Australia’s Department of Home Affairs has published its migration data for the 2019/2020 year, detailing how many South African migrants have arrived in the country over the last year.

The department said that emigration was significantly impacted by Covid-19, which disrupted supporting services such as English Language testing, biometrics and health and character checking.

As a result, overall migration program lodgements dropped by 12.3% from 198,710 in 2018/19 to 174,170 in 2019/20.

The largest source citizenship countries of migrants in 2019/20 were:

  • India: 25,698 places
  • China: 18,587 places
  • United Kingdom: 10,681 places
  • Philippines: 8,965 places
  • Vietnam: 5,398 places
  • Nepal: 5,048 places
  • New Zealand: 4,997 places
  • Pakistan: 4,136 places
  • South Africa: 3,743 places
  • United States of America: 3,301 places

How South Africans are getting to Australia

There are four streams in Australia’s migration program:

  • The Skill stream is designed to improve the productive capacity of the economy and fill skill shortages in the labour market, including those in regional Australia.
  • The Family stream is predominantly made up of Partner category visas, enabling Australian citizens and permanent residents to reunite with family members from overseas and provide them with pathways to citizenship.
  • The Special Eligibility stream covers visas for those in special circumstances that do not fit into the other streams. This can include permanent residents returning to the country after a period away.
  • The Child stream is demand-driven and does not have a ceiling.

The department’s data shows that the majority of South African migrants entered on a skilled visa (3,260), with a smaller number entering on family (427) and child visas (56).

This is a slight decrease from prior years with 3,861 migrants reported in 2018/2019 and 4,235 migrants reported 2017/2018.

While this decrease can partly be attributed to Covid-19 and restrictions on movement and travel, it is clear that Australia’s stricter visa requirements and other factors have also had an impact on potential South African migrants.

In 2010/2011, over 8,612 South African migrants were reported as part of the program – over twice as many than what was recorded in 2019/2020. The change has seen South Africa slip from fifth to eight in Australis’s ranking for migrant countries.


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