In recent weeks a huge visa application backlog, estimated to number almost one million applications, has been causing delays in visa processing.
The large backlog has beset the Department of Home Affairs while Australia has been readjusting to open borders. This complicates efforts to attract skilled migrants at a time when the country is also challenged by direct competition with other migrant destination countries such as Canada, the UK, and the US.
What caused the Visa Application Backlog?
The visa application backlog has been created as a result of a number of factors including but not limited to:
- A large number of applications submitted but not actively processed during the COVID-19 border closure period.
- An increasing number of new applications being submitted since borders re-opened.
- A processing transition within the Department of Home Affairs from closed border arrangements (in which Travel Exemptions set the priority) to open border arrangements (in which there are no Travel Exemptions).
- The Department experiencing staffing shortages due to COVID-19 isolation.
A significant re-adjustment of visa processing arrangements was required when Australia re-opened its borders in December 2021 (this occurred later in some states such as WA, which re-opened in March 2022).
Prior to COVID-19, the applications that took one to two weeks to be finalised, as a result of the aforementioned factors, now take one to two months or more for completion.
Despite a steady improvement in processing the backlog, it is unlikely it will be resolved before Christmas. Industry groups have called upon the government to act quickly to assist with the delivery of new skills into the economy as soon as possible.
What is the government doing to manage the backlog?
The government has identified the clearance of the backlog as a major priority, discussing the matter at its first National Cabinet meeting in June. However, the new Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, and Multicultural Affairs, Andrew Giles has noted that it will take time:
“People reallocated to dealing with the visa applications on hand need to be trained and skilled before they can go about this important work,” Giles said.
Mr. Giles said that almost 140 new staff have been allocated to visa processing since May 2022:
“Already, officers previously focused on travel exemptions have been redirected to visa processing…. Further, a surge capacity to work overtime, drawn from across the Department and the Australian Border Force has been established,” Mr Giles added.
As part of the strategy to reduce the backlog, the Department of Home Affairs is prioritising offshore applications so that skilled migrants not currently in Australia can come to Australia to alleviate labour shortages.
We can see the scale of the task illustrated in the number of applications currently being finalised: approximately 745,000 visa applications were finalized from the beginning of June to the end of July 2022. This included:
- 645,000 offshore visa applications (including 388,000 visitor visas)
- 9,550 temporary skilled visas.
While these practical measures will assist many businesses experiencing labour skills shortages, they will potentially result in delays for visa applicants already in Australia.
How can you improve the processing time for your visa application?
Australia’s visa legislation is complex and at times difficult to apply. The coalescence of inexperienced staff and aged visa applications can occasionally lead to officers requesting information that would normally not be required, causing further delays in processing. This is something the migration industry has experienced in recent weeks.
If you have an older application pending or are submitting a new one, make sure that your documents and information are up to date, so that the application can be as close as possible to ‘decision ready’ when an officer reviews it.
Interstaff | Migration Agents Australia
Interstaff is an Australian-owned and operated business providing strategic migration advice to businesses and individuals Australia-wide and internationally since 1988.
Should you need professional advice on your Visa or Migration requirements, we encourage you to call Interstaff’s Migration Agents on 08 9221 3388 (Perth) or 02 7200 2567 (Sydney) or 03 8319 0902 (Melbourne) or +61 8 9221 3388 (International).