Country Profile: United Kingdom

United Kingdom

Capital City: London

Population 2010: 61.9 million

Official Language: English

Monetary Unit: Pound Sterling


1. Overview

Australia has a substantial relationship with the UK that is underpinned by our shared heritage, common values, closely aligned strategic outlook and interests. We also share a distinguished record of active service and cooperation in conflict zones around the world.

Australia and the UK are also frequent and regular dialogue partners at the highest levels across government and are like-minded on pressing global issues, including international security, multilateral cooperation and climate change. There are also long standing trade and investment relations and benefits from extensive people-to-people links.

The strength of Australia-UK official linkages is strengthened by travel and migration flows between the two countries. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 5.5 per cent of Australia’s resident population was born in the UK. The UK is also Australia’s largest source of visitors with nearly 590 000 UK citizens visiting Australia in 2009-10. Australia is also the number one destination for UK citizens leaving permanently, both for work and to reunite with family.

Australia and the UK had very similar per-capita GDPs on a purchasing-power-parity basis in 2010. Given this similarity, economic incentives are a less important consideration for UK migrants coming to Australia. They are more likely to be attracted to Australia by the lifestyle, the presence of family and similarities in culture.

A summary measure of well being is the Human Development Index (HDI), produced by the United Nations. The HDI is a composite measure of three dimensions of human development: health, education and income. Australia ranks very high on this measure, with a 2010 score of 0.94, second only to Norway.

Table 1

The United Kingdom’s HDI is comparatively high, 0.84 in 2010 – giving the country a rank of 26 out of 169 countries. However, the HDI of the OECD as a group in 2010 was 0.85, placing the United Kingdom slightly below the OECD average.


2. Community in Australia

At the end of June 2009 there were an estimated 1.19 million UK born people living in Australia, 14 per cent more than was reported in the August 2006 Census of Population and Housing. This makes it the largest migrant community in Australia – equivalent to 13.8 per cent of Australia’s overseas born population and 5.5 per cent of Australia’s total population.

For Australia’s UK born migrants:

  • Their median age of 53 years was 16 years above that of the general population.
  • Males slightly outnumbered females – 51 percent compared with 49 per cent.
  • The labour force participation rate in September 2010 of 60 per cent was well slightly below the national rate of around 65 per cent.
  • In 2010 the unemployment rate of 3.8 per cent was well below the national rate of 5.2 per cent.*
  • There were 689 700 UK nationals employed in September 2010. The main occupations were professionals (27 per cent) and managers (16 per cent).


3. Permanent Migration and Temporary Entry

Summary, 2009-10

Permanent Additions to the Australian Population*

There were 25 439 UK born permanent additions to the Australian resident population in 2009-10, making the United Kingdom the main source country of new migrants to Australia. Among the new additions:

  • The Skill Stream accounted for 67 per cent of all permanent additions and comprised 6850 skilled migrants and 10 484 accompanying family members.
  • The Family Stream comprised 6739 family migrants and accounted for 26 per cent of all permanent additions.
  • Non-program migration of UK born New Zealand citizens accounted for the bulk of the remaining 7 per cent.


Permanent Migration Visas Granted, 2009-10*

Table 2

There were 25 738 persons from the United Kingdom that were granted a permanent visa through the Migration Program. Among the new permanent visa holders:

  • The Skill Stream accounted for 72 per cent (18 487 persons) of the permanent visas granted, with over half of all visas granted to employer sponsored migrants.
  • The Family Stream accounted for 28 per cent (7229 persons) of the permanent visas granted, with nearly three quarters granted to the partner of an Australian resident.

Temporary Entry Visas Granted, 2009-10

Table 3

Of the main temporary entry program visas granted to nationals from the United Kingdom:

  • 3507 student visas were granted, of which 46 per cent were granted to those enrolling in a Vocational Education and Training course in Australia.
  • 15 600 workers from the United Kingdom were granted a Business Long Stay (subclass 457) visa, with Registered Nurses, Special Managers and Personnel Consultants among the main sponsored occupations.
  • 589 616 Visitor visas and 32 012 Working Holiday Maker visas were granted.


Detailed Analysis

Permanent Migration Visas Granted Table 2 & 4
Skilled Migration
Skilled migration is focused on facilitating the permanent entry of those who can make a positive contribution to Australia through their skills, qualifications, entrepreneurial spirit and future employment potential.

  • In 2009-10, 107 868 skilled visas were granted, with grants to UK nationals accounting for 17 per cent (18 487 grants) of the total.
  • The number of skilled visas granted to UK nationals in 2009-10 was 20 per cent lower than the number granted a year earlier, a much steeper fall than the overall drop of 6 per cent.
  • Over the last four years the numbers of skilled visas granted to UK nationals has declined steadily (25 per cent since 2006-07). However, despite this downward trend, the UK remains the largest provider of skilled migrants to Australia.
  • Reflecting the shift in skilled migration towards demand-driven entry, there has been steady growth in the number of visas granted to employer sponsored migrants from the UK – increasing from 5790 visas in 2006-07 to 9327 visas in 2009-10.
  • Permanent visas granted through the General Skilled Migration Program* fell by 29 per cent in 2009-10. Despite this fall, these visas still made up 47 per cent of all skilled permanent visas granted to UK nationals.

Family Migration
Family migration facilitates the entry of close family members of Australian citizens, permanent residents and eligible New Zealand citizens. The program is currently dominated by fiancés, partners and dependent children, but also provides options for other family members such as parents, aged dependent relatives, carers and remaining relatives to join family in Australia.

      In 2009-10, 60 254 family migration visas were granted, with grants to nationals of the UK accounting for 12 per cent (7229 grants) of the total.


      The Family Stream accounted for 28 per cent of all permanent visas granted to UK nationals in 2009-10.


    Of all family visas, 68 per cent were granted to a partner of an Australian resident, while the parents of Australian residents accounted for a further 21 per cent.

Temporary Entry Visas Granted

Tables 3 & 4

International Students

The Student Visa Program consists of a range of visa categories that broadly correspond to education sectors. Students must study with an education provider and in a course registered on the Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students.

In 2009-10 there was a reduction in both the number of student visa applications received and the number of visas granted. Reasons included increased competition from overseas markets compounded by the strengthening of the Australian dollar, the introduction of robust student visa integrity measures and changes made to the General Skilled Migration program. While student visa grants fell by over 15 per cent, the total stock of international students in Australia remained relatively unaffected, only decreasing 1.1 per cent in 2009-10.

  • Despite UK nationals making up the largest migrant community in Australia, the largest source of skilled migrants and the second largest provider of family migrants, Australia is not a major destination for UK students. As at June 2010, there were 3570 UK Student visa holders in Australia, representing just 0.9 per cent of all international students in Australia and ranking the UK 19th as a source country for international students.
  • In 2009-10, 3507 UK nationals were granted a student visa – representing an increase of 6 per cent on the previous year.
  • The Vocational Education and Training sector accounted for almost half (46 per cent) of all visas granted, while a further 30 per cent of visas were granted to students enrolling in an undergraduate or postgraduate course in Australia.

Business Long Stay (subclass 457) Workers

The subclass 457 visa program allows Australian employers to sponsor foreign workers for employment in management, professional, technical and skilled trades’ positions. The program is demand-driven and highly responsive to Australian labour market conditions. Statistics shows that the demand for subclass 457 visas increases in line with increased skilled vacancies.

The demand for foreign workers under this program declined following the economic downturn, but application rates steadily increased over the second half of 2009-10. In recent months business conditions have begun to improve and the number of applications lodged has increased.

In 2009-10, 67 980 visas were granted globally, a reduction of 33 per cent on the previous year.

  • In 2009-10, there were 15 600 subclass 457 visas granted to UK nationals 26 per cent lower than the previous year.
  • Registered Nurses, Specialist Managers and Personnel Consultants were the main occupations for which Australian employers recruited from the UK.


In 2009-10, 589 616 Visitor visas were granted to UK nationals, with tourists accounting for 97 per cent of all visitors. Despite a significant decrease in the number of UK nationals visiting Australia over the last four years, the UK still remains the largest source of visitors.


Working Holiday Maker Program

Australia has reciprocal Working Holiday visa arrangements with many countries, including the United Kingdom. Working Holiday visa holders who have completed specified work in an eligible regional Australian area for a minimum of three months while on their first Working Holiday (subclass 417) visa may be eligible for a second Working Holiday visa.

  • Working Holiday Maker arrangements with the United Kingdom commenced in 1975 and many UK nationals have chosen to visit Australia under this program. 32 012 visas were granted in 2009-10, and a further 5044 extensions granted to those who had spent the last year in Australia and wished to extend their stay for a second (and final) year.


4. Emigration*

Table 5

In 2009-10, 7127 UK born permanent residents indicated at departure that they were leaving permanently – with around 57 per cent intending to return to the United Kingdom.

  • Approximately 27 per cent of these emigrants were professionals, with a further 11 per cent managers and administrators.
  • The largest proportion were emigrating from New South Wales and Western Australia, with these States accounting for 31 per cent and 23 per cent of UK born emigrants respectively.


5. State and Territory summary

Table 5

New South Wales was the chosen state of residence for over a quarter of UK born residents in Australia at the time of the last Census, while a further 20 per cent lived in Victoria and 20 per cent in Western Australia. New South Wales was also home to around 30 per cent of new family and skilled migrants in 2009-10. UK students also showed a preference for New South Wales, with 30 per cent enrolled in an academic institution based in that state, while 44 per cent of subclass 457 workers from the UK were sponsored for employment in New South Wales.


Explanatory notes

  1. Unemployment rates for individual migrant countries are calculated from the monthly ABS labour force survey (using published and unpublished data) and have been averaged across six months to account for monthly fluctuations and a small sample size. The national unemployment rate is the seasonally adjusted figure for December 2010.
  2. Permanent Additions are the sum of those granted a permanent residency visa while in Australia, and those granted a visa through an Australian mission abroad, that have entered Australia during the respective reporting period.
  3. Visa grants are the sum of all permanent migration and temporary entry visa applications granted in Australia, through the Australian Government’s online visa portal, and visa grants made at an Australian mission abroad.
  4. Australian residents are Australian citizens residents in Australia and other permanent residents.
  5. General Skilled Migration (GSM) is the sum of total Skilled Family Sponsored, Skilled Independent and State/Territory Sponsored visas.
  6. Emigration is the number of persons who reported on their overseas departure card that they were leaving Australia permanently.


Further reading

This profile was prepared using information and statistics collated by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, and commentary extracted from the following publications:

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
See:Country, economy and regional information

International Monetary Fund
See:Country Information

Central Intelligence Agency
See:World Fact Book 2010

United Nations Development Program
See:Human Development Report 2010

World Bank
See:The Migration and Remittances Factbook 2011


Statistical tables – United Kingdom

Table 1: Economic and Human Development Indicators, 2010

Australia United Kingdom
Adult Literacy (%) 99.0 99.0
Fertility Rates (children per female) 1.9 1.9
GDP per capita PPP (current International $) 36 692 35 052
Life Expectancy at birth (years) 81.9 79.8
Mean years of schooling 12 9.5
Human Development Index 0.94 0.84
Median Age (years) 37.8 39.9
Population (millions) 22.3 61.9
Population growth, 2010 (%) 1.7 0.5

* All data (with the exception of adult literacy rates) were sourced from the UNDP Human Development Report 2010. Data on adult literacy was sourced from the CIA World Factbook, due to incomplete country information in the UNDP Report. Australia’s data was sourced from the ABS. Data on GDP per capita from International Monetary Fund, World Economics Outlook Database Oct 2010.
Table 2: Number of persons granted a permanent Australian visa (by nationality), 2006-07 to 2009-10

UK 2006-07 2007-08 2008-09 2009-10
Skilled Migration
  Business Skills 1052 777 579 379
  Distinguished Talent 59 54 44 40
  Employer Sponsored 5790 8031 10250 9327
General Skilled Migration
    Skilled Family Sponsored 2 866 1 635 1 542 414
    Skilled Independent 13 093 11 375 7 908 4 468
    State/Territory Sponsored 1 940 1 283 2 855 3 859
Total number of skilled visa grants 24 800 23 155 23 178 18 487
Skilled visas as a proportion of all permanent visas (%) 79 79 76 72
Family Migration
 Child 255 254 243 218
 Prospective Marriage (fiancé) 459 375 441 431
 Partners 4626 4272 4559 4885
 Parent 1002 1061 1902 1509
 Preferential/Other Family 198 214 215 186
Total – Family visa grants 6540 6176 7360 7229
Family visas as a proportion of all permanent visas (%) 21 21 24 28
Special Eligibility 21 21 24 28
Total – Permanent Migrants 31361 29352 30562 25744

Sourced from internal data collected by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship.
Table 3: Number of persons granted a temporary Australian visa (by nationality), 2006-07 to 2009-10

UK 2006-07 2007-08 2008-09 2009-10
International Students
   English Language Intensive Course for Overseas Students 6 7 5 6
   Schools 78 99 80 71
   Vocational and Education Sector 1417 1603 1601 1623
   Higher Education 987 1024 964 1058
   Undergraduate and Postgraduate 83 113 105 128
   Non-Award 497 543 554 617
   AusAID or Defence 10 1 2 4
   Total – International student visa grants 3078 3390 3311 3507
Business Long Stay (subclass 457) 19080 23930 21070 15600
   eVisitor 665102 617670 474242 402449
   Tourist 11639 15605 106882 172264
   Business Visitor 985 1341 8856 14892
   Sponsored Family 5 7 10 11
   Total – Visitor visa grants 677731 634623 589990 589616
Working Holiday Program
   Initial 29581 31929 36111 32012
   Extension 1627 2218 4071 5044
   Total 31208 34147 40182 37056

Sourced from internal data collected by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship.
Table 4: Main occupations among those granted a permanent (GSM) or temporary (subclass 457) visa, 2006-07 to 2009-10

UK Business Long Stay (subclass 457) General Skilled Migration
Temporary Entry (employer sponsored) Permanent Entry (unsponsored)
2009-10 Registered Nurse 560 Registered Nurse 460
Specialist Mangers * 410 Accountant 380
Personnel Consultant 370 Computing Professional * 370
Medical Practitioner In Training 330 Secondary School Teacher 190
Marketing Specialist 300 General Medical Practitioner 140
General Medical Practitioner 290 General Electrician 80
Program or Project Administrator 250 Bricklayer 80
Information and Organisation Professionals * 250 Civil Engineer 70
Software and Applications Programmers* 240 Mechanical Engineer 70
Management Consultant 230 Registered Mental Health Nurse 60
2008-09 Registered Nurse 1 050 Registered Nurse 430
Personnel Consultant 550 Computing Professional * 240
Business & Information Professional * 550 Accountant 220
Specialist Mangers * 410 General Electrician 210
General Medical Practitioner 370 Bricklayer 170
Project or Program Administrator 360 Hairdresser 160
Computing Professionals * 310 Carpenter and Joiner 140
Civil Engineer 240 Secondary School Teacher 140
Medical Practitioner In Training 230 Motor Mechanic 120
Sales and Marketing Manager 230 Fitter 100

Sourced from internal data collected by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship.

* Within the broad professionals field, where no actual classification exists for the specific occupation.
Table 5: National Geographical Distribution, by country of birth and nationality



Proportion of all persons counted in the Census,2006 33 25 20 8 10 2 1 2
Proportion of all UK born counted in the Census, 2006 26 20 19 12 20 2 1 2
Geographical Distribution, Permanent Additions 2009-10
Skill Stream 28 17 18 9 24 1 1 1
Family Stream 31 18 23 6 20 1 1 1
Geographical Distribution, Temporary Entrants 2009-10
International Students 30 20 20 5 20 1 0 4
Business Long Stay (subclass 457) visa 44 19 12 2 22 0 1 1
All UK born 31 16 20 6 23 1 1 1

Information on migrants was sourced from internal data collected by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship. Information on the geographical distribution of the total population was sourced from the 2006 Census of Population and Housing.
Table 6: United Kingdom’s migration ranking relative to other countries

UK 2008-09 2009-10
UK born Population in Australia 1 1
General Skilled Migration 2 2
Employer sponsored 1 1
Total Skilled Stream 1 1
Total Family Stream 2 2
International Students 21 19
Business Long Stay (subclass 457) visa 1 2
Visitors 1 1

All information refers to the number of visas granted that year and was sourced from internal data collected by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, except for Population in Australia which is sourced from the ABS and refers to the stock of overseas born persons in Australia at the time.

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