As reported by a number of sources, there's been some panic over remarks made by Australian Immigration Minister Chris Evans. He has hinted that there may be cuts to the Australian migration following November's publication of mid-year financial data. With Australia's economy starting to feel the squeeze, Mr Evans is under increasing pressure to start thinking about cuts.
Even though any official declaration from the Department of Immigration will have to wait until November, in this time of uncertainty it should be a matter of would-be migrants should be making their visa applications a top-priority. Applicants will need to get the ball rolling sooner rather than later, since later may be too late!
The first indications impact the global credit crunch is having on Australian immigration levels came earlier this year. The government released figures showing a massive return of Australian workers from all over the world – particularly Australians who were working in the UK. Australia's 2007 population growth rate was over 331,000; the highest it has been since 1988. Of these arrivals, around 31,000 of these were returning Australian ex-pats; a 50% increase on the previous year.
These 'boomerang migrants' are returning home after falling victim to the credit crunch in the UK. Australians are heavily involved in key UK industries, including the financial sector. As the British credit crunch took hold, it soon became obvious to many of the Aussie ex-pats residing in the UK that it might be time to head back home.
The number of international migrants coming to Australia has also been high in recent years. Between 2002 and 2007, there was a 45% increase on the number of British nationals migrating to Australia, with over 23,000 migrants from the UK arriving in Australia last year to support what was then a booming Australian economy. Unfortunately, since the release of these figures, the Australian economy has slowed, resulting in fears being raised that new waves of skilled migrants might become a drain on the already weakened Australian economy.
In the interests of objectivity, it should be noted that much of this concern has been raised by the Liberal Party, the current Opposition to Australia's incumbent Labor Government. Their call for an immediate cut of 50,000 migrant places seems unlikely to be given any serious consideration by Minister Evans, as he has been staunch defender of the need for skilled migrants. Speaking on their positive impact, he said: "We know that they consume, they buy property, and they're a net positive to the budget .... and a lot of the skills that are coming in at the moment are in the mining sector, which has allowed us to increase our exports."
Unfortunately, Mr Evans was also quoted as saying: "Clearly if the demand for labour comes off, you'd adjust the migration programme accordingly .... we can turn the taps off if we need to." While he might be unwilling to be so drastic as to cut 50,000 migrant places, there is still the definite indication that he will make migrant cuts if necessary.
Given the direction of the world economy, we feel that it is not a question of if migration will be cut; but by how much.
For the time being, there is no answer to that question. However, rather than wringing our hands over the potential changes, we prefer to concentrate on making the most of the current positive migration climate.
Australia remains a country with skills shortages in many key occupations, meaning that there is still a real and immediate route for eligible workers to emigrate. Nurses, teachers, tradespeople and IT professionals are all in demand. Anyone in these occupations, among numerous others, is still able to take advantage of a fast-track route to permanent Australian residency. We encourage anyone in this situation to act before any new restrictions are implemented.
The future of Australian remains an unknown quantity, but as long as potential migrants are aware of what could be on the horizon, there is every opportunity to avoid disappointment by acting now. If you are unaware of your eligibility, now is not a time for hesitation. Completing an Australian skilled visa application should be a matter of priority.
- Tom Blackett is the Online Editor for the Australian Visa Bureau
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