Visa changes in Australia could see skilled workers sponsored by employers favoured rather than those who seek to arrive and find work on their own, says the nation's new Immigration Minister.

David Coleman also indicated in a speech in Sydney that the likelihood of the number of student visas being cut dramatically is small as they and their relatives contribute a large amount to the economy.

Visa Application


Speaking at the Migration Institute of Australia's national conference, he said that Australia should be proud of her history of immigration but he confirmed that there will be extensive changes to the regional migration programme.

'Every town, every suburb, every sporting club, every church in our nation has immigration success stories. We should celebrate these successes. There is no question that our economy would be weaker, and our living standards lower, if we had not embraced immigration,' he said.

He also pointed out that migrants create a lot of businesses, quoting what he described as 'powerful' figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics that in 2016 one in three owner/managers of small businesses were born overseas and that migrant business owners have been estimated to employ more than 1.4 million people across Australia.

'By adding workers, migration offsets the impacts of an aging population and helps enable us to pay for the essential services we all need,' he explained, but added that not all elements of the skilled programme are equal.

'The best results in the programme come from employer-sponsored applicants. There is an opportunity to increase the focus here, leading to direct and substantial economic benefits,' he explained.

He emphasised the advantage of encouraging younger migrants because taxpayers have to cover the cost of those who are closer to retirement age. 'The best economic results generally come from migrants who are skilled and young. Our policies should reflect that fact,' he told the audience.

He indicated that the Government is currently not in favour of bowing to demands for cuts to more than 500,000 overseas students now studying in Australia, noting the education sector now earns four times as much export revenue as beef.

And it is not just the students themselves that contribute. He pointed out that last year over 230,000 international visitors came to Australia to visit an international student, spending $994 million.

Around 56,000 international visitors came to Australia to attend an overseas student graduation in 2014, contributing $208 million to the economy, he added. 'Students support high skill, high wage jobs in the education sector, a big positive for our economy,' he said.

On the subject of attracting more people from around the world to move to regional Australia, he indicated that the current Designated Area Migration Agreement (DAMA) scheme will be used more.

He has asked officers of the Department of Home Affairs to visit Orana in central northern New South Wales, Cairns in the far north of Queensland and Warrnambool on the Victorian coast to meet with local representatives to accelerate DAMA negotiations.

'These agreements are a practical way of addressing skills gaps in regions, and I expect to finalise a number in the coming months. In addition to DAMAs, the Government is closely examining other options to increase the flow of economic immigrants to regional areas,' he added.