DIAC announce processing update for Australian visa applications stuck in 'category 5'

Applications for skilled migration to Australia are currently categorised into one of three priority groups, each with an associated processing timeframe set as per a Directive drawn up by the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship. The application will sit in that priority group until it is allocated to a case officer, who will begin assessment of the information and documents provided.

The three Australia visa priority groups sit behind two faster employer-sponsored streams, so the skilled migration groups are subsequently labelled groups 3, 4 and 5. According to the existing Priority Processing Directive drawn up in July 2011, the timeframes for processing of general skilled migration visas are currently as follows:



Category 3 (sponsored as part of a State Migration Plan)

12 months (low risk countries)

Category 4 (occupations in high demand)

18 months

Category 5 (all other applications)

Once all other applications have been finalised.

Applicants who find their applications allocated to category 5 have not been given a specific timeframe by which they can expect their application to be finalised, and are instead at the mercy of the categories above them. The Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) has now released fresh information that may help to put the timeframe into some context for those waiting.

Although DIAC's site confirms that no category 5 applications are currently being allocated to case officers, fresh statistics have been announced indicating that there are currently 42,631 applications in category 5 which have yet to be assessed. Of these applications, 64% were lodged from within Australia, and DIAC have announced that they will be processing these first (starting with applications that have been in the queue the longest).

DIAC have confirmed that processing of category 5 is likely to occur within the current migration program year, which runs until 30 June 2012, starting with onshore applications made prior to September 2007 before moving to offshore applications made at the same time. This should give a degree of comfort to applicants who continue to wait in hope for news of progress in their allocated priority group.

DIAC has been careful to note that processing of applications in category 5 will continue to depend on the number of applications received in higher priority groups, and is subject to any changes made to the Processing Direction.

Consequently, although this is a positive sign that DIAC is aware of the ever-growing period of time applicants in this category have had to wait and are indicating that things may start to move in the coming months, offshore applicants who with applications lodged after September 2007 may continue to face a significant wait before case officers are allocated.

Applicants who submitted their application prior to 1 July 2010 may have an option to apply for state sponsorship and subsequently move into priority group 3. Visa Bureau clients should approach their caseworkers with any concerns or to discuss this in greater detail.

- Matt Parker is a Caseworker for the Australian Visa Bureau.