While Bhutanese have been going to Australia in large numbers over the years to study and work, there has been a sharp uptick in not only Bhutanese going there in recent years, but also in numbers availing the Permanent Resident (PR) visa which allows Bhutanese to stay permanently in Australia and work there.
It is also a requirement to have PR before becoming an Australian citizen.
The data collected by The Bhutanese from the Department of Home Affairs of Australia equivalent to our Home Ministry here shows that from the financial year 2011-12 (1st July 2011 to 30th June 2012) to 2020-21 a total of 1,061 Bhutanese have availed this PR status under the category ‘Permanent additions to Australia’s resident population.’
The numbers started going up sharply from 2015-16 financial year (FY) when there were 91 applicants compared to 34 in the previous FY.
It reached a high of 245 Bhutanese getting PR in 2020-21.
Most Bhutanese getting the PR are through the skilled stream while a smaller number are through the family or children category of those who have PR.
Among those who got the skilled PR, the categories are those sponsored by employees, skilled independently, sponsored by state or territories in Australia and regional ones which are areas outside major cities in Australia.
Between 2017-18 FY and 2020-21 FY of those who got PR in the skilled category 90 were sponsored by their employees, 127 were skilled individuals qualified through their skills, 315 were nominated by the respective states and territories in Australia, 76 were those who agreed to work and stay in Regional areas or areas outside the big cities like Sydney, Melbourne etc. and 3 in FY 2020-21 were Bhutanese who were recognized as ‘Global Talent’ by the Australian government which means people who have an internationally recognised record of exceptional and outstanding achievement in an eligible field.
The two main category of PR recipients are those who got it while in Australia called ‘Onshore Program Outcome’ and another called the ‘Settler Arrival’ which is PR granted to an already skilled Bhutanese (and their family) even before coming to Australia. Here good examples would be doctors, engineers, IT or others skills prized by Australia.
From FY 2012-13 to FY 2020-21 there were 245 such ‘Settler Arrivals’ category meaning they were already of PR status even before coming to Australia. This category of people does not need a student visa to justify their stay in Australia, but are people who can start working right away.
As per the Home Affairs Department an Australian permanent resident generally can, remain in Australia indefinitely, work and study in Australia, enroll in Australia’s national health scheme, Medicare, apply for bank loans to buy property, sponsor eligible relatives for permanent residence, apply for Australian citizenship if eligible, travel to and from Australia for as long as your travel facility permits, attend free English language classes provided by the and work in New Zealand
A PR can also also qualify for other government benefits and services.
However, a PR and citizenship is not the same as unlike Australian citizens, a permanent resident generally cannot, have an Australian passport, vote in Australian Government elections, access student loans, join the Australian Defence Force, obtain ongoing work in the Australian Government and return to Australia from overseas without a valid travel facility you do not have automatic right of entry to Australia.
On the travel side a PR resident within the first five years can travel in and out of Australia unlimited times, but after that they have to apply for a resident return visa. If you are not eligible for a Resident Return visa then one can apply again for a permanent visa, such as a Former Resident visa, a family visa or a skilled visa.
The overseas arrivals and departure data from Australia shows that these Bhutanese who are PR do not travel in and out of Australia much but marginally travel out more.
From FY 2011 to 2022 only 132 traveled out and a smaller number traveled back in. This means that while PR Bhutanese do come back to Bhutan the majority of them are still in Australia.
However, Bhutan contributes very modest PR numbers to Australia compared to all other countries. The data also shows that Bhutan was comparatively late to join the PR bus compared to other countries.
In FY 2012-13 Australia took in 247,233 PR but there were only 20 from Bhutan. Ironically as Australia’s overall PR issuance numbers dropped from FY 2017-18 at 160,475 for everyone, more Bhutanese started applying and getting PR with 167 of them getting PR in the same FY.
In FY 2019-20 Australia impacted by the Pandemic in 2020 saw PR numbers for everyone dropping to 130,590 but in the same FY 181 Bhutanese got PR.
Similarly, in another pandemic impacted FY of 2020-21 Australia gave only 137,961 PR to all of which a record 245 were Bhutanese.
This shows that while globally there are lesser numbers of people applying for PR in Australia the numbers of Bhutanese applying and getting them have gone up significantly compared to before.
The PR data is important for Bhutan as it answers an important question on weather Bhutanese going to Australia to study and work will come back or to settle down there, and also the level of skilled people being lost.