Australians look to Boris Johnson for help on UK visas

Australians look to Boris Johnson for help on UK visas

Australians hoping to continue the long tradition of heading to the UK for work will be hoping Foreign Minister Julie Bishop can convince her British counterpart Boris Johnson to make their path a bit easier.

Visas are expected to be high on the list of discussion topics during the pair's bilateral talks in Sydney, and at the annual ministerial AUKMIN talks on security, defence and foreign policy issues later.

Mr Johnson arrived in Sydney ahead of the talks, which come just two months after British Prime Minister Theresa May announced plans to slash the country's annual immigration levels to below 100,000.

Britain has traditionally been a popular destination for Aussies wanting to work abroad, but its immigration crackdown following the Brexit vote has sparked concerns it could become much tougher to get a visa.

While Mr Johnson has long been a fan of Australians and New Zealanders working in Britain, his Conservative government wants to make it more expensive for companies to hire migrants like the estimated 120,000 Aussies working there currently.

Dr Andrew Carr, a senior lecturer at ANU's Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, says the issue of UK visas for Aussie workers once Britain formally leaves the European Union is a big concern of the federal government.

"It's a perennial issue and it's probably the one that is closest to the hearts of a lot of Australians in terms of how they would see the relationship with the UK at the moment," he told.

"These are things the Australian government is going to be pushing and wanting to encourage."

Dr Carr said relaxing visa rules for Aussie workers could be an easy way for Britain to show it was still open to trade and migration post Brexit.

"But it is still difficult because it goes to the nature of how the British control their borders and population levels which are very much factors behind the Brexit campaign," he said.

In New Zealand, Mr Johnson reassured Kiwis wanting to work and travel in Britain that they had nothing to fear once the UK splits from the EU.

"We will want to maintain a regime that is at least as attractive as the current regime, and we want to maintain a policy of openness and engagement," said Mr Johnson, who is on a nine-day international tour.

Ms Bishop said Brexit and future trade deals would be among the long list of topics she would discuss with Mr Johnson.

"Our focus will be very much on what we can do together and our collective approach to some of the challenges facing our region and globally," she told reporters.

Mr Johnson will be joined by Britain's Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon for the AUKMIN talks with Ms Bishop and Defence Minister Marise Payne in Sydney.

Issues including counter-terrorism, the future of Europe, North Korea's missile program, and military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan will be on the agenda.


* About one million Aussies visit Britain each year

* An estimated 125,000 Australians reside in Britain

* More than 712,000 Brits visit Australia annually

* Britain is Australia's fifth largest two-way trading partner and seventh largest export market

* Two-way trade was worth $27b in 2015/16, with Aussie exports worth $12.1b

* Gold and alcohol are Australia's main exports to Britain

* One in five imported bottles of wine consumed in Britain are from Australia