Words are always up for interpretation but numbers provide a much clearer picture of the underlying message. The Department of Home Affairs (‘the Department’) has just recently released their Annual Report for 2017/2018 and from the 284 page-long report we have compiled a list of some of the most significant statistics and provide an insight about what these numbers mean for the current migration landscape.
In 2017/2018 the Department granted a total of 162,417 permanent visas with the threshold target set at 190,000. Despite the latter, 2017/2018 has seen;
- A 12percent decrease in permanent migration program numbers in the last financial year;
- A 10.5percent drop in skilled stream visas granted since July 2016;
- A 17percent drop in family stream visas granted since July 2016.
The drop in permanent visa grants begs us to ask the obvious question – why and especially in light of the threshold target set.
According to the Annual Report:
‘The Department…did not lower standards or move places between categories in order to reach the ceiling. The Department maintained high levels of integrity checking on visa applications to ensure quality over quantity and to maximise the benefits of migration to Australia.’
Further, it was noted that visa applications for permanent migration are set to increase at propelling levels from approximately 9 million to 13 million per annum by 2026-2027. With increased competitiveness between family sponsored, students and highly skilled workers, the Department has already commenced the application of innovative approaches and have utilised new digital systems to meet the demand.
However, at the forefront of the Department’s agenda is the persistent focus on enhanced community protection, identity and quality management which has been the primary catalyst for increased visa refusal rates as a result of enhance integrity measures.
- 5percent increase of visitor visa grants;
- 10percent increase in student visa grants;
- 5percent drop in temporary work skilled (SC 457) visas granted.
- 8,694,048 temporary visas were granted and out of this 64,470 were temporary resident skilled.
Within this particular class of visas, we have seen an immense change with the new temporary skills shortage (‘TSS’) (subclass 482) visa introduced as the replacement for the temporary work (skilled) (subclass 457) visa.
The new TSS visa now the main pathway for employers to temporarily employ skilled overseas workers to fill identified skill shortages in the Australian labour market.
‘The new visa tightens English language requirements; increases work experience requirements; implements a non-discriminatory workforce test to ensure employers are not actively discriminating against Australian workers; and requires mandatory labour market testing unless an international trade obligation applies.’ – Annual Report
Similar to permanent residency visas, a more rigorous approach has been adopted by the Department especially in respect to visa integrity which has resulted in increased refusal rate, increasing by 46 percent in comparison to the previous year.
As such, the decline in application numbers for the subclass 457 visa program can be attributed to the introduction of the TSS visa, tightened visa eligibility requirements, a honed focus on integrity maintenance and changes to the skilled occupation lists.
- 80,562 people conferred with Australian citizenship;
- 52percent drop in the number of Australian citizenship conferrals.
The number of citizenship conferrals has hit an overall low that has not been seen since 2002 – 2003. The Department reports that this is a consequence of the changing environment in relation to security with the citizenship application process focused on enhancing community protection, identity management and quality management.
In addition to this, there are also long processing times with the Department facing application backlogs mounting to over 240,000, making some applicants wait 17 – 19 months, and in some occasions, even longer.
The Department attributes such delays to the greater national security threats that were catalysed with Australia’s first experience with modern terrorism – the Lindt Café Siege. Thus, in their efforts to enhance security, a number of additional integrity measures have been implemented to verify the identity and good character of candidates.
‘Visa and citizenship programmes are designed to support harmonious communities to participate and contribute to society and good order.’ – Annual Report.
The Report identifies one clear trend – the rate of visa grants in all three visa categories has reduced since 2016/2017. The Department attributes such reduced grant rates to the greater application of internal integrity measures to safeguard against security and validity threats alongside the tightened eligibility requirements making it difficult for applicants to meet standards.