Australia’s immigration Minister has ordered the Department of Home Affairs to fast-track visa applications to address critical skills shortages in the country.
Andrew Giles, Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services, and Multicultural Affairs in the new Australian government, said clearing visa application backlogs was of primary concern to counter the shortfall of skilled workers.
He also said processing outstanding visa applications was a priority for the federal government, and Anthony Albanese’s administration is committed to ensuring visa applications are processed swiftly.
Over the last few years, Australia’s backlog of pending visa applications has grown extensively, resulting in widespread discontent and backlash from applicants.
Since 2018, applicants for Australia’s Skilled–Recognised Graduate visa (subclass 476) – which allows recent engineering graduates to live, work or study in Australia for up to 18 months – have seen the wait time increase to a staggering 41 months.
According to Australia’s new Immigration Minister, the former government is to blame for the delay in processing visa applications, which has reached “extraordinary” levels in recent times.
He also said the Scott Morrison administration did not release data on the number of skilled migration visa applications that had been submitted.
However, Mr Giles announced he has raised his concerns with the Department of Home Affairs as the new government starts working on reducing the drawn-out processing times for skilled visa applications.
The prolonged visa application processing times are also hurting Australian employers and businesses alongside applicants, said Andrew McKellar, CEO of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI).
He said the current delays are not good, especially since many Australian businesses are facing staff shortages and are unable to stay open.
Mr McKellar also called for the skilled migration system to be made more accessible and responsible and said all skilled occupations should be enlisted under Australia’s employer sponsored migration system.
He also said Australia needs greater resourcing to reduce the protracted visa application waiting times.
In 2022, 96,000 temporary skilled migration visa holders are in Australia, with thousands more applicants from all over the world waiting for decisions on their visa applications.