According to the Foreign Education Association of Australia, “discovery of major delays in student visa processing periods has come at the worst possible time for Australia’s struggling international education sector.”
According to AFR, a backlog in visa processing has reached 16,400 regional skilled worker permits.
Australia’s newly elected government has rushed into action, realising that the country is losing valuable time in bringing not only international students, but also much-needed professional workers onshore within reasonable timescales.
“My aim is on ensuring that we clear this backlog as soon and efficiently as possible, in the national interest,” Australia’s new Immigration Minister Andrew Giles told ABC Radio.
He added that, in addition to lowering the backlog, there was a need to “provide a visa system that is fit for purpose.”
Budget cuts of approximately $875 million to the Department of Home Affairs in the previous budget cycle had a significant impact on visa processing timelines.
“What [these budget cuts] did was put an even greater load on the department’s dedicated women and men,” Giles explained.
“We’re working our way through the backlog, as well as considering resource allocations and policy choices to get things going.” As the prime minister stated, this must be Australia’s top priority.”
PM Albanese has previously stated that short-term migration will be necessary to address skill shortages. “We need to concentrate on clearing the backlog of persons who have been awarded visas,” he told reporters on June 17.
“A slew of issues have now hampered our country’s ability to process visas in a timely manner.”
“This is my number one priority [as well], not only to get ahead of the backlog, but also to ensure that it doesn’t happen again and that we move away from the lax approach to immigration policy of the last nine years and really tie it to a clear vision of our economic future and the kind of country we want to continue to be, the world’s most successful multicultural society,” Giles emphasised.
“Just as we felt we had turned the corner from the previous ‘Fortress Australia’ mentality, we were informed by our Home Affairs department that a slew of issues had suddenly blighted our nation’s ability to turn around visas in a timely manner,” Phil Honeywood, CEO of IEAA, told a News station.
“Some of reasons include a shortage of trained staff at our embassies to handle the burden, Covid-related lockdowns that necessitate visa processing in other countries, and an increase in fake paperwork from certain student source nations.”
However, Honeywood stated that the quarterly meeting of the Department of Home Affairs’ Education Visa Consultative Committee last week provided clarification on the processing delays.
“While conceding that visa processing was currently slower than pre-Covid levels, the department emphasised that the new federal government has now granted them with significant additional resources to ‘remove the visa backlog,'” he explained.
“This means employing a big number of new employees at our embassies as well as providing overtime pay to existing employees who agree to work longer hours.”
“Assurances were also given that any changes to the existing ‘uncapped work hours for full-time students’ would be incremental and would entail engagement with stakeholders, rather than a sudden return to students’ previously limited pre-Covid work entitlements.”
Carmel Murphy, executive director of international at the University of Melbourne, stated that current visa processing times vary by country and application type.
“This is peak semester two processing time, and some nations that are normally quick are now averaging four to six weeks for a student visa,” Murphy explained.
“With borders again open, we encourage the new federal government to ensure that people who choose to study here in Australia are able to do so and that institutions are supported in establishing a sustainable post-pandemic recovery,” Seth Kunin, Curtin University deputy vice-chancellor, Global, added.
Giles emphasised that the government’s short-term actions must be “compatible with the goal for rebuilding the economy, rebuilding and re-skilling Australian jobs, and enhancing our productivity into the future.”
The country’s National Cabinet recently resolved to reaffirm its common commitment to tackling skills shortages as soon as possible.
According to a statement from the most recent meeting, the Commonwealth’s commitment calls for [the Cabinet] to work swiftly to address a backlog in processing visa applications in skill shortage areas, cut visa processing times, and prioritise training and migration.
Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs Troy Williams, CEO of The Independent Tertiary Education Council Australia (ITECA), had been warned that urgent action was required to address the extending durations to process foreign student visas.
“It’s fantastic that this campaigning has resulted in action.”
“ITECA has warned the Australian government that delays in international student visa processing are currently the single biggest barrier to the international education sector’s recovery and welcoming students back to Australia,” Williams said.