Australia to issue record 5 mln visas this year

Updated: 2015-04-22 11:02


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CANBERRA - Australia will issue a record five million visas this year as its migrant composition shifts towards Asia.

Up to 1.9 million foreigners will be working, studying or touring at any one time in Australia over the course of the year, according to Michael Pezzullo, Secretary of the Department of Immigration, who was quoted by local media on Wednesday.

He said in a speech to the Australian National University on Tuesday night that huge influx means the number of permanent migrants could pass the record of 185,000, set in 1969 during a government-assisted migration scheme.

"We face no less a set of challenges than our predecessors did in the aftermath of the Second World War," said Pezzullo.

He said the ethnic composition of new migrants was no longer Eurocentric with the number of Chinese-born and Indian-born Australians surging in the past decade.

Since 2004, the number of Chinese-born Australian residents have more than doubled to almost 450,000. In the same time, Indian- born Australian residents increased threefold to almost 400,000.

The United Kingdom and New Zealand, at around 1.2 million and 600,000 respectively, still lead the way, but the number of United Kingdom-born people in Australia had declined over the past two decades.

The Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia also feature in the top 10 of overseas-born Australians. Asian countries make up the top-five providers of international students.

Pezzullo said the population was changing in ways "White Australia" could have never imagined, with 28 percent of Australia 's population now foreign-born, a proportion not reached since the 19th century gold rushes.

Pezzullo said immigration could benefit demand for goods and services, boost national income and expand the country's productive capacity.

"If a nation's immigration program is well-crafted and targeted, and migrants enjoy high levels of economic participation, as distinct from high levels of social exclusion and welfare- dependency, immigration has beneficial impacts," he said.