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Country profiles

Profiles permanent and temporary migration trends and population for Australia's main migrant source countries.

Country profile - China


At the end of June 2018, 650,700 Chinese-born people were living in Australia, more than twice the number at 30 June 2008. After the United Kingdom, the People's Republic of China (China) is the second largest migrant community in Australia, equivalent to 8.9 per cent of Australia's overseas-born population and 2.6 per cent of Australia's total population.

For Australia's Chinese-born migrants:

  • The median age of 33.8 years was 3.5 years below that of the general population.
  • Females outnumbered males—55.5 per cent compared with 44.5 per cent.1

1 Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, Migration Australia (catalogue no. 3412.0)

Permanent migration

Australia's permanent Migration Program incorporates economic and family migration and is the main pathway to permanent residence. It includes the Skill stream, Family stream and Special Eligibility visas. The only other way to obtain permanent residence is on humanitarian grounds.

Skill stream visas

The Skill stream is designed for workers with the skills, qualifications and entrepreneurship most needed in the Australian economy. The Skill stream comprises four components; namely: Points Tested Skilled Migration; Employer Sponsored; Business Innovation and Investment; and Distinguished Talent.

Family and Child stream visas

The Family stream allows the permanent migration of close family members, of Australian citizens, permanent residents, and eligible New Zealand citizens. It focuses on partners and parents, but also provides the opportunity for additional family members, such as aged dependent relatives, carers, remaining relatives and orphan relatives, to join their family in Australia.

Child visas allow the permanent migration of children, of Australian citizens, permanent residents, and eligible New Zealand citizens. The Child visa comprises two categories, namely Child and Adoption visas.

Special Eligibility visas

Special Eligibility visas allow former residents and certain people who served in the Australian Defence Force to live in Australia as permanent residents.

The following table shows the size and composition of Skill stream, Family stream, Special Eligibility and Child visas from China.

Table 1: Permanent migrant places granted, 2015—16 to 2018—19
Migration category2015—162016—172017—182018—19Per cent change on 2017—18Per cent change since 2015—16
Skilled migration (points tested)
Skilled Regional300956924-65.2-92.0
Skilled Independent5,5095,9915,0674,160-17.9-24.5
State/Territory Nominated2,5562,1892,9232,611-10.72.2
Skilled migration (non-points tested)
Business Innovation and Investment5,1685,1315,0875,2092.40.8
Distinguished Talent11181715-11.836.4
Employer Sponsored4,0244,1972,7132,9458.6-26.8
Total: Skilled visa places granted 17,568 17,621 15,876 14,964 -5.7 -14.8
Skilled visas as a proportion of all permanent visas (%)60.662.363.161.6n/an/a
Family and Child migration
Other Family7687355865.7-23.7
Total: Family and Child visa places granted 11,426 10,649 9,262 9,315 0.6 -18.5
Family and Child visas as a proportion of all permanent visas (%)39.437.636.838.4n/an/a
Special Eligibility
Special Eligibility14237< 5-57.1-78.6
Total places granted 29,008 28,293 25,145 24,282 -3.4 -16.3

Source: Department of Home Affairs

Temporary migration

People can come to Australia for a temporary stay for a range of purposes, for example, visiting Australia for tourism or attending a conference, or for more specific purposes, such as medical treatment, study, skilled work, working holidays or other specialist activities. There are six main categories of temporary residents, which can cover stays of more than three months in Australia.

Visitor visas

Visitor visas are mostly used by people visiting Australia for holidays, tourism and recreation, or to see family and friends. People may also use Visitor visas for certain short-term business activities that do not entail working in Australia.

Working Holiday Maker Program

The Working Holiday Maker Program allows young adults to have an extended holiday and engage in short-term work and study.

Student visa

The Student visa program enables international students to come to Australia to study full-time in a registered course.

Temporary Resident (Skilled Employment) visa

Allows a business to sponsor a skilled overseas worker if they cannot find an appropriately skilled Australian citizen or permanent resident to fill a skilled position.

Other temporary visas

Other temporary visas include visas that allow people to undertake short-term, non-ongoing highly specialised work, enrich social and cultural development, strengthen international relations or provide training opportunities of benefit to Australia.

New Zealand citizens

Under the 1973 Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement, New Zealand citizens can enter and leave Australia freely and live in Australia indefinitely on grant of a Special Category visa (subclass 444).

Not all categories apply to migrants from China. The following table shows the number of visa grants to migrants from China, for the Student visa program, Temporary Resident (Skilled Employment) visa, Work and Holiday visa and Visitor visas.

Table 2: Temporary visas granted by selected categories, 2015—16 to 2018—19
Temporary visa category2015—162016—172017—182018—19Per cent change on 2017—18Per cent change since 2015—16
International Students
ELICOS 1142477671556-17.1291.5
Vocational Education and Training4,0465,7509,5148,038-15.598.7
Higher Education58,64065,56269,99769,9700.019.3
Postgraduate Research1,5641,8721,7871,8433.117.8
Foreign Affairs or Defence16132415-37.5-6.3
Total: International Student visa grants 70,465 80,423 87,731 84,819 -3.3 20.4
Temporary Resident (Skilled Employment)
Temporary Resident (Skilled Employment)
visa grants 2
Business visitor71,35488,74088,43382,026-7.215.0
Total: Visitor visa grants 801,761 888,584 954,264 938,136 -1.7 17.0
​Work and Holiday
Work and Holiday visa grants5,0005,1896,1567,02114.140.4
Other temporary
Other temporary visa grants 320,20722,35722,98624,0094.518.8
Total temporary visa grants 903,049 1,002,025 1,074,600 1,057,896 -1.6 17.1

Source: Department of Home Affairs

1 English Language Intensive Course for Overseas Students (ELICOS).

2 Data excludes Temporary Work (Skilled) (Independent Executive) visa.

3 Excludes Transit visa (subclass 771), Border visa (subclass 773) and Maritime Crew visa (subclass 988).

Main occupations

The following table shows the main occupations for nationals of China, based on Skill stream migration outcomes and Temporary Resident (Skilled Employment) visa grants.

Table 3: Main occupations, 2015—16 to 2018—19
PeriodTemporary Resident (Skilled Employment) visas 1No. of migrantsSkill stream migrationNo. of migrants
University lecturers and tutors185Accountants1,399
Accountants150Software and applications programmers482
Software and applications programmers106Civil engineering professionals369
General managers85Industrial, mechanical and production engineers194
Advertising and marketing professionals70Other engineering professionals194
Finance managers49Registered nurses194
Advertising, public relations and sales managers44Electrical engineers143
Cafe and restaurant managers38Advertising and marketing professionals141
Chefs38University lecturers and tutors137
Electrical engineers34Auditors, company secretaries and corporate treasurers120
University lecturers and tutors229Accountants1,826
Skilled meat worker142Software and applications programmers420
Accountants134Civil engineering professionals366
Cooks83Auditors, company secretaries and corporate treasurers277
Software and applications programmers82Registered nurses241
Cafe and restaurant managers61Other engineering professionals225
Advertising and marketing professionals56Industrial, mechanical and production engineers190
General managers49Electrical engineers140
Chefs42Architects and landscape architects133
Advertising, public relations and sales managers39Chemical and materials engineers126
University lecturers and tutors251Accountants1,502
Accountants192Civil engineering professionals459
Skilled meat worker189Software and applications programmers419
Cafe and restaurant managers114Auditors, company secretaries and corporate treasurers387
Cooks111Registered nurses294
Advertising and marketing professionals104Other engineering professionals250
Advertising, public relations and sales managers97Advertising and marketing professionals207
Software and applications programmers94Industrial, mechanical and production engineers190
Real estate sales agents82Electrical engineers180
General managers61Electronics engineers166
University lecturers and tutors224Accountants1,292
Accountants185Auditors, company secretaries and corporate treasurers794
Cafe and restaurant managers174Software and applications programmers480
Skilled meat worker173Registered nurses465
Advertising and marketing professionals149Civil engineering professionals361
Cooks125Advertising and marketing professionals224
Advertising, public relations and sales managers105Industrial, mechanical and production engineers220
Massage therapists98Other engineering professionals212
Software and applications programmers84Computer network professionals174
General managers75Cooks153

Source: Department of Home Affairs

1 Data excludes Temporary Work (Skilled) (Independent Executive) visa.

Note: Occupation level information is available for primary applicants only, and is based on Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations unit level data.

Geographic distribution

The following table shows the geographic distribution of migrants, based on permanent additions for the Skill and Family streams, international student visa grants, and Temporary Resident (Skilled Employment) visa grants.

Table 4: Geographic distribution
Census 2016 (%)
Of all persons322520711212
Of Chinese-born4632955102
Permanent additions - 2018—19 (%)
Skill stream3041983413
Family and Child stream47321145001
Temporary visa grants - 2018—19 (%)
International student visa grants37321464204
Temporary Resident (Skilled) visa (primary) grants1 432913210101

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics and Department of Home Affairs

1 Data excludes Temporary Work (Skilled) (Independent Executive) visa.

Note: Permanent additions consist of two components; those persons who, while already in Australia on a temporary basis, are granted permanent residence status or those persons who have subsequently arrived from overseas during the reporting period and are entitled to stay permanently in Australia.

Country ranking

This table uses rankings to show the significance of Chinese migration for the past four financial years.

Table 5: Country ranking, 2015—16 to 2018—19
Ranked position of migrants2015—162016—172017—182018—19
Population in Australia 13322
Points Tested Skilled Migration2222
Employer Sponsored4444
Total Skill stream2222
Total Family and Child stream1111
International students1111
Temporary Resident (Skilled Employment) visa 23344

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics and Department of Home Affairs

1 Population level data is by country of birth and lags one year behind the financial year specified. Data based on the estimated residential population at 30 June; 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018.

2 Data excludes Temporary Work (Skilled) (Independent Executive) visa.