03 May 2006

Australia stays competitive in the race for migrants; Government announces increase in migrant intake

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Amanda Vanstone, Australia’s Immigration Minister, has announced a freeze in skilled migration for the first time in nearly a decade. Skilled migration numbers increased by 20,000 last year, but will remain steady at 97,500 for 2006/07.

The minister said she was conscious that the impact of the 2005/06 increase has yet to be assessed and thus any further increases would not be prudent. Despite concerns of a nationwide skills shortage, Vanstone said Australia’s carefully managed migration program serving the country’s economy and businesses well.

'Like any race, and we are in a race, we're in competition for skilled migrants with other countries like the United Kingdom and Canada, and in any race if you're number one and you start going a bit slowly or relaxing, you won't be number one for much longer,' said Vanstone.

Vanstone also announced an increase to the country’s partner and spouse visas. An extra 3,000 partner visas are to be provided in 2005/06 with and additional 1,000 being added in 2006/07 bring the total to 36, 3000.

The growth in the spouse visa category is being attributed to young and upwardly mobile Australians traveling and the country’s sponsorship base increasing through skilled migration.

'These increases match the growth patterns we’re seeing in our client base. Certainly, from the London- area we see a fair number of partner and spouse visas. Most often, an Australian traveler has come to London for a working holiday and ends up being struck by Cupid’s arrow,' said Oonagh Baerveldt, spokesperson for the Australian Visa Bureau. 'This small increase means our clients have a little less to worry about as the visa cap draws closer.'

'The skilled visa freeze is a surprise, I thought there would be a slight increase. Australia is still desperate for certain skilled groups. Nurses and those in the construction trades are the most sought after. The Migration Occupations in Demand List now stand at 80 occupations, so the government is certainly casting a wider net for migrants, despite keeping immigration levels the same,' said Baerveldt.

'In her statement, Amanda Vanstone made an excellent point with regard to the 'race' for skilled migrants. There is certainly increased competition on a global level, for migrants. Countries like New Zealand, Canada and the United Kingdom have economies that rely on skilled workers to contribute to social welfare and care programs like universal healthcare and the NHS. As workers age, the system is drained and there just aren’t enough people in these economies at the moment to keep these programs afloat. I’m sure we’re going to see increased competition and incentives among governments to attract those with the necessary skills to their respective countries,' said Baerveldt.

Australia's skilled migration program is point-tested; to take the test and determine your eligibility, please go to visit Australian Visa Bureau’s no obligation Online Assessment.

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