Chinese citizens led the way when it came to departures from Australia in December, latest figures show.
Australian Bureau of Statistics figures released on Monday revealed almost a quarter of all overseas departures from Australia last month were those leaving on temporary student visas (24.1 per cent).
Almost a fifth of all departures (18.7 per cent) were Chinese citizens (9300), up 2.1 per cent compared with the previous month, followed by Indian citizens (5400).
University of Sydney global migration expert Associate Professor Anna Boucher says the figures are unsurprising given Chinese and Indian students make up Australia’s biggest international student cohort.
She says people’s visas could be expiring or they may be leaving over concerns about staying on during COVID-19.
“Not all temporary migrants will transit onto permanent residency or other visas and, in fact, many leave,” she said.
“They may have been going home anyway or they may be worried about future visa opportunities on shore.”
Associate Professor Boucher says some international students may be worried they won’t be able to see family due to COVID restrictions, so they are taking a risk to complete their degree offshore and taking advantage of the Australian government’s flexibility in enabling them to do so.
“I know, for instance, international students from China would often go home throughout the academic year, but obviously COVID has been a real interrupter for people who are highly mobile,” she said.
“It’s not such a long flight from Australia to China, and maybe some of them made the decision they’d prefer to be home to finish the degree there and then if they still have that connection to Australia to apply for visa status subsequently.
“Over the space of last year a lot of people of migrant background in Australia are becoming increasingly alarmed at how long they’ve been away from family.”
Citizens from New Zealand, UK and the USA were next on the departures list from Australia in December (excluding A ustralia).
Departures were up almost 10 per cent on the previous month.
Of the estimated 49,900 departures from Australia, 12,100 of these were Australian citizens.
Meanwhile, Aussies returned home in December in the biggest numbers since travel restrictions were introduced in April.
There were 17,800 Australian citizen arrivals in December, according to the ABS.
The number of overseas arrivals into Australia jumped by 18 per cent in December 2020, reaching 35,100 people.
“We are continuing to see steady month-on-month increases in arrivals,“ ABS director of migration statistics Jenny Dobak said.
“The increase in December overseas arrivals is consistent with the lifting of travel caps on international arrivals in late 2020 as well as the opening of a one-way travel arrangement from New Zealand.”
In Victoria, the lifting of restrictions led to more than 5300 overseas arrivals in December compared with just over 500 in the previous month.
Despite the increases to monthly arrivals, overall travel numbers still remained low, with December arrivals down 98 per cent from this time last year, Ms Dobak said.