Country profile - South Africa


At the end of June 2022, 206,730 South African-born people were living in Australia, 23.3 per cent more than the number (167,630) at 30 June 2012. This makes the South African-born population the seventh largest migrant community in Australia, equivalent to 2.7 per cent of Australia's overseas-born population and 0.8 per cent of Australia's total population.

For Australia's South African-born migrants:

  • The median age of 45.5 years was 7.0 years above that of the general population.
  • Females outnumbered males—50.4 per cent compared with 49.6 per cent.

(Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australia’s Population by Country of Birth)

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 who have the skills, qualifications and entrepreneurship most needed in the Australian economy. There are seven components:

  1. Business Innovation and Investment

  2. Distinguished Talent

  3. Employer Sponsored

  4. Global Talent (Independent)

  5. Regional

  6. Skilled Independent

  7. State/Territory Nominated.

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 of permanent migration from South Africa by migration category.

Table 1: Permanent migrant places granted, 2019–20 to 2022–23
​Migration category2019–202020–212021–22​2022–23
Business Innovation and Investment6537021880
Employer Sponsored1,1451,3051,4871,796
Skilled Independent2364460718
State/Territory Nominated758158224965
Regional 19453564641,262
Global Talent (Independent) 2111331213136
All other categories156199157153
Total places granted 3,743 3,523 3,305 5,434
Source: Department of Home Affairs
1The Regional migration category commenced 1 July 2019.
2Global Talent (Independent) category commenced 4 November 2019.

​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.

Note: Not all categories apply to migrants from each country. 

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).

 The following table shows the number of visa grants to migrants from South Africa, for Visitor, Student and Temporary Resident (Skilled Employment) visas.

Table 2: Temporary visas granted by selected categories, 2019–20 to 2022–23
Temporary visa category2019–202020–212021–22​2022–23
Temporary Resident (Skilled Employment)2,7071,5072,6555,131
Other temporary visa grants 11,7355561,2942,867
Total temporary visa grants 30,964 3,290 18,522 39,642
Source: Department of Home Affairs
1Excludes 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 South Africa, based on Skill stream migration outcomes and Temporary Resident (Skilled Employment) visa grants.

Table 3: Main occupations, 2019–20 to 2022–23
PeriodTemporary Resident (Skilled Employment) visasNo. of migrantsSkill stream migrationNo. of migrants
2022–23Auditors, company secretaries and corporate treasurers85Secondary school teachers130
Civil engineering professionals76Early childhood (pre-primary school) teachers101
ICT business and systems analysts65Metal fitters and machinists63
Metal fitters and machinists62Motor mechanics62
Construction managers59Civil engineering professionals52
Accountants57Occupational therapists43
Software and applications programmers57
Motor mechanics56Auditors, company secretaries and corporate treasurers35
Occupational therapists54Industrial, mechanical and production engineers33
Mechanical engineering draftspersons and technicians51Accountants31
2021–22Auditors, company secretaries and corporate treasurers69Financial brokers82
Software and applications programmers45Auditors, company secretaries and corporate treasurers43
Occupational therapists36Physiotherapists34
Accountants34Multimedia specialists and web developers31
Civil engineering professionals31Metal casting, forging and finishing trades workers30
Construction managers30Database and systems administrators, and ICT security specialists29
Physiotherapists29Precision metal trades workers25
Motor mechanics29Other natural and physical science professionals24
Metal fitters and machinists27Electrical engineers23
Management and organisation analysts24Mining engineers19
2020–21Software and applications programmers25Civil engineering professionals47
Occupational therapists22Motor mechanics39
Civil engineering professionals20Accountants36
General practitioners and resident medical officers17Auditors, company secretaries and corporate treasurers36
Physiotherapists16Software and applications programmers29
Motor mechanics16ICT business and systems analysts23
Livestock farmers15Industrial, mechanical and production engineers22
ICT business and systems analysts15Veterinarians21
General managers14Secondary school teachers16
Industrial, mechanical and production engineers14Metal fitters and machinists15
2019–20Motor mechanics59Accountants60
Auditors, company secretaries and corporate treasurers55Software and applications programmers46
ICT business and systems analysts55Civil engineering professionals34
Civil engineering professionals36ICT business and systems analysts34
Management and organisation analysts35Motor mechanics29
Metal fitters and machinists28Metal fitters and machinists28
Advertising, public relations and sales managers24Electricians27
Crop farmers21Early childhood (pre-primary school) teachers26
Accountants21Advertising, public relations and sales managers23
Software and applications programmers21Management and organisation analysts23
​​ Source: Department of Home Affairs
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 2021 (%)
Of all persons322620710212
Of South African-born261726424111
Permanent additions - 2022–23 (%)
​Skill stream271427821111
Family and Child stream301627419112
​Temporary visa grants - 2022–23 (%)
International student visa grants241431623101
Temporary Resident (Skilled Employment) visa (primary) grants281922522221
Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics and Department of Home Affairs
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 South African migration for the past four financial years.​​​

Table 5: Country ranking, 2019–20 to 2022–23
Ranked position of migrants2019–202020–212021–22​2022–23
Population in Australia 17777
Employer Sponsored5544
Total Skill stream710117
Total Family and Child stream24222222
International students49414848
Temporary Resident (Skilled Employment) visa
Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics and Department of Home Affairs
1Population 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; 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022.

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