Why are Skilled Independent Visas Taking So Long to Process?

Alarming new statistics relating to processing times for Subclass 189 – Skilled Independent Visas which were recently published by Home Affairs state that 90% of cases take 22 months to finalise (no, this is not a typo).

For those who may not be aware, Skill Select process was introduced on 1 July 2012 and was largely a product of prior failed GSM system where due to the large volume of applications lodged with the Department, it became impossible to process these applications.

SkillSelect is an online service that enables skilled persons who are interested in obtaining an Australian visa to submit an Expression of Interest (EOI) that includes information about their skills and other attributes.  SkillSelect then issues invitations to apply to migrate based upon a ranking of the attributes of nominees and subject to ceilings on occupation numbers.  The rationale behind the new system was to reduce processing times and to control the number of applications lodged with the Department of Home Affairs to ensure that applicants who receive an invitation, are also afforded faster processing time.

The three-stage process involves the following:

Once an invitation is issued, the role of Home Affairs is to verify the claims made on EOI.  The idea behind issuing the invitations at an appropriate rate is to ensure that the processing times remain reasonable.

Let’s rewind to September 2018.  Back then, there were 2500 invitations issued and the average processing time for subclass 189 visa was 5 to 6 months.  Fast forward to September 2019, a mere 100 invitations were issued and the processing time has increased by almost 400%.

There appears to be little explanation in relation to this discourse.  Perhaps further information will be published in December when Home Affairs releases their annual report.

It is nonetheless concerning that we appear to be heading back to the GSM system where average process time was in excess of 2 years.  There is no doubt that Australia needs skilled migrants.  One can simply view the number job advertisements in regional areas which stay unfilled for months.  Business (regional or otherwise) struggle to retain the best and the brightest as chances of receiving permanent residence appear to diminish.

Whilst permanent migration intake has been reduced to 165 000 for this migration year, it is difficult to comprehend how this quote is going to be filled given the current situation.