The surprising immigration category shrinking as overseas arrivals surge during a cost-of-living crisis
Family reunions were the only immigration category to decline as overseas arrivals hit a record high.
While permanent visa approvals for skilled workers and students doubled in a year, the family class fell 22.2%, according to Home Office figures.
It was the only category among eight that recorded a decline when the period from July 2022 to March 2023 was compared to the corresponding nine months of 2021-22.
Family reunions once accounted for the majority of permanent immigration to Australia, but since 1997 more skilled migrants have arrived after the government of former Liberal Prime Minister John Howard changed the pattern of migration.
This marked a big shift from the policies of Labor prime ministers Bob Hawke and Paul Keating, who favored a greater emphasis on family reunification.
The exception to this long-standing trend was fiscal year 2021-22, when the Australian border was closed to skilled migrants and students until mid-December 2021 due to the pandemic.
This meant that more family reunifications than qualified permanent visas were issued for the first time in 25 years.
Family reunions were the only immigration category to decline as overseas arrivals rushed to a record high (pictured are New Zealanders arriving in Sydney in 2020)
In 2021-22, 105,689 family reunification visas were finalized, compared to 68,055 for qualified visas.
Family visas had not affected the majority of permanent migrants since the 1996-97 fiscal year, the first year of the Howard government.
Subsequent Labor and Coalition governments have continued to receive more skilled migrants than family migrants.
The reopening of the Australian border at the end of 2021 saw an increase in permanent and long-term arrivals with skilled migration up 111.7% to 144,040 while student visa approvals climbed 154.4% at 511,149.
The Treasury expects a record 400,000 migrants to have arrived in Australia, on a net basis, in 2022-23, when arrivals were subtracted from departures.
This is happening despite a tight rental vacancy market and high inflation at 6%.
The cost of living for employees was even higher, rising 9.6% in the year to June 30, according to data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
In the five years to June 2027, 1.5 million migrants are expected to settle in Australia, the May budget documents revealed.
While permanent visa approvals for skilled workers and students doubled in a year, the family class fell 22.2%, according to Home Office figures (
Unemployment in June remained at its lowest level in 48 years, at 3.5, despite the Reserve Bank’s 12 interest rate hikes since May 2022 and business groups lobbying the government to stimulate skilled migration.
Aside from short-term tourists, the working holiday visa saw the biggest increase among labor-related categories, rising 166.8 percent to 171,270 from 64,195.
The figures were revealed after Labor Senator for Tasmania Helen Polley asked a question with notice as a member of the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee.
Rise in migration visa approvals
QUALIFIED (PERMANENT): Up 111.7% to 144,040 from 68,055
FAMILY MEETING: Down 22.2% to 82,202 from 105,689
OTHER PERMANENT: Up 101.5% to 177,780 from 88,250
STUDENT: Up 154.4% to 511,149 from 200,941
WORKING HOLIDAY: Up 166.8% to 171,270 from 64,195
VISITOR: Up 449.2% to 3,195,988 from 581,888
QUALIFIED (TEMPORARY): Up 67.7% to 81,334 from 48,505
OTHER TEMPORARY: Up 328% to 1,784,766 from 417,037
TOTAL VISAS FINALIZED: Up 290.5% to 6,148,529 from 1,574,560
Source: Home Office data from July 2022 to March 2023, compared to the corresponding first nine months of 2021-22