Country Profile: United States of America

United States of America

Capital City: Washington, DC

Population, 2010: 317.6 million

Language: English

Monetary Unit: US Dollar


1. Overview

The US is the largest and most technologically powerful economy in the world, with a per capita GDP of $47 132 in 2010. On a purchasing-power-parity basis this is 20 percent higher than Australia’s per capita GDP. But, like many developed countries, the United States was hit hard by the Global Financial Crisis and the US recovery is expected to be slow. As a result unemployment is still high (8.9 per cent at February 2011) and will remain high for some time. This poor economic situation would not be expected to have a big impact on migration to Australia. The February 2011 unemployment rate for US citizens with tertiary qualifications (the most likely source of skilled migrants) is only 4.3 per cent.1 Furthermore, around two-thirds of US born migrants come via the Family Stream and are not strongly influenced by economic factors.

Australia is also a popular destination with American visitors – 394 500 Americans visited Australia in 2009-10 making the USA Australia’s 2nd largest source of visitors that year. The flow of visitors from the US looks to have been substantially affected by the Global Financial Crisis, with visitor numbers falling by around 7.5 per cent in 2008-09 when the crisis was at its worst and rising by 6 per cent in 2009-10 as economic conditions improved. Interestingly this recent growth in visitors has occurred at a time when the relative purchasing power of the US dollar in Australian terms is at its lowest level in decades.

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 HDI of the USA is very high at 0.90 in 2010, with the USA ranking 4th out of 169 countries. Internationally, the HDI of the OECD as a group in 2010 was 0.85, placing the USA above the OECD average.


2. Community in Australia

At the end of June 2009 there were 81 140 US born people living in Australia, 31.5 per cent more than was reported in the August 2006 Census of Population and Housing. This is equivalent to 0.9 per cent of Australia’s overseas born population and 0.4 per cent of Australia’s total population.

For Australia’s US born migrants:

  • Their median age of 39 years, was two years above that of the general population.
  • Males slightly outnumbered females – 50.8 per cent compared with 49.2 per cent.
  • In 2010, the labour force participation rate of 74 per cent was considerably higher than the national rate of 65 per cent.
  • In 2010 their unemployment rate was 6.2 per cent and above the national rate of 5.2 per cent.*
  • In September 2010 there were 45 000 US nationals working in Australia. Their main occupations were professionals (40 per cent) and clerical and administrative workers (21 per cent).


3. Permanent Migration and Temporary Entry

Summary, 2009-10

Permanent Additions to the Australian Population*

There were 3081 US born permanent additions to the Australian resident population. Among the new additions to the Australian resident population:

  • The Skill Stream accounted for 34 per cent of all permanent additions and comprised 417 skilled migrants and 641 accompanying family members.
  • The Family Stream comprised 1793 family migrants accounted for 58 per cent of all permanent additions.
  • Non-program migration of US born New Zealand citizens accounted for the remaining 8 per cent.

Permanent Migration Visas Granted, 2009-10*

Table 2

There were 3222 US nationals that were granted a permanent visa through the Migration Program. Among the new permanent visa holders:

  • The Skill Stream accounted for 37 per cent (1203 persons) of the permanent visas granted, with employer sponsored migrants accounting for over half (58 per cent) of all skilled visa grants.
  • The Family Stream accounted for 62 per cent (2011 persons) of the permanent visas granted, with partners of Australian residents accounting for 86 per cent of family visa grants.


Temporary Entry Visas Granted, 2009-10

Table 3

Of the main temporary entry program visas granted to US nationals:

  • 8998 Student visas were granted, with almost two-thirds granted to students intending on spending a semester or academic year in Australia as part of a student exchange program, while a further 14 per cent of visas were granted to those enrolling in an undergraduate or postgraduate course in Australia.
  • 5310 workers were granted a Business Long Stay (subclass 457) visa, with Management Consultants, Specialist Managers and Business and Information Professionals the main sponsored occupations.
  • 394 493 Visitor visas and 6149 Work and Holiday Maker visas were granted.


Detailed Analysis

Permanent Migration Visas Granted

Tables 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 US nationals accounting for 1.1 per cent (1203 grants) of the total.
  • Reflecting the shift in skilled migration towards, demand-driven entry, there has been a steady increase in employer sponsored component. The 698 visas granted in 2009-10 represented a 42 per cent increase on the 492 employer sponsored visas granted in 2006-07.
  • There has also been steady growth in the number of visas granted under the General Skilled Migration Program – increasing from 347 grants in 2006-07 to 465 grants in 2009-10.
  • Computing professionals, Registered Nurses and Civil Engineers were the main occupations among the new General Skilled Migration visa holders.


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 visas were granted, with grants to US nationals accounting for 3.3 per cent (2011 grants) of the total.
  • The Family Stream accounted for 62 per cent of all permanent visas granted to US nationals in 2009-10.
  • While the number of grants remained around the same from 2006-07 until 2008-09, there was a slight increase in 2009-10 of 6.1 per cent.
  • Partners accounted for the majority (86 per cent) of all Family visas granted, with fiancés accounting for a further 8.5 per cent. Compared with other major source countries, the proportion of family visas issued to parents is very small – only 1.9 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.

  • Australia is the third most popular tertiary study destination for international students originating from the US. In 2008, 6 per cent of all US international tertiary students chose Australia.
  • As at June 2010, there were 3070 American student visa holders in Australia, representing 0.8 per cent of all international students in Australia.
  • In 2009-10, 8998 US nationals were granted a Student visa – representing a decrease of 6 per cent on the number granted in 2008-09.
  • Almost three-quarters (72 per cent) of all Student visas were granted to those intending on spending a semester or academic year in Australia as part of a student exchange or study abroad program – while a further 14 per cent of visas were granted to those enrolling in an undergraduate or postgraduate course 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 5310 subclass 457 visas granted to American workers. Although there was a slight drop in visas granted in this category 4 per cent lower than the previous year, and 10 per cent lower than the number granted in 2007-08 – the drop was less marked than the 33 per cent decline recorded in 2009-10.
  • Among the foreign workers sponsored under this program, Management Consultants, Specialist Managers and Business and Information Professionals were the main occupations for which Australian employers recruited from abroad.



In 2009-10, 394 493 Visitor visas were granted to US nationals – up 6 per cent on the previous year.


Work and Holiday Maker Program

Australia has reciprocal Work and Holiday visa arrangements with six other countries. Under the Work and Holiday visa, participants must be aged 18-30, have functional English and (with the exception of USA), have the support of their home government. Australia’s first Work and Holiday arrangement began in 2003 with arrangements currently in place with Chile, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Turkey and the United States of America.

  • Work and Holiday Maker arrangements with the US commenced on 31 October 2007, and unlike the arrangements Australia has with the other five countries, there is no annual participant limit on arrangements with the United States.
  • In the first 8 months of operation, 2249 visas were granted, with this number increasing to 4887 in 2008-09 – its first full year of operation. Numbers continued to grow in 2009-10, with 6149 grants, representing a 26 per cent increase on the previous year.


4. Emigration*

Table 5

In 2009-10, 1261 USA born permanent residents indicated at departure that they were leaving Australia permanently – with 67 per cent intending on returning to the US.

  • Approximately 23 per cent of these emigrants were professionals, with a further 8 per cent managers and administrators.
  • The largest proportion were emigrating from New South Wales and Victoria, with each State accounting for 40 per cent and 22 per cent of US born emigrants respectively.


5. State and Territory summary

Table 5

New South Wales remains the most popular state of residence for Americans in Australia. Over a third (35 per cent) of US born residents in Australia at the time of the last Census lived in New South Wales, and the State was also the intended residential location for 41 per cent of new skilled migrants and 36 per cent of new family migrants. Almost half (47 per cent) of American international students were enrolled in an academic institution based in New South Wales, while 4 in 10 subclass 457 workers were sponsored for employment in New South Wales.


Explanatory notes

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Australian residents are Australian citizens residents in Australia and other permanent residents.
  • General Skilled Migration (GSM) is the sum of total Skilled Family Sponsored, Skilled Independent and State/Territory Sponsored visas.
  • 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

Department of Immigration and Citizenship

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 States of America


Table 1: Economic and Human Development Indicators, 2010

Australia United States
Adult Literacy (%) 99.0 99.0
Fertility Rates (children per female) 1.9 2.0
GDP per capita PPP (current international $) 36 692 47 132
Life Expectancy at birth (years) 81.9 79.6
Mean years of schooling 12 12.4
Human Development Index 0.94 0.90
Median Age (years) 37.8 36.6
Population (millions) 21.5 317.6
Population growth, 2010 (%) 1.7 0.9

* 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

USA 2006-07 2007-08 2008-09 2009-10
Skilled Migration
  Business Skills 42 55 25 32
  Distinguished Talent 25 17 11 8
  Employer Sponsored 492 622 739 698
General Skilled Migration*
    Skilled Family Sponsored 48 34 79 75
    Skilled Independent 48 34 79 75
    State/Territory Sponsored 92 125 66 27
Total number of skilled visa grants 906 1098 1149 1203
Skilled visas as a proportion of all permanent visas (%) 32 37 38 37
Family Migration
 Child 75 75 67 51
 Prospective Marriage (fiancé) 248 207 176 170
 Partners 1503 1518 1594 1730
 Parent 25 26 27 39
 Preferential/Other Family 44 34 31 21
Total – Family visa grants 1895 1860 1895 2011
Family visas as a proportion of all permanent visas (%) 67 63 62 62
Special Eligibility 15 5 2 8
Total – Permanent Migrants 2816 2963 3046 3222

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

USA 2006-07 2007-08 2008-09 2009-10
International Students
   English Language Intensive Course for Overseas Students 10 10 11 9
   Schools 109 101 112 116
   Vocational and Education Sector (VET) 756 748 810 874
   Higher Education 1 224 1 184 1 291 1 252
   Postgraduate 154 188 203 220
   Non-Award 7 719 7 733 7 168 6 522
   AusAID or Defence 1 5 3 5
   Total number of international student visa grants 9 973 9 969 9 598 8 998
Business Long Stay (subclass 457) 4 780 5 920 5 560 5 310
   eVisitor 381 987 397 975 368 300 390 709
   Tourist 4 548 3 816 3 248 3 309
   Business Visitor 406 455 532 471
   Sponsored Family Visitor 1 2 4 4
   Total number of visitor visa grants 386 942 402 248 372 084 394 493
Work and Holiday Maker 0 2 249 4 887 6 149

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

USA Business Long Stay (subclass 457) General Skilled Migration
Temporary Entry (employer sponsored) Permanent Entry (unsponsored)
2009-10 Management Consultant 180 Computing Professional * 30
Specialist Mangers * 180 Registered Nurse 30
Business & Information Professional * 120 Civil Engineer 10
General Manager 110 Mechanical Engineer 10
Computing Professional * 100 Secondary School Teacher 10
University Lecturer 90 Accountant 10
Engineering Manager 90 Electrical Engineer 10
Accountant (General) 80 Chemical Engineer 10
Marketing Specialist 80 General Medical Practitioner 10
Sales and Marketing Manager 70 Electronics Engineer 0
2008-09 Business & Information Professional * 250 Computing Professional * 20
Specialist Mangers * 200 Registered Nurse 10
Computing Professional * 140 Secondary School Teacher 10
Management Consultant 130 General Medical Practitioner 10
General Manager 110 Accountant 10
Engineering Manager 110 Business and Information Professionals NEC 0
Marketing Specialist 80 Cook 0
Civil Engineer 80 Environmental Research Scientist 0
University Lecturer 80 Primary School Teacher 0
Sales and Marketing Manager 70 Biochemist 0

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 US born counted in the Census, 2006 35 22 20 6 11 2 2 3
Geographical Distribution, Permanent Additions 2009-10
Skill Stream 41 20 18 4 12 1 2 2
Family Stream 36 19 22 6 11 1 1 3
Geographical Distribution, Temporary Entrants 2009-10
International Students 47 13 28 3 7 1 0 2
Business Long Stay (subclass 457) visa 41 21 16 3 17 0 1 1
All US born 40 22 20 5 9 1 1 2

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: USA’s migration ranking relative to other countries

USA 2008-09 2009-10
USA born Population in Australia 17 17
General Skilled Migration 24 19
Employer sponsored 9 11
Total Skilled Stream 17 15
Total Family Stream 7 7
International Students 8 7
Business Long Stay (subclass 457) visa 3 3
Visitors 2 2

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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