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COVID-19 impact on visa processing times: ‘Visas continue to be processed, though some applications may take longer’

Source: SBS, 10/06/2020

• International lockdowns to contain the COVID-19 outbreak have
triggered visa processing issues across the globe, leading to
“significant” processing delays due unavailability of key
assessment services and the consequent inability of applicants to
meet visa criteria.
In response to SBS Punjabi’s query, a spokesperson for the
Department of Home Affairs said: “Visas continue to be processed
during the coronavirus pandemic, though some applications may take
longer as international shutdowns have made it difficult to source
supplementary information like health and character checks.”
Highlights:
• `Visa applications continue to be processed during the
coronavirus pandemic,` says Home Affairs
• Offshore partner visa applicants `worst-affected` by
processing delays, say migration agents
• Waiting periods for partner visa, student visa and skilled
visa categories likely to increase further
Migration agents claim while the impact has been felt across the
board, certain subclasses, including partner visas, student visas
and skilled nominated visas have been worst-affected.

According to the Department of Home Affairs, global waiting times
for offshore partner visa to be processed has risen to almost two
years.
Getty Images on partner visas:
Australians married to someone who is not an Australian resident
will have to wait even longer to be with their spouses or de facto
partners, as processing times stretch for offshore partner visa
applications amid the outbreak.
According to the Department of Home Affairs, global waiting times
for these visas to be processed has risen to almost two years.
Melbourne-based migration agent Ranbir Singh said until all source
countries find a way to contain the pandemic, there is a
possibility that the processing times may balloon further in times
to come.
“The waiting period for subclass 309 Partner (Provisional) visa
has been horrendous even in the pre-pandemic times, but now it has
stretched beyond a reasonable time-frame and could blow further in
months to come. People deserve value for money and faster
decisions for this subclass,” said Mr Singh.
He added that earlier he would advise his offshore partner visa
clients to apply for a tourist visa while their application was
under process.
“But now the international travel ban has also taken away that
option from applicants, which means Australians who has a partner
or is married to a person from outside the country will have to
wait for a very long time to start their lives in Australia,” he
added.
Last month, Labor MP Julian Hill had called the federal government
to address the estimated backlog of up to 100,000 partner visa
applications to kick start migration after the pandemic subsides.
`Right now, understandably with the borders closed, we`ve seen
migration stall, so the low-hanging fruit would seem to be the
backlog of partner visas ... [It`s] the logical place to kick
start our migration program,` he said.
Mr Hill did not specify how many more partner visas should be
issued but said that the approvals should be `demand-driven`.
`Provided you`ve got the right integrity measures, and that you`re
weeding out dodgy applications or non-genuine relationships ... I
think Australians should have the right to fall in love and marry
people from overseas and have their husband or wife come to
Australia.`

`It seems processing of offshore student visas has been put on
hold,` claim migration agents
Abhas Parajuli/SBS
Impact on student visas:
Prospective students whose applications are currently under
process will need to wait for the Department of Home Affairs to
make a decision on their visas and would only be allowed to travel
to Australia once the ban is lifted.
Migration agent Navjot Kailay said the common consensus is that
the Department does not seem to be processing offshore student
visas at the time.
“We have not received any offshore grants recently and there is no
sense in lodging new applications at the time because even if they
do get approval, international students have not yet been exempted
from the current travel ban. So, I’d advise prospective students
to wait for the borders to open, otherwise, you will just be
paying the fee and eventually would have to apply for a deferral
of your course,” said Mr Kailay.
Impact on skilled nominated visas:
Offshore delivery of the skilled migration program has also been
considerably impacted as a result of the COVID-19 induced
shutdowns across the globe.
The number of invites for the skilled independent subclass 189
visa, which allows the visa holder to live permanently anywhere in
Australia, was only 50 in April ` down from 1,750 in March.
While 491 provisional visa which requires skilled migrants to live
in regional areas, also suffered a dip in the number of invites.
Mr Kailay said the numbers are aligned with the federal
government’s policy which is expected to steer towards supporting
Australian workers during the country’s economic recovery and
beyond.
“While there is no official confirmation, but whenever there has
been unemployment in the country, it is bound to have an impact on
overseas skilled migration. The government has already indicated
that net overseas migration will fall 30 per cent this year and 85
per cent in the next financial year,” he said.

While the federal government has reiterated that it’s too early to
talk about post-pandemic changes to the country’s migration
program, Acting Immigration Minister has indicated that migrants
with skills critical to the country’s response to COVID-19 and
economic recovery could be allowed into the country before the
international travel ban is lifted.
“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,” Minister Tudge told the
ABC.
People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from
others. Find out what restrictions are in place for your state or
territory.
www.samigration.com


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