About Us

Country profile - South Africa

​​​​South Africa is considered an upper-middle income country and is Africa's second largest economy after Nigeria. The South African economy is diversified across a range of sectors including financial, communications, mining, agriculture, manufacturing and tourism. South Africa has a relatively high gross domestic product (GDP) per capita compared to other countries in Africa, though only one-quarter of Australia's on a purchasing power parity basis.

Despite having relatively high GDP per capita, South Africa faces significant long-term social and economic challenges such as income inequality, unemployment and HIV/AIDS. South Africa is ranked in the top 10 countries in the world for income inequality and over one-quarter of South Africans are unemployed. South African emigrants are therefore driven by a strong incentive to potentially seek better employment and social outcomes in countries abroad, such as Australia. This incentive to migrate is most notable amongst skilled South Africans with 7.5 per cent of tertiary-educated South Africans living overseas.


At the end of June 2014, 176,340 South African-born people were living in Australia, 48 per cent more than at 30 June 2006. This is equivalent to 2.7 per cent of Australia's overseas-born population and 0.8 per cent of Australia's total population. South Africa-born migrants represent the eighth largest migrant community in Australia.

For Australia's South Africa-born migrants:

  • Their median age of 40.9 years was 3.5 years above that of the general population.
  • Males and females were equally represented.

Permanent migrati​​on

Australia's permanent Migration Programme incorporates economic and family reunion migration and is the main pathway to permanent residence. The only other way for migrants to obtain permanent residence is to be accepted into Australia on humanitarian grounds.  The Migration Programme is based on non-discriminatory principles relating to nationality, gender and religion. People who meet the criteria set out in the Migration Act 1958 can apply to migrate.

Permanent migration refers to the number of outcomes in any given year, without taking into account whether the visa recipient actually arrived and settled in Australia.  Skilled migration focuses on facilitating the permanent entry of those who can make a positive contribution to Australia through their skills, qualifications, entrepreneurial spirit and employment potential.  Family migration facilitates the entry of close family members of Australian citizens, permanent residents and eligible New Zealand citizens. The programme is currently dominated by partners and dependent children, but also provides options for other family members, such as Carers, Parents and Aged Dependent Relatives.

The following table shows the size and composition of the skilled and family migration categories from 2011–12 to 2014–15.

Migration category2011–122012–132013–142014–15Per cent change
on previous year
Per cent change
for the period
Skilled migration (points tested)
Skilled Regional4301204413-70.5-97.0
Skilled Independent1,2931,1201,3071,051-19.6-18.7
State/Territory Nominated1,295876578552-4.5-57.4
Skilled migration (non-points tested)
Business Innovation and Investment3501269356-39.8-84.0
Distinguished Talent76817112.5142.9
Employer Sponsored3,3492,3772,1381,869-12.6-44.2
Total: Skilled visa grants 6,724 4,625 4,168 3,558 -14.6 -47.1
Skilled visas as a proportion of all permanent visas (%)88.084.584.983.1n/an/a
Family migration          
Other Family719100-100.0-100.0
Total: Family visa grants 899 843 729 711 -2.5 -20.9
Family visas as a proportion of all permanent visas (%)11.815.414.916.6n/an/a
Special Eligibility
Special Eligibility178111536.4-11.8
Total: Permanent migrants 7,640 5,476 4,908 4,284 -12.7 -43.9

Temporary migration

Depending on the purpose and duration of their visit, people can come to Australia on a Visitor visa, or through an other appropriate temporary visa.  Temporary visas are designed for specific purposes, for example, study, working holidays or other specialist activities. Temporary residents are required to pay taxes on income earned in Australia and do not normally have access to public welfare and might not have access to public health programmes.

The Student visa programme consists of a range of visa categories that broadly correspond to education sectors. Students must study with an education provider and in a course registered on the Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students. The subclass 457 visa programme allows Australian employers to sponsor foreign workers for employment in management, professional, technical and skilled trades' positions. The programme is demand-driven and highly responsive to Australian labour market conditions. Visitor visas are mostly used by people visiting Australia for holidays, recreation, or to see family and friends. People may also use Visitor visas for certain short-term business activities.

The following table shows the size and composition of the Student visa programme, Temporary Work (Skilled) visa (subclass 457) and Visitors from South Africa.

Temporary visa category2011–122012–132013–142014–15Per cent change
on previous year
Per cent change
for the period
International Students
English Language Intensive Course for Overseas Students0000n/an/a
Vocational Education and Training17515316521429.722.3
Higher Education2081731671723.0-17.3
Postgraduate Research21311429107.138.1
Non-Award8< 5< 5775.0-12.5
Foreign Affairs or Defence22171911-42.1-50.0
Total: International Student visa grants 452 395 378 440 16.4 -2.7
Temporary Work (Skilled) visa (subclass 457)4,0862,8701,6821,7172.1-58.0
Business visitor6,6705,5124,1704,92518.1-26.2
Medical Treatment87148-42.90.0
Total: Visitor visa grants 36,512 32,386 31,985 33,127 3.6 -9.3

Main occupations​​

There are a wide variety of occupations that potential migrants can nominate for, which are acceptable for permanent and temporary skilled migration to Australia.  The following table shows the main occupations for South African nationals for Points Tested Skilled Migration outcomes and Temporary Work (Skilled) visa (subclass 457) grants.

PeriodTemporary Work
(Skilled) visa
(subclass 457)
No. of migrantsPoints Tested Skilled Migration No. of migrants
 Advertising and marketing professionals31Software and applications programmers34
 Technical sales representatives26Auditors, company secretaries and corporate treasurers21
 ICT business and systems analysts26ICT business and systems analysts17
 Software and applications programmers26Industrial, mechanical and production engineers17
 Advertising, public relations and sales managers23Secondary school teachers16
 Management and organisation analysts22Electricians15
 General practitioners and resident medical officers18Other engineering professionals12
 Mechanical engineering draftspersons and technicians13Metal fitters and machinists11
 Production managers12Computer network professionals10
 Advertising, public relations and sales managers23Software and applications programmers48
 Software and applications programmers22Auditors, company secretaries and corporate treasurers30
 ICT business and systems analysts21Primary school teachers30
 General practitioners and resident medical officers20General managers22
 Management and organisation analysts19Civil engineering professionals20
 Advertising and marketing professionals19Industrial, mechanical and production engineers20
 General managers18Secondary school teachers19
 Technical sales representatives18Database and systems administrators, and ICT security specialists17
 Electrical engineering draftspersons and technicians18Human resource professionals17
 Other specialist managers40Accountants124
 General practitioners and resident medical officers39Software and applications programmers62
 Motor mechanics38Industrial, mechanical and production engineers26
 Mechanical engineering draftspersons and technicians36Secondary school teachers26
 Technical sales representatives33Auditors, company secretaries and corporate treasurers25
 Advertising, public relations and sales managers29ICT business and systems analysts25
 Electrical engineering draftspersons and technicians29Other engineering professionals23
 Contract, program and project administrators28Civil engineering professionals18
 Production managers26Dental practitioners15
 Other building and engineering technicians26Primary school teachers14
 Contract, program and project administrators71Accountants171
 Other specialist managers64Software and applications programmers72
 Civil engineering professionals54Metal fitters and machinists59
 General practitioners and resident medical officers54ICT business and systems analysts42
 Electrical engineering draftspersons and technicians48Electricians38
 Mechanical engineering draftspersons and technicians48Other engineering professionals35
 Motor mechanics47Industrial, mechanical and production engineers26
 ICT business and systems analysts46Secondary school teachers20
 Management and organisation analysts41Auditors, company secretaries and corporate treasurers19
 Metal fitters and machinists40Civil engineering professionals18

Geographic distrib​​ution

The following table shows the geographic distribution of migrants, based on permanent additions, international students, Temporary Work (Skilled) visa (subclass 457) and permanent departures.

Permanent additions are the sum of those granted a permanent residency visa while in Australia, and those granted a visa through an Australian mission abroad, who have entered Australia during the respective reporting period.

Population (%)NSWVic.QldSAWATas.NTACT
Proportion of all persons counted in the Census – 2011 (%)322520710212
Proportion of South Africa-born counted in the Census – 2011 (%)281724424111
Permanent additions – 2014–15 (%)
Skill stream (primary)271618432011
Skill stream (dependent)261221532012
Family stream281526425001
Temporary entrants – 2014–15 (%)
International students261523625104
Temporary Work (Skilled) visa (subclass 457) (primary)341717226022
Permanent departures (%)
All South Africa-born permanent residents331724320011

Country ranking​

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

Ranked position of migrants2011–122012–132013–142014–15
Population in Australia8888
Points Tested Skilled Migration67912
Employer Sponsored4666
Total Skill stream5577
Total Family stream13161716
International students53605955
Temporary Work (Skilled) visa (subclass 457) 771212