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South African immigration to Australia is becoming more challenging due to changes to the immigration and citizenship programme in late 2017, which have made it a lot harder for expats to emigrate to Australia and become Australian citizens. Australia has always been one of the most popular destinations for South African expats due to its high levels of safety, an exceptional standard of living, excellent education and the business opportunities it offers.

How many South African immigrants are there in Australia?

Despite the new challenges in immigrating to Australia, SA immigration to Australia has been on the rise over the past few years. According to StatsSA’s Community Survey, 102 793 people left the country in the 10 years from 2006 to 2016, with the highest proportion of emigrants moving to Australia at 26.0 percent. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, as many as 178 700 South Africans live in Australia, up more than 33 000 people from the 2011 data. This means that South Africans make up 0.8 percent of the total population of Australia! South Africa-born migrants represent the eighth largest migrant community in Australia.

For Australia’s South Africa-born migrants:

  • Their median age of 40.9 years was 3.5 years above that of the general population.
  • Males and females were equally represented.

The latest statistics from Australian Home Affairs show that Western Australia saw the most permanent skilled additions to their population at 32 percent, followed by New South Wales at 27 percent and then Queensland at 18 percent. New South Wales had the highest proportion of South African families settling in the region at 28 percent, followed by Queensland at 26 percent and Western Australia at 26 percent.

Why SA immigration to Australia is becoming a challenge

In the second quarter of 2017, Australia’s previous Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, emphasised the importance of attracting people to Australia who are likely to embrace Australian values. He also announced that the 457 visa programme which was aimed at attracting skilled migrants to the country and the Temporary Skill Shortage visa (TSS) would be replaced. In addition, the authorities reported that in order to encourage Australian companies to employ Australians, they would be reducing the number of skilled occupations that expats can apply for.

Australian jobs come first

Turnbull’s new citizenship programme prioritises, in his words, “Australian jobs and Australian values first”. The new programme has reduced the skilled job categories significantly and made things a lot more challenging for expats in the following ways:

  • THEN: Under the previous programme expats with relevant skills could move to Australia for up to four years, as long as they had an offer from an approved employer. The expat could be sponsored by a local business, provided the company could not find an Australian citizen to perform the role.
  • THEN: Expats could apply for residency from abroad as skilled residents but the categories have been reduced by huge margins. More than 200 categories of skilled jobs have been removed from the eligible list including air traffic controllers, interior decorators, police offices, fire fighters and judges to name just a few.
  • NOW: The age limit for expats on a temporary work visa to stay in Australia has been reduced by five years, from 50 to 45.
  • THEN: Skilled expats could be granted residency prior to arriving in Australia and could become citizens in as little as two years of living and working in Australia
  • NOW: It is now mandatory that the applicant, even if they have the required skills, must have a minimum of two years of relevant work experience in the area of their skilled occupation.
  • NOW: The two-year working visa only allows expats to work in the country without taking up permanent residency.
  • NOW The capacity for permanent residency only comes into effect after three years under the medium term visa stream
  • NOW: Foreigners will have to live and work in Australia for a minimum period for a minimum of five years to be considered for citizenship
  • NOW: Expats applying for work visas will have to pass more stringent English language requirements

These reforms took effect in March 2018 and if you are intending to move to Australia, it is a good idea to read up on them as much as you can to assess your eligibility and how they affect you.2

If you are a South African immigrating to Australia and would like to know more about how you can maximise your finances through financial emigration, accessing your South African retirement annuity and our tailor-made tax solutions for South Africans around the world, contact FinGlobal today.