10 days later? The processing time reality of a state sponsored visa for Australia

Visa processing times continue to confuse
many applicants for an Australia visa.

Processing times continue to dominate the concerns of people on the road to emigrating to Australia, with the changes introduced earlier this year (which we've covered in a previous blog) still causing frustration for thousands stuck in the application process for a skilled visa for Australia.

However, even applicants who have been assigned Priority 1 status are finding difficulties with the new formalities, with the listed '10 day' processing time causing confusion amongst many.

Priority processing and timeframes

To explain, visa applicants are now assigned a level of priority by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) after lodging their application. The order currently stands as follows (listed from highest priority to lowest):

However, even though the above priorities encompass all skilled visa Australia applicants, only Priority 1 and Priority 2 applicants have been given a set length of time in which they should expect their visas to enter processing. The timeframes are as follows:

  • Priority 1) Applicants will enter processing within 10 days of lodging their visa.
  • Priority 2) Applicants will enter processing within 4 months of lodging their visa.
  • Priority 3) Indefinite (Priority 3 applicants will only enter processing after all Priority 1 and 2 applicants have been processed).
  • Priority 4) Indefinite (Priority 4 applicants will only enter processing after all Priority 1, 2 and 3 applicants have been processed).

The '10 day' timeframe given for Priority 1 applicants is confusing, with some incorrectly assuming that 10 days after lodging their state sponsored Skilled Sponsored (subclass 176) visa for Australia application, a DIAC case officer will be in touch to request the police and medical checks for the final stage of the application process. Unfortunately, this is very rarely the case due to the state nomination application process.

State nomination application process

What is the state nomination application process and how does it affect the '10 day' timeframe?

The timeframe is often different due to the state nomination application process that must be completed before a lodged subclass 176 visa can enter processing.

To explain, applicants for a state sponsored Skilled Sponsored (subclass 176) visa can be divided into two types for this purpose; applicants that lodged to DIAC as a subclass 176 from the beginning, and those who lodged a subclass 175 and now want to be considered for a subclass 176 visa. 

We've found that the first type (i.e. applicants who have been preparing to lodge a subclass 176 visa application from the very start of the process) will typically not be subject to a significant delay in having their visas enter processing because they will have already completed the state nomination application process and had the relevant form (i.e. Form 1100) submitted to DIAC before they even lodged their visa application.  For these applicants, it should typically take approx. 3 to 4 weeks from lodging their application to be allocated a case officer and enter processing, but we have seen it sometimes take longer.

However, as the second type (i.e. applicants who 'switched' to a subclass 176 application later in the process) had NOT already lodged the state nomination application when they lodged their application to DIAC, there are a number of things that have to happen for these applications to be considered eligible under subclass 176 and for processing by DIAC to continue.

As previously reported, the timeframes in which the states are deliberating has increased, with some (such as Western Australian) taking in excess of 3 months to decide if they wish to approve your state nomination application.

However, after the state has sent you notification that they are willing to sponsor you, there are still a number of other administrative tasks that need to be completed. In order for DIAC to begin or continue processing an application under subclass 176, they will have to wait for all the necessary steps following a successful state nomination to be completed.  

What are the necessary steps and how long should it take for them to be completed?

The steps involved depend somewhat on the state, but there is generally the requirement that a document/declaration be completed by the applicant which indicates that the applicant agrees to certain requirements of the sponsorship (i.e. that they will reside in the sponsoring state for 2 years, that they will transfer a certain amount of money to Australia, that they will participate in settlement surveys conducted by the state following their migration etc.)

Along with this agreement, the applicant (or agent) also needs to provide their DIAC file reference number to the sponsoring state. Only once the state has both this file reference number and an indication that the applicant agrees to the terms of the sponsorship will the state complete a Form 1100 and forward it directly to DIAC.

This is quite a bit of paperwork, and means there are a number of places where there could be delays faced or a clerical error that holds the whole process up.

How do the states differ in processing a state nomination application?

Each state has different rules when it comes to processing a state nomination application. For example, the South Australian government have proactively reacted to their new workload and they are now asking the client  to record the required information in an online portal, which they can then push through to DIAC, making the management of the situation easier and shortening the chain of events, and the time in which it takes for it to be done.

However, some other states still have a more cumbersome process that requires the declaration to be sent to the client, the signed declaration to be sent from the client to the state, the state to complete the Form 1100, and the completed Form 1100 to be sent from the state to DIAC.

These steps can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks or months depending on the workload, and as an acknowledgement is not given when a state forwards an applicant's details to DIAC, it is still somewhat shrouded in mystery.

Once DIAC receives the state nomination, can I assume I will be entered into processing within 10 days?

Once DIAC receives a state nomination, they need to record the fact a nomination has been approved on their system, which is another part of the process that takes time, is not mentioned often and is somewhat hidden from the eyes of applicants and/or their migration agents. Recent correspondence with DIAC has revealed the following information:

"If you have obtained state or territory sponsorship your visa application will be processed as a priority. However it  can take up to 2 months from the time sponsorship is approved until it is registered on our system. Once registered on our system your application will be allocated to a case officer for assessment and once conducted they will make contact if they require additional information or documentation."

Essentially, this means that there will be even more of a wait once sponsorship has been approved due to the many layers of administration.  Even once you have been allocated a case officer, it could take a number of weeks from them to contact you, depending on the case officer's individual workload.  For example, we have some clients who were allocated a case officer some months ago, but are still waiting for any sign of progress on their visa.

Is there any way that this can be done quicker?

The best thing to do is give the DIAC case officers and the state a grace period of a few weeks before contacting them. Please understand that DIAC and the states' workloads have been increased hugely in recent months, and having to deal with queries will only lengthen the process for everyone.

As I said before, this is one part of the application process that is largely hidden from the eyes of applicants and migration agents. As it is entirely in the hands of the state and DIAC, there's very little transparency into exactly how long each step takes in any individual case, making it hard for 'outsiders' to determine whether an application is still progressing as it should or if there has been a 'break in the chain' along the way.

Therefore, the balance should always be to give the states and DIAC time to carry out what they need to BUT ensuring that you (or your agent) follow it up within a reasonable period of time, just in case something fell down along the way and you are waiting patiently for something that will never come because of an error or omission.

It's frustrating for us and our clients, but as we've seen before, there really are no fixed timeframes when it comes to the Australian migration process and all that you can do is keep abreast of the changes, read materials you are sent thoroughly, and ask questions where you need to.

- Lauren Mennie is Casework Department Manager for the Australian Visa Bureau