30 September 2022 

A new report by the Migrant Workers Centre, Waiting to Be Seen: Problems of Australia’s Visa Processing Delays shows Australia’s migration system has denied tens of thousands of people the stability and certainty to build their lives. 

Unacceptably high numbers of onshore visa applicants are waiting as long as three years for the outcome of their applications. The Department of Home Affairs prioritises offshore, temporary applicants to meet the short term needs of businesses. 

This report lays bare the unjustifiable discrepancies between the Department’s treatment of permanent and temporary visa applicants. 

Key findings in Waiting to Be Seen: 

  • A sixfold increase in the number of people stuck on Bridging Visas. 
  • A dramatic increase in wait times for visas. The processing time for the subclass 887 visa has more than doubled and is currently at 24 months. 
  • The de-prioritisation of permanent visas at the expensive of temporary visas and employer sponsored visas. A Skilled Independent visa (subclass 189) applicant can expect to wait for 39 months to become a permanent resident while one applying for an Employer sponsored visa (subclass 186) will receive the visa in 12 months. The Working Holiday and Student Visas, which are amongst the most restrictive temporary visas, are processed the fastest. 
  • The DHA has reduced the number of officers assigned to onshore visa processing, despite the number of people who make onshore visa applications in the last decade rapidly increasing  
  • Unjustifiable delays in 887 visa processing evidenced by a low rate of refusals. 

The Government must increase the proportion of permanent visa issuance within the migration system, allocate more resources to clearing the visa backlog they have inherited and provide clear information and grievance redress channels for visa applicants. 

Quotes attributable to Matt Kunkel, Migrant Workers Centre CEO 

“Australia’s migration policy has been distorted to meet the short term needs of businesses. The Government must commit to fair visa processing times to assist the long-term settlement of workers. A renewed focus on permanent migration will being immense benefits to communities across the country. 

“The unjustifiable delays for visa subclasses such as the 887 are causing considerable anguish for tens of thousands of migrants who feel abandoned and are living for years with uncertainty. Many of these people struggled through the pandemic, without any support or access to a social safety net. Now they are once again pushed to the side while the Department prioritises temporary, offshore applicants. 

“By allowing so many onshore visa applicants to languish in limbo, Australia is demonstrating that we are still more interested in an economic sugar hit than rebuilding our broken migration system. 

“The processing delays of permanent visas have significant industrial implications. As our Lives in Limbo report revealed last year, there is a clear link between temporary visas and heightened labour exploitation. 

“We welcome the Government’s announcement of increased public servants to clear the visa backlog they inherited but more must be done to support those applicants who are already living and working in our communities.  

For more information, please contact Omar Ghazala, Digital and Communications Officer via email [email protected]

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