Organisations seeking to bring employees to Australian under the Temporary Work (Skilled) visa (subclass 457) program, the most common visa category of business visa, are experiencing increasing delays.

 

Organisational changes at the Department of Immigration and Border Protection:

It may be helpful to describe some changes to the operating practices of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection “DIBP” (formerly the Department of Immigration and Australian Citizenship “DIAC”) and comment on how these have impacted on processing timeframes, and information requests.

•             In July 2015 The Australian Government merged the Department of Immigration with The Department of Border Protection, a seemingly innocuous change. However in practice the Department of Border Protection has become the dominant part, at the cost of the commercial orientation of the review of business visa applications.

•             One significant change to operating procedures has been to introduce the “pooling” of applications rather than allocation to a specific individual, a “case officer”. The new approach means that it is no longer possible to communicate directly with anyone, and personal accountability has been lost.

 

Consequences of the organisational changes:

•             Processing times by the Department of immigration have blown out considerably.  There are two components to “processing times” – first the delay between lodgement  of an application and when it is first examined, and second the time it takes for the examination to take place and a decision reached / visa issued.

In late June 2015 (i.e. prior to the merging of Departments) the Department of Immigration was advising that there was a lag of ten working days between the date of lodgement of an application and its initial examination by a case officer.  The published delay before initial allocation in March 2016 has now increased to forty working days

These changes adversely impact all organisations seeking to bring employees to Australia and unfortunately it is hard to forecast an improvement in the foreseeable future.

 

Implications for employers:

•             For business planning purposes assume that it will take considerably longer than in the past  for an employee to take up their role in Australia. Currently a time frame  of 3 months is probably realistic for well-established operations, and longer for new sponsors of 457 visa applicants.

•             Avoid any attempt to use a short-term visa category to “get around “ these issues. There are quite tight restrictions on the work activities that can be undertaken under short-term visas (eg 400 visa) , and breach of these can be expected to reflect adversely on subsequent 457 applications. In addition employees who appear to be misusing a short-term visa can be expected to be cautioned at their next entry to Australia.

 

Employer nominated Permanent Residency applications have also been affected, with timeframes increasing by at least a month in recent times.

 

[Please note this Client Alert does not represent advice. For more information please contact Sue Stinson, Australian Registered Migration Agent Number 1383173, at susans@relocationcentre.com.au or +61 2 9955 3300]