Why Do So Few Americans Immigrate to Australia?

In the minds of most Americans, Australia is a great place. The land down under has beautiful weather, a booming economy, and sights ranging from the Great Barrier Reef to kangaroos. What’s more, the culture and the language of Australia are as similar to the United States as any other country in the world, with the exception of perhaps Canada. What’s not to like about living in a country where everybody has cool accents?

Why, then, do so few Americans bother to immigrate to Australia?

Below is a very interesting table, taken from the 2006 Census in Australia (the exact table can be found here). It lists the top countries of birth for Australians:

Country of Birth Persons
Australia                                        14,072,946
England 856,940
New Zealand                                    389,463
China (excludes SARs and Taiwan Province) 206,591
Italy                                          199,123
Viet Nam                                       159,849
India                                          147,106
Scotland                                       130,204
Philippines                                    120,538
Greece                                         109,988
Germany                                        106,524
South Africa                                   104,128
Malaysia                                       92,337
Netherlands                                    78,927
Lebanon                                        74,848
Hong Kong (SAR of China)           71,803
Sri Lanka                                      62,256
United States of America                       61,718

(Note: An SAR of China is a Special Administrative Region i.e. Hong Kong and Macau.)

America places very, very low; there are sixteen entries (not including Australia) which send higher numbers of immigrants than the United States. In fact, there are more Sri Lankan and Lebanese immigrants to Australia than American immigrants to Australia.

What’s doubly strange about this is that it’s not as if Anglo-Saxon countries don’t send immigrants to Australia. England sends the most immigrants out of any other country to Australia, followed by New Zealand. Other European countries, such as Italy, Scotland, Greece, and Germany also send lots of immigrants to Australia. All of these countries are dwarfed by America’s population, and yet Australia receives much more immigration from them than from the United States.

Australia is a very small country in terms of population; more people live in Texas than in the entire country of Australia. It is also a country with a very high number of immigrants; about one-in-four Australians was born outside of Australia.

For now, it seems, very few of those immigrants will be Americans.

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13 Responses to Why Do So Few Americans Immigrate to Australia?

  1. Charlie Pierce says:

    I have been here 25 years and not much has changed to favour American immigration over other non-Commonwealth countries. To immigrate from the states requires a mixture of youth, experience and wealth which is difficult to achieve. In the year I immigrated I was the 260th applicant from the LA Australian mission and the first to be approved on points. People don’t tend to readily move from one developed country to another unless it is relatively easy.

  2. ST says:

    The number of Italians is high because after WWII many were allowed to migrate here, no questions asked. (The Dutch too.) The Italian born population is ageing. Brits can come easier than Americans because of the Commonwealth deal. NZ and Australians can live in either country, no paperwork required. The Vietnamese came after the war and were allowed in. The Chinese come to study or buy real estate or do business these days. I am American and have lived here for almost 20 years. Americans can now come on a two year ‘working holiday visa’ and travel and work for two years. Many apply to stay after that time is up, but they will either need to be married to an Aussie, or sponsored by a company.

  3. Fred says:

    My wife and I are Americans and Australian citizens now living in AU. (15yrs) It is a perfect melding of societies, aspirations, and expectations. Australia is America LITE by all our experience. The perfect step back in time (about 15-20 years) to its American hyper equiv.

  4. GDayMates says:

    I plan on moving to Australia too and I was born and raised in the United States. I think Australia is a very beautiful country and out of all of the other countries that I have been considering relocating to, Oz is at the top of my list!

    I love my country and had fun growing up here as a child, but for me personally, I think it’s time for a change of scenery. And even if I do stay in the Americas even Central or South America would be a good change for me too (Panama, Chile, Peru, Brazil, etc.).

    And visiting New Zealand occasionally will be somewhat similar to a vacation to the Hawaiian islands for me.

    It’s time for change!

    • GDayMates says:

      Oh, I forgot to mention one thing.

      The last time I went to visit my family in Los Angeles California, I was sitting in the LAX airport and met this guy from Australia and he seemed cool so I asked him how it was over there and he told me I should come out to visit because I probably would like it.

    • inoljt says:

      Tell me how it goes!

  5. Yako says:

    Part of the reason is simply this: You can’t just simply immigrate to Australia, you need to be working in a specialized field that is in short supply in Australia. Previous to changes in citizenship laws, British subjects could pretty much just immigrate to Australia or New Zealand at will, but that has changed as well, and it is no longer a simple process. US citizens were never able to simply immigrate to Australia to start with.

    • inoljt says:

      But plenty of English, New Zealanders, and Italians apparently get past the process while plenty of Americans apparently don´t bother to try.

      • jeff green says:

        Americans are not playing on a level playing field. But it’s our fault. We grant Australians special immigration preferences, and we don’t demand that Australia grant our citizens similar treatment.

    • Jan says:

      I agree with you. Australia is quite strict as far as immigration–much more so than the United States. The applicant has to have skills that are “cutting edge”. However, The Department of Immigration does not specify what “cutting edge” means. Your potential employer must advertise the position to make sure that there are no Australian citizens qualified for the job. Even if you do get the visa, it is only good for 3 or 5 years. When I tried to renew my visa, i found that an immigration lawyer would be $3000 up front. The process is not easy.

  6. Mark says:

    Americans typically don’t immigrate anywhere. A few do, but it is just not really part of the American experience. I am currently in the process of migrating to Oz, but for a nation built by immigrants, few actually end up moving far from where they were raised, much less to another nation.

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