A snapshot of the Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship Annual Report 2007-08
The outcome for the Migration Program was 158 630 places in 2007-08, the largest since the late 1960s. This included a Skill Stream of 108 540 places, which was expanded by the incoming government by 6000. The balance of the program was made up of 49 870 Family Stream places and 220 Special Eligibility places.
These programs are critical given our short-term shortages of skilled labour, and our longer-term demographic and economic challenges.
The program met the government’s objective of aligning the Skill Stream more closely with the needs of Australian industries and employers. Almost 72 per cent of the Skill Stream outcome was made up of applicants under targeted categories, including those who were sponsored by either an employer or state/territory government, or who had an occupation listed as being in high demand.
The record number of places in the permanent skilled migration program will help ease Australia’s skills shortages and fight inflation. The program will also help to maintain growth in Australia’s working age population.
Temporary work visas
During 2007-08, 110 570 subclass 457 visas were granted to temporary skilled workers and their dependants, compared to 87 310 in 2006-07. Over 80 per cent of primary visa holders were employed in professional and highly skilled jobs.
The Working Holiday and Work and Holiday visa programs continued to experience strong growth in 2007-08, with 157 574 visas granted, onshore and offshore. This was underpinned by promotional activities, expansion of reciprocal Work and Holiday visa arrangements to include the USA, and an increasing number of people staying on in Australia for a further 12 months on a second Working Holiday visa.
From 26 April 2008, student visa processing was streamlined to include all entitlements in the initial student visa grant. While the visa entitlements remained the same, this change removed the need for a second application by students to access their work rights. This change has cut red tape for students and was welcomed by the international education industry. The change was made possible through improved system links between the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations and education providers.
The department also expanded visa label-free arrangements to further groups of students. Label-free arrangements were extended to countries in the Assessment Level 2-4 eVisa trial, namely India, Indonesia and Thailand. These arrangements mean that students do not have to obtain a visa label and can instead rely on the Visa Entitlement Verification Online (VEVO) service to check visa information and entitlements.
Table 4 shows the broad categories of Skill Stream entrants and compares 2007-08 outcomes with those of the previous year.
In 2007-08, the department issued 108 542 Skill Stream visas, compared to 97 940 in 2006-07.
Regional migration and state-specific initiatives now account for 24 per cent of the Skill Stream of the Migration Program. The Australian Government works with state and territory governments to encourage Australian employers and potential overseas applicants to use these programs.
During 2007-08, the department issued 26 162 state specific and regional migration visas, an increase of 1.01 per cent over the previous year. Since the introduction of these programs in 1996, a total of 135 854 visas have been issued.
Regional migration continues to be a priority under the Skill Stream. Through their sponsorship of skilled migrants, state and territory governments have a direct influence on the number and skills sets of migrants who settle in their jurisdictions.
There were four visa categories included in this group-Skilled Independent Regional visas, State and Territory Nominated visas, Skilled Sponsored visas and Skilled Regional Sponsored visas. The number of visas granted to people sponsored by states and territories was 7530 in 2007-08.
In 2007-08, India was the single largest source country for migrants under GSM, ahead of the United Kingdom and the People’s Republic of China. Figure 5 shows a breakdown by nationality of general skilled migration for 2007-08.
Employer-sponsored programs include the Employer Nomination Scheme (ENS), the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (RSMS) and the Labour Agreement (LA) program. In 2007-08 there were 23 760 visas granted (15 480 ENS, 5060 RSMS and 3220 LA) which was a 43.2 per cent increase from 2006-07 and represented 21.9 per cent of the total Skilled Migration program. The main occupation sought through these programs was registered nurse, and the major source countries were India, South Africa and the United Kingdom.
More than 78 per cent of people lodging ENS applications were holders of Temporary Business (Long Stay) (subclass 457) visas, which provide pathways for temporary skilled workers seeking permanent residence.
Business and investment migration
Overseas business people who have successful business or investment backgrounds can benefit Australia through job creation, capital transfers and exports. State and territory governments play an active role in selecting business migrants through their sponsorship of 94.7 per cent of all applicants. This sponsorship supports economic development in specific areas of the sponsoring states or territories.
All business skills migrants have to demonstrate a commitment to business in Australia, and most applicants have up to four years on a provisional visa to establish a business. Some visa holders initially granted permanent residence rather than a provisional visa can be subject to visa cancellation. In 2007-08, the department granted 6565 visas under this category and cancelled 624 visas. Table 4 shows the broad categories of Skill Stream visas granted, while Table 5 shows the distribution of state-specific and regional migration.
Short stay business visitor visas support Australian businesses, including export industries, and are an integral part of the department’s operations. They enable business people to visit Australia for business negotiations, signing of contracts, inter-company business activities and attendance at conferences.
In 2007-08, 418 250 short stay business visitor visas were granted, an increase of 3.32 per cent over 2006-07 (404 795 visas), with more than half of these issued electronically. The major source countries for short stay business visitors for the year were the People’s Republic of China and the United States of America.
Working Holiday visas
Australia has 19 reciprocal working holiday arrangements and is actively negotiating arrangements with new countries. The Working Holiday program is a cultural program that has both social and economic benefits. It supports the Australian economy by providing supplementary labour for industries needing short-term casual workers and is an important source of revenue for the Australian tourist industry.
The program promotes better understanding between countries by encouraging cultural exchange and allowing young people to have extended holidays, supplemented by short-term employment.
In 2007-08, 154 148 Working Holiday (subclass 417) visas were granted, a 14.51 per cent increase over the 134 612 visas granted in 2006-07. The main source countries for Working Holiday visas are shown in Table 22, while Figure 10 highlights gradual increases in grants from one year to the next, with Japan the only
main source country decreasing.
Work and Holiday visas
Australia also has Work and Holiday visa arrangements with four countries: Thailand, Turkey, Chile and the USA. The visa provides opportunities for tertiary qualified nationals to travel to, and work in, Australia for up to 12 months. Nationals with a lower visa compliance level have limited places. Participants must be aged 18 to 30, have functional English and the support of their home government (except applicants from the USA).
In 2007-08, 3426 Work and Holiday visas were granted, an 89.28 per cent increase over the 1810 visas granted in 2006-07. A total of 60 per cent of Work and Holiday visas were lodged electronically.
The department granted 278 184 student visas in 2007-08. This was an increase of 21.69 per cent from 228 592 in 2006-07. This figure does not include visas providing permission to work. The department granted 139 692 Permission to Work visas in 2007-08, an increase of 32 per cent from 2006-07.
From 26 April 2008, the two-step application process for permission to work for student visas was streamlined to become a one-step process. While the work rights themselves have not changed, this will eliminate the need for onshore applications for permission to work, reducing the administrative burden and red tape for both students and the department.
At 30 June 2008, there were 317 897 people in Australia on student visas, a 27.7 per cent increase on the previous year. During academic term time (on 31 March 2008) figures showed there was a record number of 327 188 student visa holders in Australia, a 22.8 per cent increase on the 2006-07 figure.
The department supported the growth in the education sector through the grant of more than 278 000 visas. At the same time, the student visa program sought to minimise the number of student visa holders who do not comply with their visa conditions.
There were 6727 student visa cancellations in 2007-08, compared to 6441 in 2006-07. The proportion of cancellations compared to grants declined from 2.82 per cent in 2006-07 to 2.42 per cent in 2007-08. Further analysis of this data shows that 2294 visas were cancelled due to non-attendance or a failure to meet course progress requirements.
The remainder of cancellations were for a variety of reasons and were not necessarily a result of non-compliance. For example, 1449 student visas were cancelled at the request of the students as they had completed their courses early.
Labour agreements are negotiated between the Commonwealth, represented by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship and the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, employers and other relevant parties. They provide a flexible response to the needs of industries experiencing ongoing skill shortages, while ensuring that any overseas recruitment does not prevent the longer term improvement of employment and training opportunities for Australians. Each labour agreement is generally effective for two to three years. At 30 June 2008, there were more than 55 labour agreements in place and more than 120 under negotiation. Changes introduced on 10 September 2007 made the meat industry labour agreement the only avenue available to access skilled meat workers through the subclass 457 program. The meat industry template agreement provides a specifically tailored pathway for meat companies to access skilled overseas meat workers. At 30 June 2008, 12 companies had signed a meat industry labour agreement and 14 agreements were under negotiation.
On 1 October 2007, access to the standard subclass 457 program was removed for on-hire employers who seek to place overseas workers with other unrelated businesses and the on-hire industry labour agreement became the compulsory pathway for the on-hire industry to access the subclass 457 visa program. This is in line with the considerations of a review by the Council of Australian Governments.
At 30 June 2008, 13 companies had signed an on-hire industry labour agreement and 79 agreements were under negotiation.
Pathway to permanent residence
The subclass 457 program provides a pathway for skilled workers to apply for permanent residence at the completion of their nominated role. In 2007-08, 24 960 permanent residence or provisional visas were granted to people who last held a subclass 457 visa. The majority (88 per cent) applied for permanent entry under the Employer Nomination Scheme, Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme, Labour Agreement or skilled independent visa programs. The last of the subclass 457 visas granted in 2003-04 expired in June 2008. Of the 37 430 people granted a subclass 457 visa in 2003-04, 17 840 (almost 48 per cent) have now been granted a permanent residence or provisional visa.