COVID-19 Increasing Visa Processing Times

Amid the global pandemic, the Department of Home Affairs has announced that many visa processing times are increasing. This is especially true of offshore visa processing where the visa applicant is not located inside of Australia. 

International lockdowns have increased visa processing times around the world. In Australia, this has led to significant delays in the processing of visas. 

These delays are not only due to the reduction in available agents to process visas. The delays are also due to the reduced availability of key assessment services such as medical screenings and interviews. Other supplementary information like character checks are also taking much longer to receive as many departments around the world are operating with reduced staff. 

However, visa applications are still being processed during the pandemic. 

Partner Visas

The worst affected visas are partner visas. These visas are now taking up to 2 years to process. Although processing times for Partner visas were already very long before the pandemic, the current circumstances are causing wait times to balloon. 

What makes it even more difficult is that partners are not able to apply for tourist visas in the meantime due to border closures. So many Australians and their foreign partners are having to stay separated for long periods of time. 

There is currently an estimated 100,000 backlog of partner visa applications waiting to be processed. And many applications with offshore applicants are being put further deprioritized as visa agents focus on those onshore applicants. 

Student Visas

Student visas are also being highly affected by the pandemic. Student applicants are only able to travel to Australia once the travel ban is lifted. Offshore student visas are not being prioritized at this time due to the travel ban, and they may, in fact, not be processed at all currently. 

Offshore student visa applicants are advised to wait for the borders to open to apply. This way they will not have to indefinitely wait for approval and potentially defer enrollment. 

Skilled Nominated Visas

The number of invitations for Skilled Nominated Visas has massively decreased with the pandemic. 

Subclass 189 visas, which allow visa holders to live anywhere in Australia permanently, are down to only 50 in April from 1750 in March. 

There has also been a decrease in 491 provisional visa which allows skilled migrants into regional areas for work. 

This policy may be in support of the government’s shift toward supporting Australian workers during this time and throughout the recovery. The federal government has indicated that migration from overseas will fall 30% this year and 85% in the next financial year. 

The government has indicated that it’s still too early to talk about changes to the migration program that will exist after the pandemic. However, the Immigration Minister has indicated that skilled migrants should still be allowed in when the international travel ban is lifted. 

Minister Tudge told the ABC:

“Sometimes you do have very high skilled workers who are critical for the functioning of a business. It might be in my space, for example, in the infrastructure space, one of my other portfolios, that someone who’s a very high skilled person operates some of the drilling machines to bore the big tunnels. Now, if you don’t have that skilled person there to do that, it puts at risk the rest of the project.

“There will be categories like that which we will have to be thinking about and ensuring that it doesn’t impede the progress of the businesses being able to snap back.” 

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