Australia warns further delays for skilled migrants waiting for permanent visas; invites students, backpackers

Australia has begun to process the pending visa applications. However, it's currently prioritising visas for those with an urgent need to travel, non-citizens with compelling and compassionate circumstances, and those with critical skills required to maintain the supply of essential goods and services.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Minister for Immigration Alex Hawke at Parliament House in Canberra. (file)

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Minister for Immigration Alex Hawke at Parliament House in Canberra. (file) Source: AAP Image/Mick Tsikas

On Thursday, Immigration Minister Alex Hawke said his government is witnessing a surge in demand from backpackers and is ready to welcome them on shores. 

"We are building back healthy pipelines of working holiday makers, and we are processing these visas very quickly," Mr Hawke said in a statement. 

There are more jobs now available in Australia than before the COVID-19-Pandemic, and there are still many more places available to backpackers and students that we are ready to fill, so come on down


  • Applicants both onshore and offshore say they have been waiting for months
  • The Department of Home Affairs (DHA) said many applications are now under review and warned processing time could increase further
  • DHA is currently giving priority to travellers exempt from travel restrictions

However, Mr Hawke's statement has not cut much ice with many onshore and offshore skilled migrants who have been waiting for their permanent residency visas for at least two years. 

Sydney resident Nakul Malik with his wife and their daughter.
Sydney resident Nakul Malik with his wife and their daughter. Source: Supplied by Nakul Malik

Sydney resident Nakul Malik has been waiting for his visa for the past 22 months. He drives for UberEats and works as a security officer for a living despite a masters degree in project management from an Australian university.

Mr Malik, 31, said he wants to work as a project administrator, but most employers hire people with permanent residency visas.

"I looked for jobs on Seek but never met the eligibility criteria due to visa restrictions," Mr Malik told SBS Hindi. 

"We are currently on a bridging visa and don't have the travel rights like other visa holders. My daughter has not met with her grandparents. We request the government to expedite the process and clear the backlog," he added.

The New South Wales government had extended an invitation to Mr Malik under the Subclass 190 (Skilled Nominated visa) in March 2020. The following month Mr Malik applied to Department for Home Affairs for a visa grant.

He has been waiting ever since.



The department  suggests the current processing time for Subclass 190 visas for 75 per cent of applications is six months, and for 90 per cent of applications is nine months. 

"When we applied, the processing time was five to six months. Now it's been 22 months. I tried reaching the immigration office but haven't heard any satisfactory answer," Mr Malik, who lives with his wife and their two-year-old daughter in Sydney's northwest, said. 

The Department of Home Affairs said processing times depend on the age of visa applications finalised recently.

"Many applications finalised recently had been on-hand for some months while borders were closed, including applications which are not in sectors and occupations which are critical to Australia's response to COVID-19 and the recovery of the Australian economy," it told SBS Hindi earlier this week.

As borders reopen and more people become eligible for travel, many of these applications are now being finalised. As we clear these older cases, published processing times may increase.

"Throughout the COVID-19 travel restriction period, applications have been prioritised where these are from applicants eligible for a travel exemption," it added.


The Department's  states that they are directing resources to applications from travellers exempt from travel restrictions. 

These travellers are immediate family members and parents of Australian citizens and permanent residents, and eligible visa holders (skilled, student, humanitarian, working holiday maker and provisional family visa holders).

It further stated the government is giving priority to applicants on the Priority Migration Skilled Occupation List (PMSOL).

"This also applies to those working in sectors critical to Australia's economic recovery, where no Australian worker is available students applying outside Australia so that their online study will count towards meeting the Australian Study Requirement," it said.

This has resulted in increased processing times for applications lodged some time ago that have only recently become eligible for a travel exemption. As we finalise these applications, published processing times may increase
Australia had imposed a travel ban on international arrivals after the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared COVID a pandemic in March 2020. 

The pandemic affected the skilled migration process, reportedly leading to long delays for offshore applicants.

Surinder Pal Singh with his wife Sharuti.
Surinder Pal Singh with his wife Sharuti. Source: Supplied by Surinder Pal Singh

Surinder Pal Singh, whose wife Sharuti is the prime applicant for Subclass 489 Skilled Regional (Provisional) visa, said they received their nomination from South Australia in October 2018 and lodged their visa application with DHA two months later.

"The case officer contacted us in July 2019 and requested proof of my functional English, and we submitted it that very day. After that, they conducted my wife's employment verification in February 2020," Mr Singh told SBS from the UK where the couple has moved on a student visa.  

"We were expecting to hear about visa grant in Feb 2020. As whenever someone's employment verification is done, in that week or maximum in that month, they receive their grants," he added.

Mr Singh said it had been more than 37 months since they first lodged their application. 

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5 min read
Published 3 February 2022 at 7:11pm
By Sahil Makkar