27 October 2008

UK financial crisis will bring more Brits to Australia: immigration minister

Australian Immigration Minister Chris Evans has had to defend his party's future immigration policy amidst claims he will cut back the annual immigration quota next year, reports AFP.

A review to the skilled migration quota will have to wait for the release of financial data in November; yet prospective migrants to Australia are being encouraged to process their Australian visa applications now in case the Government reduces the record annual migrant intake.

The migration quota increased by 31,000 this year to reach a record 190,300 visas for Australia, of which comprised 133,500 Australian skilled visa migrants.  The mid-year financial data will be the deciding factor for the Government's migrant quota next year, particularly if Australian unemployment rises during the global financial crisis.

"Clearly if the demand for labour comes off you'd adjust the migration programme accordingly," Senator Evans told Nine Network television.

"We can turn the taps off if we need to.  But there are still industries with strong demand for labour and we'll just have to talk to industry and make a judgment about what the appropriate level will be once we've got a bit better idea of what's happening in the economy."

Despite this, Senator Evans has reassured Australian businesses and would-be migrants a cut to the skilled migration programme will be a last resort to combat the financial crisis, because the benefits of migration work well to maintain economic growth.

"What we know is that most migrants have better job outcomes than Australians locally, we know that they consume, they buy property, and they're a net positive to the Budget," he said.

"So while it's easy to call for a slowdown in migration there are actually very strong positive economic impacts that come from migration."

According to ABC News, Opposition spokesperson Sharman Stone has called for an immediate cutback of 50,000 skilled migrants, although Senator Evans says this will affect growth in the mining industry, which is maintaining Australia's economic buoyancy amidst the global financial crisis.

Australian Industry Group chief executive Heather Ridout said a cutback to the skilled migration quota would damage Australian businesses, reports The Age.  According to Ms Ridout, the labour force would have to grow by 1.25 per cent annually and immigration would account for 1 per cent of this.  

"You can't just turn the tap on and off," Ms Ridout said.  "If we don't push ahead consistently with a solid immigration program, our growth prospects over the next decade are going to be much diminished."

Despite these concerns, Senator Evans is encouraging the growing interest in Australian immigration from British and New Zealand residents.  According to the Minister, the economic downturns have boosted Australian visa applications and interest in the Australian skilled migration programme. 

"I think the downturn in Great Britain over the last year or two has actually seen a renewed interest from Great Britain in people looking to migrate either temporarily or permanently," he said.

Prospective migrants are advised to process their applications before the Minister reduces the number of available placements in the Australian migration programme and make it more difficult to move to Australia.  Applicants are also advised to ensure their applications are filled in accurately and are supported by the best possible personal information to avoid lengthy delays in the visa process.

British and New Zealand residents are not the only overseas residents catching on to the great Australian wave – according to Government statistics 2,600 ex-pat Australians are returning home every month to escape the growing global financial crisis.

The Australian Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in helping people with their Australian visa application.

Article by Jessica Bird, Australian Visa Bureau.

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