20,522 Australian Visas Granted to Bhutanese from FY 2005-06 to 2021-22

While opinion and facts may differ, hard data tells its own story and the data on Australian visas granted to Bhutanese over the last 17 years show that the rush of Bhutanese to Australia has been building up pace over time starting from as far back as 2005 onwards.

The Bhutanese got in touch with the Department of Home Affairs of Australia (their Home Ministry) to seek an array of visa and other data on Bhutanese in Australia.

Australia started providing development assistance to Bhutan right from the 1960s through the Colombo Plan. 

The first batch of Bhutanese sent overseas for higher education in the 1970s was to Australia which continues to this day, with human resource development being one of the main areas of cooperation between Bhutan and Australia.

From the 1970’s on Australia offered various scholarships to Bhutanese students especially at the tertiary level and after their courses students came back and joined various government departments.

However, there seems to be a change from Financial Year 2005-06 onwards as the 101 visas granted then went up gradually to 560 in FY 2012-13.

The Australian Financial Year (FY) is like the Bhutanese financial year from 1st July 2012 to 30th June 2013.

The overwhelming bulk of the visas granted till date are self paid educational visas with the highest being for higher education sector which are the Masters Courses, Post graduate courses, diplomas. This is followed by Vocational Education or Training and then some Post Graduate Research.

The visas here are divided into the primary applicants who are the actual students going for courses and the other is the secondary applicants who are the dependents of the primary applicant like spouses, children etc.

Up to FY 2010-11 there is a gradual increase of visas applied for and granted and more importantly the secondary visas of dependents are only around half the number of the primary applicants.

For example, in FY 2009-10 there were 349 visas granted of which 228 were primary applicants and 121 were secondary applicants or dependents.

Similarly, in FY 2010-11 of the 393 visas granted 208 were primary applicants and 125 were dependents.

However, there is a noticeable shift from FY 2011-12 onwards when out of the 443 visas granted 215 are primary applicants and 228 are dependents. From this year on till date the numbers of primary applicants and their dependents are almost equal and in some years the dependents even exceed the main applicants.

This means that the idea that one can bring a dependent who is allowed to work caught on strongly from FY 2011-12 onwards.

Another big change was noted in FY 2013-14 when the numbers of visas granted more than doubled to reach 1,259 compared to the previous FY of 2012-13 at 560 visas.

This doubling happened because the number of applicants also shot up significantly.

In FY 2012-13 there were 625 who applied and 560 were granted visas at a visa grant rate of 94.8%.

However, in FY 2013-14 there was a sudden surge of 2,062 people applying and out of them 1,259 got visas at a rate of 66.6%.

This is compared to the visa grant rate of 93.4% for all countries combined in the same FY.

The 2013-14 data shows that a sudden surge in applicants and visas granted happened from this FY.

It also shows that Australia was not ready to accept a sudden surge of people applying from Bhutan as it rejected a significant number of them.

From the FY 2005-06 till FY 2012-13 Bhutan’s visa acceptance rate was always higher than the total by a few percentage points. For example, in FY 2011-12 it was 94.7% for Bhutanese and 90% for all countries, in FY 2008-09 it was 96.4% for Bhutanese and 92.1% for all others.

However, given the large surge of applicants from FY 2013-14 onwards the visa acceptance rate of Bhutan up until FY 2020-21 was well under the acceptance rate for all countries combined though it climbed up slowly over time.

In FY 2014-15 it was 75.7% visa grant rate for Bhutanese and 92% visa grant rate for all countries; in FY 2015-16 it was 85.3% for Bhutanese and 90.7% for all countries; in FY 2016-17 it was 84.9% for Bhutanese and 91.5% for all countries; in FY 2017-18 it was 82.2% for Bhutanese and 90.5% for all countries; in FY 2018-19 it was 84.2% for Bhutanese and 89.9% for all countries and in FY 2019-20 it was 85.1% for Bhutanese and 91.4% for all countries.

Faced with a pandemic and labour shortages in FY 2020-21 it was 92.1% for Bhutanese and 94.4% for all countries and finally in FY 2021-22 Bhutanese got a higher acceptance rate than all others at 96.9% for Bhutanese and 91.5% for all others.

From 1st to 31st July 2022 which is the first month of the FY 2022-23 it was 98.4% for Bhutanese and 90.1% for others.

The sudden rise of applicants which happened in FY 2013-14 stabilized to similar numbers till FY 2015-16 which saw 1,178 visas being granted.

However, the next big surge of Bhutanese applying for and getting visas started from FY 2016-17 onwards with 1,480 visas granted followed by 2,275 visas in FY 2017-18, 2,906 visas in FY 2018-19 and 2,933 visas in FY 2019-20 despite 2020 seeing the impact of the pandemic.

The pandemic led to a sharp drop of visas granted in FY 2020-21 at 1,828 visas mainly due to a sharp drop in the number of people applying at 2,046 compared to 3,328 people applying in FY 2019-20.

In FY 2021-22 there has been a sharp increase in people applying for visa at 3,686 people out of which 2,583 have been granted so far at an acceptance rate of 96.9% for those processed and more are under process for approval from this group. This means the visa granted could go up from 2,583.

The Bhutanese also accessed the ‘Overseas arrivals and Departures’ data for Bhutanese traveling to and coming back from Australia from FY 2007-08 to FY 2021-22.

The data shows that those who came on Long Term Visa Arrival normally given for studies were 14,997 in number and those who departed from this group were 6,471 so far. There are then the Short Term Visas given to those Bhutanese coming for a shorter period like meeting family etc and here there were 7,840 arrivals and 6,641 departures.

There are than other categories like Short Term Residents Arrival and Departure and Settlers Arrival and Departure but the figures are not very clear here.  

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