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Fact Sheet 1 - Immigration: The Background Part One

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Australia's Migration Programme does not discriminate on the basis of race or religion. This means that anyone from any country can apply to migrate, regardless of their ethnic origin, gender or colour, provided they meet the criteria set out in law.

All applications for migration to Australia are assessed against requirements set out in the Migration Act and Regulations. There are different criteria for different categories of visas and the criteria are established to meet Australia's national interests and needs. The government determines the criteria and sets the number of people who can enter under the programme on an annual basis. The policies and legislation governing migrant selection are applied equally to all applicants.

The criteria for the Migration Programme are selective—those applicants who meet Australia's requirements and have good prospects for successful settlement are chosen. There are detailed rules governing entry in each migration category and selection is based on a case-by-case assessment of applications.

Migrants may be selected on the basis of such factors as relationship to an Australian permanent resident or citizen, skills, age, qualifications, capital and business acumen. All applicants must also meet the health and character requirements specified by migration legislation.

If a person satisfies Australia's selection criteria, they stand an equal chance of being selected, unless there is a cap imposed on the number of visas allocated to a particular category.
See: Fact Sheet 21 - Managing the Migration Programme

All applicants for permanent entry to Australia must be assessed against Australia's health and character requirements, which are designed to exclude any people whose presence in Australia would not be in the interest of the Australian community.
Fact Sheet 22 - The Health Requirement
Fact Sheet 79 - The Character Requirement

People who might be excluded from entry on character grounds include criminals or associates of criminal organisations, war criminals and any person likely to vilify a segment of the community.

Migrants are selected under the Migration Programme in three streams—skill, family and special eligibility; while the Humanitarian Programme offers resettlement to refugees and to displaced persons who have suffered discrimination amounting to gross violations of their human rights.

The rules for each, in general terms:

  • Skill—most migrants must satisfy a points test, have particular work skills, be nominated by particular employers, have other links to Australia or have successful business or investment skills and bring sufficient capital to Australia to establish a business or investment of benefit to this country.
  • Family—selected on the basis of the family relationship to a sponsor in Australia—usually partners, fiancés, dependent children and parents.
  • Special eligibility—covers former residents who had not acquired Australian citizenship and are seeking to return to Australia as permanent residents.
  • Humanitarian—refugees and other Humanitarian Programme arrivals must satisfy the criteria concerning refugees or humanitarian cases (see below).

Migration Programme

Skill stream

Visa options are available under points tested skilled migration for skilled workers who want to live in Australia and who do not have an employer sponsoring them. These include options for skilled people applying as independent migrants as well as those sponsored by an eligible Australian relative or nominated by a state or territory government.

Two of the larger categories under points tested skilled migration are the skilled-independent and skilled-sponsored. Entry under both categories is dependent on a points test.

The aim of the points test is to identify factors in a potential migrant that will benefit Australia and help with settlement. The factors assessed depend on the migration category.

The business skills migration category seeks to attract migrants with a proven track record of success in business or investment who will use their skills and experience to engage in business or investment activities in Australia. Such activities benefit Australia through creating employment, developing links to international markets, exporting Australian goods and services and introducing new or improved technology.

Business skills migrants are required to obtain an ownership interest in an eligible business and actively manage that business or maintain a specified level of investment activity in Australia.

The Employer Nomination Scheme (ENS) enables employers to sponsor skilled workers for permanent residence in order to fill vacancies in their business. Employers need to demonstrate that:

  • they are actively and lawfully operating in Australia
  • they have made adequate provision for training employees in work relevant to the business
  • they have a need for a paid employee to fill the position
  • the position provides full-time employment for at least three years
  • the occupation is specified on a list of eligible occupations for the ENS
  • they are paying the minimum salary specified for the occupation, as well as meeting all relevant Australian standards and workplace legislation for wages and work conditions.

The applicant must also be able to satisfy the skill, age and English language requirements.

The Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (RSMS) also allows employers in regional and low population growth areas of Australia to sponsor skilled workers for permanent residence, in order to fill vacancies in their business. Any employer can participate in the scheme as long as their business is actively and lawfully operating in regional or low population growth areas of Australia. This covers all areas except Sydney, Wollongong, Newcastle, Melbourne, Brisbane and the Gold Coast.

The position to be filled must be of a skilled nature and the applicant must be able to satisfy the skill, age and English requirements.

Before the nomination can be approved by the department, the regional certifying bodies must provide advice on whether or not specific criteria have been satisfied in the employer nomination.

State Specific Regional Migration

The Australian Government, in consultation with state and territory governments, has introduced a number of initiatives designed to help state and territory governments:

  • address skill shortage that may exist in their jurisdictions
  • attract overseas business people to establish new or joint ventures
  • encourage a more balanced dispersal of Australia's skilled migrant intake.

These initiatives are collectively referred to as State Specific Regional Migration (SSRM). They provide state and territory governments with the opportunity to influence the number and profile of skilled migrants settling in their areas.

State and territory governments determine the extent of their involvement in these initiatives based on their own development priorities.

Fact Sheet 24 – Overview of Skilled Migration to Australia
Fact Sheet 26 – State Specific Regional Migration
Fact Sheet 27 – Business Skills Migration

Family stream

The family stream allows for the migration of immediate family members of Australian citizens, permanent residents or eligible New Zealand citizens, such as partners or fiancés and dependent children. Places are also available for other family members, including parents, orphan relatives, aged dependent relatives, carers and remaining relatives.

Fact Sheet 29 – Overview of Family Stream Migration
Fact Sheet 30 – Family Stream Migration – Partners
Fact Sheet 31 – Family Stream Migration – Parents
Fact Sheet 32 – Family Stream Migration – Other Family
Fact Sheet 33 – Family Stream Migration – Child
Fact Sheet 34 – Assurance of Support
Fact Sheet 35 – One-Year Relationship Requirement
Fact Sheet 36 – Adopting Children from Overseas
Fact Sheet 37 – Processing Priorities
Fact Sheet 38 – Family Violence Provision
Fact Sheet 39 – Contributory Parent Category Visas

Continue to part two