While the world came to a stop during 2020, the Australian Migration Program continued on, delivering 160,052 places throughout the year, just going over the 160,000 ceiling. This is a significant increase of the 140,000 places provided during the previous cycle in 2019-20, this despite the lockdown and other barriers that the pandemic put in place.
Immigration Minister Alex Hawke discussed the results of the program, explaining that this year it had exceeded expectations, noting that “Australia’s well-managed migration program delivers outcomes that support economic recovery, create jobs, and protect the safety and security of Australians.”.
He continued, “Delivering a full program of 160,052 places meant drawing on the pool of onshore applicants due to global COVID-19 restrictions. This has been very successful given the difficult circumstances this year.”
Increasing Family Visas
Looking at the data confirms the Minister’s comments, with the majority of Australian permanent residencies being granted to applicants already located within Australia. Perhaps connected to this is the rise in family visas granted, with 77,372 being the highest number in 25 years. These were mainly partner visas, an area where there has been an ongoing backlog for several years. If this level of family visa is maintained moving forwards, there is optimism among migration agents that this seemingly permanent backlog could actually be reduced in time.
Reduced skilled migration numbers
Under the skill stream, the program granted 79,620 places, making up just over 50% of all visas granted for the year. Around 71% of those residency visas were granted to onshore applicants, that is people already residing within Australia when they applied.
Of those 79,620 residency visas granted by the skill stream, close to 23,000 were awarded through the Employer Sponsored category, the highest from an individual category in the stream. State and Territory Nominated visas amounted to around 14,000 of those granted, the second most common of those granted.
However, when looking at the data in detail, the standout is that of skilled migration overall, which fell to just over 50% of the total migration this year, compared to over 70% of the 2019-20 intake. When taken in context with the focus more on onshore applicants through necessity, this may be seen as an anomaly, however, ongoing planning suggests something else.
Government announcements for the 2021-22 immigration program shows that the levels of family and skills stream places seen during the last 12 months are planned to stay the same for the year to come.
Future Program Impact
In addition to highlighting the plan to maintain similar levels of immigration in the coming year, using the same mix between skilled and family visas, the government have also explained that the focus is likely to continue to be onshore applicants.
There are two reasons for this, the need to reduce the backlog in the Onshore Partner Program, and the continued effect of the pandemic. The short-term future is still uncertain, especially where international travel, quarantines and so on are concerned.
What is likely as we move beyond the pandemic, is that offshore visa grants will increase again once the uncertainty has been resolved.