The Administration of the Immigration and Citizenship Program, October 2019

More Fraud?

Heightened levels of risk and caseload fraud have been a feature across most programs and have led to an increase in refusal decisions. Since 2014-15 to 2018-19, the average refusal rate across the Temporary and Permanent visa programs has increased from 2.4 per cent to 3.9 per cent. This is an increase of 62 per cent.

Integrity concerns continued to be identified in most migration categories in 2018-19. The Department focused on ensuring high levels of integrity, with similar refusal and withdrawal numbers to 2017-18. Refusals in 2017-18 were 46 per cent up on the previous year.


On 30 June 2019, there were approximately 2 million people in Australia on Temporary visas, an increase from 1.7 million on 30 June 2015 (not including bridging visa holders). Of the 2 million there were approximately 553,000 international students (an increase of 48 per cent in five years), and 316,000 visitors (an increase of 40 per cent in five years).

In 2018-19, a record 405,742 Student visas were granted, with grants to applicants outside Australia reaching 243,740.

The International Visitor Survey reports that for the year ending March 2019, there were 306,400 WHM arrivals

The number of Bridging visa holders in Australia has increased from 102,220 as at 30 June 2015 to 205,649 as at 30 June 2019.

Of the Bridging visa holders in Australia on 30 June 2019, approximately 41 per cent had applied for permanent migration, 32 per cent had applied for a Protection visa, 21 per cent had applied for a Temporary visa and 6 per cent were granted for other reasons.

Refusals of applications for citizenship by conferral increased from 3.4 per cent in 2014-15 to 4.9 per cent in 2018-19.

There has been a substantial reduction in the on-hand caseload, from the peak of 247,659, in July 2018 down by 83,733 cases to 163,926 as at 30 September 2019.

Lower Migration Numbers due to “Not Lowering Standards”

Since 2015, the planning level has been treated as a ceiling rather than a target. This ensures that standards are not lowered to meet an overall number.

The 2018-19 permanent Migration Program delivered 160,323 places, against a planning ceiling of 190,000. This was down slightly on the 162,417 places delivered in 2017-18.

Regional Visa Growth Achieved by Legacy Case Load

The Government has for the first time allocated 23,000 places for regional skilled migration under the 2019-20 Migration Program. The Department is currently on track to deliver on this commitment. As at 30 September 2019, the Department was 10.3 per cent above pro rata. The program will be met through existing pipelines and uptake of new provisional visas.


The Department has appointed six Regional Outreach Officers who are undertaking an engagement program over the next 12 months, assisting regional businesses to understand what visas are available to them when can’t find Australian employees.

10,000 Additional Partner Visas could have been processed in FY19?

The Family program outcome was 47,247 places within a planning level of 57,400 places, which accounted for 30 per cent of the Migration Program.


The Department is maintaining a proactive posture that assumes some individuals looking to enter Australia—or their facilitators—will attempt to exploit vulnerabilities within the immigration system, for individual benefit or to do harm to Australia.

The end of the ETA?

The changing threat and risk environment for the Immigration Program has made broad, nationality-based assessment of risk with very limited pre-border risk assessment for certain cohorts—the historical ETA model—no longer appropriate.

More granular and nuanced assessment of the risk posed by individual visa applicants— irrespective of nationality—is required, supported by targeted intelligence and greater checking capability. This approach is not only intended to respond to the emerging threats and risks we face today but also underscores the non-discriminatory nature of Australia’s Immigration Program

The advantages of merging Border Security and Immigration

Convergences of threat manifesting in one domain are now leading to discoveries in other domains. Recently, the discovery of a traveller suspected of importing illicit drugs across the border led to the immediate discovery and disruption of a large, sophisticated imposter syndicate exploiting multiple Temporary visa programs through identity and passport fraud to conceal adverse immigration histories. Agile responses by the Department and the Australian Border Force led to pre-border profiles being deployed quickly in both the visa and traveller domains. This level of immediate cross-domain analysis, threat identification and response would not have been possible previously, which focused immediate efforts on specific domains, and demonstrates the power of a more robust and joined up border-intelligence effort.


The Administration of the Immigration and Citizenship Program

What to expect

Over the short to medium-term, the Department anticipates a continued focus on building its capabilities, through working closely with industry, domestic agencies within and beyond the Home Affairs Portfolio and international partners, in the following areas:

  • Identification of emerging threats and vulnerabilities at the earliest point possible and using this information to develop and deploy predictive models and profiles that support visa decision makers to prevent the entry of those who would seek to undermine the intent of the Immigration Program or cause harm to our community, and our national interests;
  • Further automation of manual processing activities and consolidation and connection of fraud, criminality risk and security threat information from an expanded range of sources to support timely decision making and recurrent risk checking;
  • Biometrics collection to anchor identity at the earliest possible point, together with advanced matching and validation capabilities;
  • Increasing quality and consistency of decision-making through enhanced vocational training for visa decision makers, a single global approach to processing, better real time reporting for Immigration Program managers, an integrated model of quality assurance and regular operational practice reviews; and
  • Other initiatives to improve the client experience for genuine travellers and migrants.

Importantly, we apply a ‘golden rule’ of accountability: no adverse visa decision is ever made by a machine. Decisions regarding visa refusals, cancellations or other activities which otherwise take away a right, privilege or entitlement will continue to be made by departmental officials. The officer might be prompted and assisted by the latest technology and automated analytical tools, but it is a person who will be the decision-maker.

Net Overseas Migration

Net Overseas Migration (NOM) is the net gain or loss of population through immigration to Australia and emigration from Australia. NOM is based on an international travellers’ duration of stay being in or out of Australia for 12 months or more over the 16-month period. ‘International travellers’ include visa holders, New Zealand citizens and Australian citizens. NOM varies continually and can be difficult to forecast accurately as it is affected by many complex domestic and international variables. Between 2008 and 2018, it has generally remained between 172,000 and 315,700.

NOM is forecast to increase in the short term due to continuing strong international student demand, the resumption of growth in demand for temporary skilled workers, and increasing arrivals from migrants that first travel to Australia on a visitor visa

However, this is only a temporary effect and 2019 is the peak. As set out in the budget papers, NOM is anticipated to be lower in 2020, and lower again in 2021 and 2022, mostly due to changes in student numbers.

The growth in student numbers is expected to peak in 2020, with falls in this cohort due to a slower growth rate and strong growth in the number of international students departing Australia.

More information about NOM is available on the Australian Bureau of Statistics website.

This article has been adapted from the Australian Government, Department of Home Affairs

“The Administration of the Immigration and Citizenship Program, Third edition, October 2019”

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