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Locally appointed Immigration Agents operated within the Superintendent's Office (VA 473) from 1839 to 1851, the Colonial Secretary's Office (VA 856) from 1851 to 1855 and the Ports and Harbours Branch of the Department of Trade and Customs (VA 606) from 1855 to 1900.
From 1839 to 1868 local officials worked in conjunction with the British Government's Emigration Officer in London who was responsible for promoting migration, supervising the selection of applicants for both Government and privately-sponsored schemes, and arranging for their passage. In 1868 an Agent-General for Victoria was appointed in London to take over these responsibilities in relation to migration to the Colony of Victoria.
Early Government-funded assisted immigration schemes, which developed in response to a demand for immigrant labour for the rapidly growing Port Phillip District, used the proceeds from the sale of crown land and involved paying a bounty to settlers who sponsored immigrants and provided employment. Large numbers of assisted immigrants arrived from Britain during the period 1839 to 1841 and 1847 to 1851. A financial depression in the 1840's resulted in virtual suspension of assisted immigration from 1841 to 1847. During this time the British Government sent out some ships with exiles. Although technically Victoria did not accept convicts the "exiles" left as rehabilitated prisoners who, upon arrival, were given a pardon on condition that they did not return to Britain for the unexpired term of their sentence.
During the Gold Rush period, 1851 to 1861, most immigrants paid their own way and Government and privately sponsored schemes were largely eclipsed by this unassisted immigration.
The Victorian Immigration Statute 1864 (27 Vic., No.195) consolidated earlier legislation, including the Act 27 Vic., No.175 (1863), which established the office of Agent-General, introduced Government and ly-sponsored nomination schemes, provided for the employment of Immigration Committees to assist new arrivals and made special provision for control and regulation of alien (non-British or foreign) immigration.
Separate legislation, also administered by Trade and Customs officers, applied to Chinese immigrants who were required to pay an impost on entry and a yearly impost thereafter, which included their Miner's Right - see Statutes 18 Vic., No.39 (1854), 21 Vic., No.41 (1857) and 22 Vic., No.80 (1859).
By 1873 as a result of the deteriorating economic situation, the government began to withdraw financial support for assisted immigration and by 1883 such immigration ceased altogether. The Government-sponsored nomination scheme for immigrants with special skills was also phased out. Extensive unassisted immigration from British and foreign ports continued. (It is unclear whether a nomination scheme continued for unassisted immigrants and further research is required in this area.)
Shortly after Federation, the Commonwealth (VRG 87) assumed primary responsibility for the control and regulation of non-British immigration (both assisted and unassisted), unassisted British immigration, naturalisation and associated reception, settlement, employment and welfare services.