Australia's migration intake plunges amid beefed-up visa checks

Migrants who have committed crimes with a maximum sentence of at least two years jail will automatically fail the character test. Source: AAP

Skilled and family migration numbers are falling short of the annual cap of 190,000, a Senate Estimates hearing has heard.

Australia's migration numbers are falling further and further from the 190,000 annual cap, a Home Affairs official told a Senate Estimates hearing on Tuesday. 

The official said the intake for 2016-2017 had been 183,608 people, while the 2017-2018 number stood at 138,086 as of April 30.

It means that this financial year's intake is set to fall about 20,000 short of the annual cap.

The 138,086 number was made up of 91,302 in skilled migration, 44,193 family visas and 2,591 children.

Immigration official Christine Dacey said: "It's probably down on where we were this time last year".

Department of Home Affairs head Michael Pezzullo said the numbers come as the government improved "checking mechanisms" for migrants by linking security databases.

"As we connect what were formerly standalone, isolated immigration integrity risk systems to intelligence databases ... as you couple more databases onto your checking mechanism, you get more what are known as 'hits' in our trade. They have to be resolved."

Nevertheless, the government also trumpeted immigration a key driver in the creation of jobs.

Mr Pezzullo told estimates that well over 50 per cent of the country's population growth was driven by migration.

"(And) it would be passing strange to think that your population is being driven in part by migration, but your jobs growth isn't," Mr Pezzullo told senators.

A recent study by Treasury and Home Affairs found migrants accounted for two-thirds of net jobs created over the past five years, with the percentage even more pronounced for full-time employment.

The joint report found migrants were not replacing Australian workers.

"In fact, the study found almost no evidence that outcomes for those born in Australia have been harmed by immigration," the report said.

Additional reporting: AAP

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