Immigration to Australia is a process which more and more people are now looking towards as the country continues to gain popularity amongst expats around the world. While on the surface the process to obtain visas and the necessary clearance to live and work in Australia may seem complicated and potentially long winded, if you break down each particular process into separate stages this will help you to understand what is required and what you need to do.
So why would you move to Australia?
There are many reasons why people move to Australia including the weather, education, employment prospects, family and possibly a new start. Whatever your reason for looking towards a move to Australia there will be a visa and an entrance route to suit your needs. However, whether you qualify for the relevant visas or permanent residency remains to be seen.
Immigration to Australia is split into various different categories which include tourist visas, employment visa, business visas, student visas and spouse, partner, de facto visas. The first decision you need to make when you decide to move to Australia is which of these visas best suits your situation. You have to be aware that if you are looking to work in Australia, and potentially settle-down long-term, a student visa will not suffice nor will a tourist visa cover your situation for example.
Business visas are predominately for those from outside of Australia who need to attend meetings in the country on a regular basis and spouse, partner and de facto visas are for those who are in a relationship with an Australian citizen, Australian resident or a qualifying New Zealand citizen. More and more people are going down the employment visa route which has many different permutations.
The Australian population
For those looking to move to Australia the fairly open immigration policy of the past is still present although a number of potential weaknesses in the visa process have been addressed. However, if you are looking to move to Australia for the long-term you may be relieved to know that such is the Australian economy’s dependence upon immigration and skilled workers that this is the reason why the population of Australia has quadrupled since World War I!
You may be forgiven for thinking that now may be the time for the government to cut back on immigration to Australia but it seems the opposite is the case. The population now stands at around 22 million and the country has a gross domestic product per capita which is greater than that of the UK, US and France to name but a few. This is a country which is on the up and up and skilled workers have never been more welcomed than today with many areas of the Australian employment market still under catered for by the traditional Australian workforce.
While this will change in due course as and when skills imported into the country are transferred to the Australian population it will take some time and it seems as though growth in the economy and various sectors will far outstrip the supply of skilled workers for some time to come.
Tourist visas are perhaps the most popular visas relating to Australia because the tourist market continues to grow attracting more and more people from around the world. Not only does this open up Australia to outside eyes but also compliments the Australian economy and has opened many new and exciting areas of business.
An Australian tourist visa will normally last up to 12 months and allow the recipient to enter the country on numerous occasions but they will be unable to stay for more than three months in any one visit. It is also worth noting you can only stay within the country if you have a valid tourist visa or other relevant visa.
Australian working holiday visas
Australian working holiday visas are also growing in popularity with more people looking to sample life in Australia while working to pay for their adventure. There are various restrictions regarding what you can and what you cannot do under an Australian working holiday visa but in simple terms you will be allowed to travel around the country for up to 12 months working for various employers to cover your costs.
Australian business visa
For those who have Australian business connections it may be vital to attend various meetings over the years, something which has seen the creation of the Australian business visa. The traditional Australian business visa will last for 12 months and allow the recipient to come and go as they please although any one stay cannot extend past 90 days. For those with long-term business interests in the country there is the chance to acquire an extended Australian business visa which will mirror the life of their passport.
Australian business sponsored visa
Due to a shortage of workers in Australia many companies have enquired about bringing overseas employees to Australia on short-term contracts which can last between one day and four years. While the authorities are obviously concerned about any potential overlap with the traditional Australian employment market they have given various options to employers to bring in overseas workers. The need to fill various gaps in the Australian economy and bring in foreign workers where required has never been more vital and is something the authorities are keen to continue with.
General skilled migration visa
The general skilled migration visa is another employment option which is basically centred round foreign nationals looking to move to Australia who hold of specific skills and experience which would be useful in the Australian employment market. Due to the ongoing requirement to fill various gaps in the market there is the opportunity for a fast-track visa application whether the applicant is able to prove the need for their particular skills or hopefully have an employment position available upon entry to the country.
Spouse, partner and de facto visas
As we touched on above, if you are in a relationship with an Australian citizen, Australian resident or an eligible New Zealand citizen then there is every chance that you will qualify for a spouse, partner or de facto visa, depending on your particular circumstances. However, there is a strict visa application process for these particular visas due to the increase in fraudulent applications over the years. The need to prove an ongoing relationship, joint finances and a clean criminal record are just some of the issues which will be addressed before the authorities will give the go-ahead for a visa to be granted.
Visa application process
The application process will vary depending upon the type of visa you are looking for with many of the simple tourist visas granted almost immediately if for example you already hold a valid passport from countries such as Belgium, Canada, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Taiwan or the United Kingdom. This list may vary from time to time and with the likes of the EU expanding on an ongoing basis other passports are likely to be accepted in the future.
Average visa application timescales
While there are no strict timescales regarding Australian visa applications you can expect the basic visas such as tourist and long stay business visas to take around one month to process. Other visas such as labour agreements, employer nominated applicants and regional sponsored migration schemes can take around 3.5 months to process and business skills visas can take upwards of six months. These figures relate to so called “low risk countries” and you can normally add a 50% premium to the timescale for applicants living in so called “high risk countries”.
However, it must be noted that those with particular skills and work experience which are required immediately by the Austrian employment market may be fast tracked and receive their visas much quicker than the above timescales.
Applying for permanent residency in Australia
It is possible to apply for permanent residency in Australia with the two main programs referred to as the “migration program” and the “humanitarian program”.
The migration program is basically a fast-track system to bring in a number of skilled migrants to the Australian workforce so that they can contribute to areas of the employment market where domestic availability may be low. Official statistics show that recently the government has been granting around 140,000 migration program visas a year although this could rise significantly in the years ahead.
Like most countries around the world the Australian government has introduced a humanitarian program which allows refugees from troubled countries to seek permanent residency in Australia. Official figures indicate that upwards of 10,000 humanitarian program visas are regularly granted each year to those eligible to stay in the country.
Australian permanent residents
There is a difference between a permanent resident and an Australian citizen although generally a permanent residents visa will predominantly lead to an Australian citizenship if the holder so wishes. Holders of a permanent residency visa are entitled to stay in the country indefinitely although as with the migration program they may well be provided with a five-year visa which runs alongside their permanent residency visa. Within the five-year period they can travel overseas and return to Australia with no problems although after the five-year period is up they will need to apply for a resident return visa to avoid any travel issues in the future.
Even if holders of a permanent residency visa do not decide to travel overseas they are entitled to stay in the country indefinitely, although they will not have the same rights as an Australian citizen.
Benefits of a permanent resident status
There are many benefits associated with a permanent residency visa in Australia which include:-
Unrestricted rights to live, work and study in the country
Very few limitations on employment in the country
All permanent residents will have the right to apply for full Australian citizenship if they fulfil the necessary requirements
Inclusion in the state education system where domestic fees are met by the government
The right to sponsor relatives who are looking to move to Australia
Children born of Australian permanent residents will automatically gain Australian citizenship on birth
Medical and social security benefits will be available after a maximum two year waiting period
The right to free travel to and from New Zealand
The right to live, work and study in New Zealand
Statistics regarding Immigration to Australia
As we mentioned above, the Australian authorities have depended upon immigration for many years to fulfil the requirement for skilled workers within the Australian economy. Some interesting statistics are noted below:-
The Australian population has quadrupled since World War I predominantly because of the open immigration policy
It is estimated that 250,000 new immigrants entered Australia in the financial year 2008/09 – this figure was revised downwards from 300,000 due to the economic situation
Immigration to Australia has increased dramatically from around 30,000 a year in the early 90s
UK expats make up the largest foreign grouping within the Australian population with well over 1 million estimated to live in Australia
The ongoing influx of immigrants to Australia, many of whom arrive via the migration program, are starting to have a major impact on Australian property prices
There is no doubt that the Australian government has depended upon immigration to Australia for many years to fill various weaknesses in the Australian domestic employment market. This policy has worked well for the authorities and even though the estimated figure of 300,000 immigrants for 2008/09 has been revised downwards it is still expected that upwards of 250,000 expats will have entered the country during the financial year.
The more popular Australia becomes the longer the processing time when applying for various visas and permanent residency but this has not put off a growing number of expats looking to make a new life overseas. There are many benefits and attractions of living in Australia which include a growing economy, a varied culture, relatively high standard of living, demand for skilled workers and above all a country whose prospects overall have improved significantly in recent times.