Australia’s Immigration Minister has assured WA businesses crying out for workers that the visa application backlog inherited by the Albanese Government should be at a “manageable” level by Christmas.
Andrew Giles, in Perth to hear from local employers, said there were about one million applications waiting to be dealt with when Labor came to power in May and a cash splash on extra staff had helped push that below 800,000.
He wouldn’t specify the target he hoped the Department of Home Affairs would reach by the year’s end, but was confident processing times were reducing and business were “starting to see those results now”.
His visit coincided with the Federal Government abolishing the Priority Migration Skilled Occupation List, which was introduced two years ago to target sectors critical to the nation’s pandemic recovery.
The list prioritised 44 occupations, including accountants, engineers, ICT security specialists, veterinarians, software engineers and chefs, as well as healthcare workers such as nurses and GPs.
Under the changes, applications related to healthcare and teaching would now be prioritised, as well as offshore permanent and provisional applications. Outside of these areas, all other skilled visa applications will be assessed in order of date of lodgement.
The Government has argued the list added up to 45 minutes extra time per application and its removal would speed-up processing for all occupations.
Mr Giles said it was about simplifying the skilled migration system, but he stopped short of guaranteeing the overhaul wouldn’t increase wait times for those industries previously prioritised.
“A consistent message we’ve got from businesses is the multiplicity of skills lists has created confusion and what we’re keen to do is to have a more straightforward approach,” he said.
“Part of it needs to be informed by conversations, that’s why I’m in WA to listen to businesses, so we do have a skilled migration system — indeed a migration system — that’s fit for purpose.”
We will be looking closely to see if these changes result in applications being assessed and approved more efficiently.
Australian Hotels Association WA Bradley Woods said any any efforts to streamline visa processing were welcome.
“We will be looking closely to see if these changes result in applications being assessed and approved more efficiently,” he said.
“If businesses cannot access skilled positions such as chefs and qualified cooks from overseas, hospitality venues either reduce their hours of service or close altogether, which is a terrible outcome for the hospitality industry and the many workers it supports.”
CCIWA chief executive Chris Rodwell said scrapping the PMSOL was “a smart decision that should result in faster visa processing”.
“This list passed its use-by date back when COVID border restrictions were removed. Since then, it has only added complexity and competing priorities to the visa system,” he said.
“WA’s gaps and shortages span many sectors and skillsets, and businesses want processing of skilled visas to be as efficient and streamlined as possible, and prioritised by the date of application.”