcome suffered a gradual and consistent decline to the program outcome in 2018-2019.

The 2019-20 Migration Program settings are designed to align with the Government’s population planning objectives. The reduction to the planning ceiling from 190,000 to 160,000 places for four years from 2019-20 will contribute to reducing pressure on Australia’s major cities while allowing for improved city planning and infrastructure to be put in place. It also reflects a desire to boost the development of regional and low-populated areas and manage sustainable population growth across Australia.

 

Increasing temporary migration to reduce permanent residency numbers

 

For the program year 2009-2010, Australia accepted 123,996 student visa applications, both onshore and offshore.  From the 2009-2010 applications lodged, 119,004 were granted. Four years later, the student visa applications lodged moved up to 165,896, with 152,344 approved.

China and India held the 1st and 2nd top source country. The Philippines was 13th on the list, 3rd from the bottom. The Philippines did move up – from the bottom – dropping down from 13th to 14th position with 6,239 study visa applications granted.

After completing a 2-year full-time academic course, an international student in Australia may apply for the Subclass 485 Temporary Graduate Visa (TGV).

The TGV has two streams, both of which allows the student to live, study and work in Australia temporarily:

  • Graduate Work stream for international students who have recently graduated with skills and qualifications that are relevant to specific occupations in Australia needs.
  • Post-Study Work Stream for international students who have recently graduated with a degree from an Australian institution.

On 31 December 2015 there were 328,131 student visa holders in Australia, the highest recorded number of student visa holders in Australia on 31 December.

Over one third of students in Australia at 31 December 2015 were from China (20.2 per cent) or India (14.8 per cent).

As expected, there was also an increase in the Temporary Graduate (subclass 485) visa in the six-month period to 31 December 2015 when compared to the same period in the previous year. This was expected since a greater number of students in Australia become eligible to meet the requirements for the Post-Study Work stream. (Student visa and Temporary Graduate visa programme report, 31 December 2015).

In the same program year, a total of 189,097 permanent residency applications were granted: Skill stream- 127,774 places; Family stream - 61,085 places, and Special Eligibility stream, 238 places.

For the program year 2018-2019, the total number of applicants granted residency under Australia’s Migration Program substantially reduced to 160,323. For the same period, 473,415 student visa applications were lodged: 405,742 applications were granted.

China and India retained their 1st and 2nd ranking. The Philippines moved up to 7th place with 13,329 student visa applications lodged with 11,329 granted or approved.

The total number of those who applied for the Temporary Graduate Visa was 68,917. Of this total, 63,994 were granted.

Regardless of which one political party or a coalition government is elected in 2022, the present planning level and intended outcome is likely to remain – unless the U.S.-China and world tariff wars abates, the demographics and economies of the receiving countries require the faster admission and integration of migrants, not just to contribute to the country’s coffers, but also to ensure that there are sufficient skilled workers, professionals, talents and investors contributing towards the social security funds while keeping the nation globally competitive.

Authors & Contributors

Crispin Aranda

Crispin Aranda

Crispin R. Aranda is an established International Visa Conselor and Immigrant Advocate. He is the president of IVC and is in several migration radio programs.

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