It is expected that the Home Affairs Department’s $875 million budget decrease will significantly lengthen already long visa processing waits and put more strain on businesses awaiting labor and tourists.
The federal giant agency is already battling with large amounts of applications, low staff morale and record volumes of people stuck on bridging visas. But the loss, detailed in the fine detail of the budget, corresponds to a third of the department’s migration operation, leading to fear that delays will stretch on well into next year.
With skills shortages driving enterprises to turn down business because they do not have enough workers, business wants to cooperate with the Albanese government to speed up processing times to assist fill a record 423,000 job openings.
The median short-term temporary skilled visa currently takes 83 days to finalise, up from 53 days in March.
One-quarter of applications are taking at least one year to process, while the slowest 10 per cent of temporary skilled visas are taking 15 months to process, according to figures from the Department of Home Affairs.
While the average visitor visa is processed in six days, one-quarter of tourist applications take nearly a month to finalise.
According to the Laing O’Rourke director of engineering and construction, visa processing times of more than a year are restricting recruitment efforts.
According to him, “we have a difficult time attracting new employees and assisting our current employees in making long-term plans for themselves and their families because of the inconsistent guidance, lack of feedback, and pace.”
It used to take around a week to process temporary visas before COVID. As a matter of fact, “priority processing” is now taking eight weeks to complete.
A growing number of visa applications in Australia are being held up or left unresolved, according to Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Immigration Minister Andrew Giles this week.
But the March budget, inherited by the former Morrison government, includes a one-third decrease in funding dedicated to migration-related expenses at Home Affairs.
Expenses are anticipated to reduce to $2 billion in the following financial year and to $1.7 billion in 2023-24, down from $2.6 billion in the current financial year. Treasurer Jim Chalmers will set down the Albanese government’s first budget in late October.
Former Department of Immigration senior officer Abul Rizvi stated the upcoming budget cut was absorbing resources at Home Affairs.
“Their aim is not on faster visa processing,” Mr Rizvi told a media channel Weekend. “Their focus is on how the hell do we manage such a massive budget gap?”
The short-term fix
Even though Home Affairs had brought funding forward to address current resource issues, his agency was going to pay a price for it in upcoming years.
As a result of the two-year budget cut, “it suggests to me that the Department of Home Affairs has borrowed money from the future to spend on… various things, but next year and the year after they have to pay the money back,” Mr Rizvi said, according to the New York Daily News.
After dropping by a third since the outbreak of the pandemic, there are now only 96,000 skilled temporary visa holders in Australia.
According to Laing O’Rourke’s Mr Murray, the cost of visa applications has increased, making international skills less attractive to many businesses.
In addition, candidates are reluctant to accept positions with uncertain timeframes because of the logistics involved—leaving their current projects, selling homes or breaking rental agreements, planning school changes—or unwilling to deal with the mental load of a life in visa limbo.
For skilled workers in high-priority professions, New Zealand is one of several countries that are speeding up the visa processing process.
With the creation of a “green list” of 85 hard to fill high-skill roles, the construction, engineering, trades and health and technology sectors have been able to recruit more workers.
Practice of rejecting visas
According to Mr. Rizvi, the sudden surge in the number of persons in need of bridging visas is evidence that the system is broken.
Bridging visa holders now number 367,000 in Australia, up from 180,000 in June of this year.
The rise in the number of bridging visas since March 2020, according to a Department of Home Affairs official, is “due to the number of people who have sought for new substantive visas to remain in Australia yet are unable to depart Australia due to COVID-19 global travel limitations.”.
Mr Rizvi claimed that Home Affairs was unable to respond to the increase in offshore visa applications because of the backlog of bridging visas. The department’s culture was a contributing factor to the increase in wait time.
This company’s training programme does not emphasise customer service or speed of processing for the majority of its employees. For years now this has been the culture at work: they are taught to hunt for excuses why they shouldn’t do something.
A lot of employers are put off by the amount of visas that are rejected for ridiculously minor reasons by immigration officers.”
The disappointed sector
Confidence at Home Affairs is lower than any other public service department with more than 1000 workers. Fewer than one in two workers indicated they would suggest Home Affairs as an excellent place to work.
“A lot of disgruntled individuals with enormous backlogs and budget cutbacks basically creates for more unhappy people,” Mr Rizvi added.
Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Andrew McKellar said companies were finding major impediments to accessing the trained staff they need to function at full capacity.
“Prolonged processing times, high fees, unclear compliance procedures and forced labour market testing are making it prohibitively impossible for many firms to engage experienced staff,” Mr McKellar added.
Mr Rizvi said Australia’s temporary skill shortage visa was globally uncompetitive.
“When business complains, it’s the thing they will have in the back of their minds, that 482 visa is governmentally slow and costly.”
The visa backlog occurs at the same time as substantial delays in the processing of passport applications. A jump in post-pandemic demand has generated delays, with a record 16,417 filed on Tuesday, up from the pre-pandemic daily average of between 7000 and 9000.
There is now a visa backlog for those escaping the Russian invasion of their country of origin in Ukraine. Numerous people are still awaiting special humanitarian status, which would enable them to receive life-saving programmes like Medicare and other forms of financial assistance, despite having been promised first priority treatment.
There has been “gridlock in our visa procedures, which is holding us back” because of the devaluation of immigration, according to Immigration Minister Mr Giles.
According to Labor, “Unlike the Liberals, we have been listening to stakeholders and we are committed to solve the backlog as a serious priority.”
If you need any guidance related to your visas, Contact Vision Consultants Australia.