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Drop in skilled migrants, spike in family visas, as Australia grants 160,000 permanent residencies

Indians emerge as the second largest recipients of permanent residency grants in 2020-2021. Source: Getty Images

The 2020-21 Migration Program has delivered 160,052 places against the ceiling of 160,000, with most permanent residency grants going to onshore applicants. The intake has increased from 140,000 places delivered in 2019-20.

Immigration Minister Alex Hawke said the migration intake in 2020-2021 exceeded expectations, despite border restrictions and visa processing delays induced by the ongoing health crisis.

“Australia’s well-managed migration program delivers outcomes that support economic recovery, create jobs, and protect the safety and security of Australians.

“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,” Minister Hawke said.


  • Australia granted 160,000 permanent residency visas in the 2020-2021 program year
  • Indians emerged as the second-largest source of permanent migrants to Australia 
  • Government delivered the most extensive Partner Visa program in 25 years, but skilled migration took a hit

Former deputy secretary of the immigration department Abul Rizvi said the government could deliver a full program because of the large number of temporary migrants who were present onshore.

“The other thing that the government did last year was that they started clearing the partner visa backlog, and indeed if the government had wanted to, they could have delivered a much larger program than they have,” he said.

Indians emerge as the second-largest recipients of permanent residency grants

Migration program
Migration Program outcome by country in 2020-2021. (Includes primary and secondary applicants)
Department of Home Affairs

Migration figures released by the Department of Home Affairs on 21 September reveal that of the total permanent residency visas granted in 2020-21, Indians received the second largest share with 21,791 places, nearly 4,000 less than the number of visas granted in 2019-20.

China emerged as the top source with 22,207 grants.

“The reason that there was a higher grant rate for Chinese migrants compared to Indian migrants is because of the larger partner category and the larger business migration category and the smaller Skilled Independent category.

"The business category is dominated by Chinese migrants, while Indians dominate the Skilled Independent category. Now, if you make one small and the other bigger, you get the inevitable outcome,” Mr Rizvi said.

Government delivers largest Partner Program

The 2020-21 Migration Program delivered 77,372 places in the Family stream. Nearly 72,000 places were granted to partner visa applicants, of which a vast majority were onshore, recording the largest spike in the number of people resettled under this category in 25 years.

“The pipeline at 30 June 2021 for the Partner category was 64,111 applications, a decrease of 33.4 per cent compared to the pipeline of 96,361 at 30 June 2020,” according to the migration program report.

Indian wedding, marriage certificate, signing documents
Government delivers largest Partner Program in over 25 years.
Getty Images

Commenting on the spike in partner visa grants, Melbourne-based migration agent Navjot Kailay said he is cautiously optimistic about this outcome.

“If the government continues to deliver a high number of partner visa grants in 2021-22, then we can expect that the partner visa backlog would eventually reduce.

“Otherwise, if you look at last year’s numbers alone, more than 100,000 were waiting for their partner visa grants, out of which 28,000 are still waiting. In the meantime, new applications are being lodged every single day, so the backlog is steadily mounting,” he said.

Drop in skilled migration

Priority to skilled visas that drive economic growth and job creation in Australia
Australia's skilled migration intake plunged, down from 70 per cent of the total permanent migration intake to just over 50 per cent.
Getty Images/FotografiaBasica

The government delivered 79,620 places under Skill stream, which accounted for 50.7 per cent of the total outcome, of which at least 71 per cent of applicants were present onshore.

The highest number of places in this stream were granted to applicants who applied under the Employer Sponsored category, which had an outcome of nearly 23,000 places, followed by the State and Territory Nominated category under which nearly 14,000 visas were granted.

While 9,584 visas were granted under the Global Talent (Independent) program in 2020-21.

Dissecting the numbers, Mr Kailay said that the government had made significant cuts to the skilled migration intake, which is now down to a little over 50 per cent from 70 per cent of the country’s total permanent migration intake.

“There is no doubt that the skilled migration intake has taken a major hit because the government had reduced the planning levels last year.

“If we focus on the number of places allocated under this stream in 2020-21, Employer Sponsored, and State Nominated categories received highest allocations. And I can expect that even in times to come, these two categories will continue to receive more attention,” he added.

Impact on Migration Program 2021-2022

Announcing the planning levels for the 2021-22 program year, the government said the Family and Skill stream places will be maintained at their 2020-21 planning levels, with a continued focus on onshore visa applicants, including reducing the onshore Partner visa pipeline.

Mr Rizvi said things would largely remain on course in the first half of the program year.

“At least for the first half of 2021-22, because of the cap on international arrivals, we will probably see a continuation of a focus on onshore visa grants, but once international borders open, I think we will see an uptick in offshore visa grants,” Mr Rizvi said.

Disclaimer: This content is for general information purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional advisors.


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