Visa waiting times for many sought-after Australian visas are set to drop dramatically after the country’s immigration minister announced that staff will be reassigned to deal with a growing backlog of applications.
Some applicants have had to wait up to 41 months for their visas to be approved with the two-year closed border seeing hundreds of thousands of applications put on hold.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has previously voiced his displeasure at having inherited a very large backlog of applications when his government came into power in May.
Andrew Giles, The Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs has outlined preliminary steps to speed up visa processing, including redirecting staff from travel exemption processing and establishing surge capacity for overtime.
“The processing of visas will continue to be a major priority for this Government – but reducing the backlog of applications can’t happen overnight,” he said.
The new capacity for visa processing will focus on key offshore caseloads, temporary skilled, student and visitor visa applications, the government hopes an increase in approved visas will lift some pressure from the Australian economy.
The news comes as migration starts to increase dramatically in Australia, applications received in June 2022 are 6.5% higher than May 2022 and there was a 10.6% increase in finalised applications.
There have been calls for the government to take action over Austrailan visa waiting times from high places, Business Council of Australia chief executive Jennifer Westacott says fast-tracking visas would help bolster the Australian economy in uncertain economic times.
“Let’s remember what labour shortages are doing to inflation,” she told ABC Radio.
“If you can’t get someone to pick your fruit. If you can’t get someone to do the work, that just goes straight into shortages and prices.”
The government plans to tackle the backlog by first processing more than 60,000 permanent visa applications lodged by skilled workers based overseas. There are almost 1 million applications waiting to be processed across several visa categories.