Briefing paper

Family migration to Australia

23 Dec 2013

This paper reviews the thinking behind Australia's family migration program and the aspects considered when planning its size and composition each year.

Executive summary: In contrast to the United States of America, the Australian Government has steadily prioritised skilled migration within Australia’s permanent Migration Program, with proportionally fewer family places available. The current Coalition Government affirms that the focus of the immigration program is primarily economic, not social, and has promised to further prioritise skilled migration over the years ahead. Whilst planning levels clearly depict skilled migration at around two thirds of the overall Migration Program, it is important to acknowledge that over fifty percent of the Skill Stream is in fact comprised of family (secondary visa holders). In this light, family migration still remains at the very heart of Australia’s Migration Program. Although parts of the Family Stream are seen to be a net cost to the Commonwealth budget, overall, family migration presents a net gain both economically and socially. Family structures are particularly important in attracting or keeping skilled migrants—an issue of particular significance in regional areas. A strong grasp of the English language is perceived as one of the best ways to ensure family migrants embrace Australian society and culture.

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