Australia must reduce the visa processing time for skilled migrants

A significant shrink in migration during the pandemic has put enormous pressure on businesses.

According to National Skills Commission, online job ads reached the highest level since 2006, climbing by eight per cent to 311,100.

For the 2022-23 Migration Program, Australia’s current migration plan includes 109,900 spaces for skilled migrants, decreasing by three per cent compared to the 2021-22 Migration Program.

The skills needed in Australia now are diverse, from aged care workers to locksmiths, electricians to aviation engineers, pharmacists to ICT project managers.

Without skilled labours, 75% of technology companies find it difficult to expand their businesses.

The tourism and hospitality sector remains one of the hardest-hit sectors nationally. Data from Seek – one of the main human resource consulting companies – offer clear evidence about unfolding the staff crisis in hospitality. While the number of job ads is at a 2-year high, the number of applications for said positions plummeted to a 2-year low. To attract applicants, a restaurant owner in Melbourne even offered a $13,000 package including flights, accommodation, and sponsorship to young Brits. The latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) show close to one in five businesses, or 18%, did not have sufficient staff in April.

Abul Rizvi – former deputy secretary of the immigration department – assessed the challenge ahead frankly.

“We have a situation where the Home Affairs department and the visa system are in absolute gridlock,” he said.

“There is a lot to fix, and it will take time.”

To deal with the skilled labour shortage, the Australian immigration minister has ordered the Department of Home Affairs to expedite visa applications.

Andrews Giles, the new government’s minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs, stated the delay in processing visa applications had been mentioned for years by the community and the former governments.

“Processing outstanding visa application is a priority for the Australian government. I have raised my concerns with the current state of visa processing with the Department of Home Affairs, and we are committed to ensuring that visa applications are processed promptly.”

Andrew McKellar, CEO of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), added.

“The current delays aren’t good enough when so many businesses are left without staff and therefore can’t afford to stay open.”

Mr McKellar suggested opening employer-sponsored migration to all skilled occupations to make the skilled migration more responsive to the needs of businesses.   

International students now have to wait for 18 months for their visas.

Oscar Zhi Shao Ong, national president of the Council International Students Australia, said some students were facing “significant” waiting times in visa processing.

“We have been hearing more and more students have been waiting for a long period for their visa,” he said.

The 476 visas, meant for recent engineering graduate students who want to work, live and study in Australia, have seen processing time increase from 18 months to 41 months.

Gurpreet Kaur, an engineer from Punjab, said she has been waiting for almost 4 years for her visa. She applied for the 476 visas by herself back in 2018. She submitted all required documents, paid the visa application charge, and attended the immigration medical examination yet is still waiting for the Department’s response. She also mentioned that 6,000 people like her from Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and many other countries are still waiting for their visa grants.

Excessive processing times frustrate both the purpose of the Australian Migration Program and individual applicants. Despite having an ever-growing pool of skilled workers waiting offshore, Australian businesses are unable to expand to severe staff shortages.



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