Recently the Australian Bureau of Statistics released estimates showing that net overseas migration for the March quarter of 2010 was 37% lower than the same period in 2009. 

Net overseas migration includes people departing as well as arriving. A significant component of the decline is likely to have been fewer overseas student arrivals. Student visa grants were down 16% in the 2009-10 (program year) compared to 2008-09. 

In the important (employer sponsored) 457 category, for the financial year to May 2010, the total number of primary Subclass 457 visa applications lodged was 32 per cent lower than the same period in the previous year. 

The decline in migration numbers has been largely a consequence of changes to regulations, colloquially known as “cap and kill” provisions. This has been interpreted as a political response to recent economic uncertainty combining with high immigration levels.

An informal survey of law firms providing migration services has indicated that these dramatic statistics have not yet led to any major downturn in work. Brett Slater, principal of specialist immigration lawyers Brett Slater Solicitors, believes that there is a lag effect in place due to the length of application processes. 

The number of migration agents providing services has been on an upward trend. During the 12 months to June 2010, the number of migration agents increased by almost 10%. 

There is some good news. Migration agent and lawyer Nicholas Tebbey of Snedden, Hall & Gallop Lawyers believes that the tightening of eligibility criteria is causing an increase in the demand for professional assistance.