Response to DIAC's changes to Australian visa priority processing

by Martin 25/09/2009 12:05:00

Many skilled visa applicants will be left in
limbo after DIAC's changes to Australian
visa priority processing.

The decision by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) on Wednesday of a snap change in the order of processing priorities (as covered in a previous blog) has surprised and angered many migrants.

Indeed, a state general skilled migration manager frankly admitted in a seminar for migration agents that she was surprised and had no knowledge of the decision before DIAC made the change in priority processing. She admitted that the impact of the change had not yet settled in, that the states were already asking DIAC for more information, and there were fraught weeks ahead for Australian immigration.

"Fraught weeks ahead for Australian immigration"

As yet, neither DIAC, nor the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship Senator Chris Evans have issued a press release about the changes. The change may be interpreted as a kneejerk reaction to immigration concerns by the Federal Government facing an election in the near future.

The change, made this week with no prior warning, and created with a lack of consultation with state and territory immigration departments makes little practical sense in our opinion.

This move effectively overrides the states’ carefully researched and state-specific occupations in demand lists, giving greater importance to the Australian Critical Skills List (CSL) and leaving some state sponsored applications facing up to three years for processing.

It was only a few months ago that DIAC announced a slowdown in processing Australian skilled visas (with the exception of applicants who were either employer sponsored, state sponsored or who had a nominated occupation on the CSL). In that change in June, applicants with an occupation on the Migration Occupations in Demand List (MODL) were to be considered fourth in the line of priority processing, followed by all other applications in date of lodgement order.

Until yesterday, state sponsored visa applications were given high priority, and once DIAC received and approved a nomination from a state or territory authority, the processing of the application typically commenced within 10 working days.

It was considered unlikely that applications from the first three groups would be exhausted in the 2009-10 program year, and so the final two groups faced a wait of at least another year for processing, unless they applied for and received sponsorship from an Australian employer, or a state or territory.  Many migrants who were in the position to do this changed their pathway in response to this new priority list, switching their application to be for a state or territory sponsored visa.

Since the June processing change, the states’ immigration departments have consulted industries and employers, and designed and tweaked their occupations in demand lists in record time.

For the Federal Government to now decide to process state sponsored applications after four other categories of applications is a complete oversight or breakdown of communication between the states and the Federal Government.

"Complete oversight or breakdown of communication between the states and the Federal Government"

One of the main issues in Australian immigration is regional development, and the state sponsored occupations in demand skills list was designed to supply regional employers with skilled workers in a flexible and supportive way. Western Australia, in the middle of a second resources boom, is in desperate need of mechanical and electrical engineers and technicians. The Western Australian Treasurer Troy Buswell confirmed recently that the state’s has a AU$316 million budget surplus, thanks in part to a 19 per cent jump in the state’s minerals and petroleum exports and record prices for the commodities.

Western Australia has a very different list from New South Wales, a state home to 80 per cent of multinational pharmaceutical companies in Australia and in need of skilled professionals in biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, and information technology.

The Government have stated that they want the migration program to more tightly target Australia’s skills needs. The CSL is an Australia-wide shortage list whereas the individual state shortage lists are, by definition, much more targeted than the CSL. So, for the Government to decide that state sponsored applications without an occupation on the CSL are unlikely to be processed for three years makes a mockery of their stated intention to more tightly target skills shortages

This new priority processing order will be almost unworkable on a state level, and I can only assume that a further announcement will be made, after lobbying by the states, to redress this situation.

"New priority processing order will be almost unworkable on a state level"

It is possible that the Federal Government has received so many state sponsored applications in the past few months that they are actively seeking to stem that pathway with difficulties, to discourage further Australia visa applicants.

Perhaps the Federal Government, facing up to three years processing time for some applicants and constrained by the precedent law on the MODL lists which gives favour to the applicant over the change in occupations on the list, is wanting to rid themselves of this ineffective tool and seek to address labour shortages by circumventing the MODL with the CSL or a similar Australia-wide list.

This change in Australian visa processing priorities may be a precursor to a bigger change hinted in the two recent issues papers released in relation to the scheduled Migration Occupations in Demand List review (the first of which we covered in this blog, and the second of which we looked at in this blog) and a complete overhaul of the structure of skilled immigration to Australia. 

Any way you look at this recent change it seems badly researched, ill conceived, poorly managed and a step backwards for Australian immigration policy.

- Martin Beveridge is a Migration Consultant for the Australian Visa Bureau

Visa Bureau takes no responsibility and cannot be held accountable for action taken as a result of any information or comment provided on this blog, and we recommend that you always seek a number of opinions before making a decision regarding your migration or visa application. Please refer to the Visa Bureau terms of use for more information.

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29/09/2009 11:21:14

I applied for state sponsorship in march, was approved and medicals and police clearance haave been finalised. Now these changes come in, has anyone got any idea how long i will be delayed?? I was hoping to get the grant letter this week. Its nightmare.




29/09/2009 13:44:49

Hi Eamonn

According to the DIAC FAQ: “If your nominated occupation is not on the CSL and you have applied for an offshore GSM visa or intend to apply for an offshore GSM before the end of 2009, it is unlikely that your visa will be finalised before the end of 2012.” So you are in for a long wait in the event that your occupation does not appear on the CSL.

If your occupation is on the CSL it should move to finalisation and grant quite quickly (ie generally within a few weeks, unless there are issues based on the fact you are from a higher risk country and more internal checks take place at DIAC).

Lauren Mennie
Casework Department Manager for the Australian Visa Bureau

Lauren Mennie

29/09/2009 14:15:58

Hi Lauren,

Thanks for your reply.

I have recieved state sponsorship approval by Western Australia since start of August and was assigned my case officer at the end of August. My medical and police clearance were finalized two weeks ago and i was waiting for the grant letter to come through this week.

I am a carpenter from Ireland. I know carpentry isn't currently on the CSL but i thought state sponsored applicants are next to be processed after the applicants on the CSL.

My migration agent informed me today it would be roughly a 3 month delay. Do you think this is accurate?

Kind Regards,


29/09/2009 15:06:02

Hi Eamonn

Seeing as you have a migration agent we do not feel we are in a position to give you specific advice, as we do not want to state anything that contradicts the advice you have been given by your representative. Please direct your enquiries to your agent, or directly to the Department of Immigration and Citizenship for further clarification. Sorry, but good luck and I hope it comes through quickly for you!

Lauren Mennie

Lauren Mennie

02/10/2009 06:01:58

Hello All,

With these 23rd Sept changes, Chris Evans is playing havoc with the lives of thousands of real people who have been patiently waiting in DIACs queue and correctly reponded to the 'March Shuffle' when the first round of reprioritisation was announced!

Many GSM applicants went for the State Sponsorship route on the Department's advise, only to have this slap in the face in September. It's utterly outrageous that Senator Evans thinks it's OK to twice move the goal-posts on people who are jumping hoops like this!

I urge everyone that has been adversely effected by the sudden Sep 23 changes to contact DIAC and lodge a formal complaint. Let the policy-makers know this new policy stinks!

PHONE 133 177

Minister Evans - I do understand that you need to change policy according to the times, but you must NOT get away with retrospectively changing the rules on paid-up, approved applicants already in your queue - TWICE!



06/10/2009 05:34:49

if you look at it i think that this is now rather a quick way they are trying to make money in this financial climate we find ourselfs in.this is now the 2nd time this is happening to is it possible it takes plus minus a year for a visa you just get to first base then they change the rules they sit with you money and tell you that if you cancell you visa then you forfit yourthere money so you forced to stick in.if you look at it this is the best and quickest way to make money,half the applicants they requied from the i january change that they said they need urgenlly i asume did not get there visa approved and now they onto the next set of people they can con there money from.what a well worked out system.


01/11/2009 12:49:01

Dom, thanks for the link. Does anyone know what the States are doing about this? Presumably they are not rolling over and ignoring it, its just I havent seen anything in the press (or even A Current Affair!)

...I too am in the position where I've been state sponsored since the begining of the year with all Medicals, Police Checks etc handed in, expecting to be back for Christmas...A 3 year wait now just seems to be a waste of the case officers time! I wonder how many man hours have gone into applications like mine so far, and how much it has cost.

Its an interesting point made about revenue raising too.

Does anyone know if people in the same position would need to get new medicals (250GBP) new skills assessments (250AUD) and new police checks (50AUD and 40GBP respectively) if we DO have to wait for 3 years (as presumably they would have expired by then)?



05/11/2009 04:48:20

What is really frustrating with these policy changes is that, even if you applied before the changes came into effect, you are still affected and as a result, see your application "pushed back in line".

I applied for my GSM in August 2008 and have been waiting ever since. I thought i'll get my visa really quick because i got a job offer in my nominated occupation even before i applied for a GSM yet here i am waiting for nearly 15 months already.

My employer actually thought i'll get my visa soon (within 3~6 months) but after 1+ year of waiting, they are starting to get restless with me. Due to not having a valid GSM visa (on bridging), i'm ineligible to do anything. I can't travel overseas for business trips, they can't sponsor my education as i have to pay full fees, etc.

What DIAC should do is introduce another priority where people who actually GOT a job while waiting for their visa to be approved and get fast tracked. I've met a lot of people who got their visas and have not found a job for nearly a year yet here i am, contributing to the industry (and economy) for the past 2 years and am still in limbo.

Clearly, the system is flawed. Help the economy my ass.


27/11/2009 05:03:06

Hello there,

My fiance is an IT manager who has been working in the Gold Coast for more than 2yrs under visa 457 and now we are planning to go for ENS,He is the main applicant and i am just the dependent. There is a declaration (85) in form 47ES stated - I understand that if i am applying under ENS then i am agreeing to take up the position for at least 3 years is this a compulsory to sign? I read from one forum someone mentioned that once the ENS visa is granted the visa holder has no obligation to be tied down by the employer, is it true? i am so sorry because it is very confusing everyone says different thing.

many thanks and hope to hear from you soon.



29/11/2009 09:56:15

Hi Lauren,

I understand these people's frustrations. I myself am waiting and still waiting. When I lodged my GSM 886 Residence Sponsored last September 2008, I was told by DIAC that it will come out within 6-8 months then come January of this year, they came up with the so called " Priority Processing" which I think is a band aid/temporary solution. I called DIAC couple of times to ask the average waiting time and they themselves cannot give me a single timeframe. I did double Masters in Business and Accounting but because of DIAC's error of giving me an incorrect Expiry Date of the Student Visa, I was not able to use my Accounting Degree, thus using my Business Degree which is not on the CSL. I called them to ask if I can re-lodge and use Accounting and they told me to just wait...Come this August, when the second priority processing changes occured, they told me I can re-lodge, but unfortunately since I graduated Sept of 2008, I no longer meet the 6 months requirement of lodging a valid occupation. See?? Diac's fault again! They lacked communcation between their units and I agree that Minister Evans is not doing anything to help us! Changing the rules twice in 1 year only shows he does not have consistency and I think its very unfair for us to wait while all these people on csl be prioritize. They should stop accepting applications and deal with the 135,000 delayed applications in the system. By Law, they should have given us a specific timeframe instead of puting all of us in limbo!


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