Very few, if any, areas of Labor’s new Immigration Minister Andrew Giles’ portfolio are without trouble; skills shortages abound everywhere you look; all types of visas are plagued with problems; plus there is a budget cut looming for the Home Affairs Department.
Recent problems that have come to the fore are shortages in skilled workers such as engineering with the media reporting that the engineering job vacancy rate has increased 97 percent over the past year. The processing of subclass 476 Recognised Graduate visas, giving opportunity to eligible recent engineering graduates to live, work or study in Australia for 18 months, now takes up to 41 months and the Department has around 6000 applications on file.
The Department has stated that it has granted more than one million visas since November last year but many who held these visas remained offshore though they could arrive if vaccinated. In April the Department extended around 3000 subclass 476 visas for a further two years, so that people holding this type of visa could still arrive in Australia or if already in Australia remain onshore for further two years.
Minister Giles has directed the Department to accelerate visa applications saying they are a priority and blaming the previous government for the backlog. The Morrison government did not release figures on the number of applications for skilled workers or indeed most other visa classes.
The number of skilled temporary visa holders in Australia has been shrinking, and not only because of Covid 19. In 2014 there were 195,000 skilled temporary visa holders in Australia and only 96,000 so far in 2022.
To make matters worse, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics the overseas migration for 2021 was at a net loss of 88,800 people, being the first loss since 1946 and second lowest on record. This trend continues with official figures showing the number of skilled foreign workers leaving Australia exceeded the number coming in during April. The Sydney Morning Herald cited 8970 skilled foreign workers arriving in Australia but 9230 leaving, that’s a deficit of 260.
There are currently 140,000 skilled workers wanting to come to Australia according new figures released by Home Affairs. However, processing times are up, costs for visas have been cited as too expensive, compliance measures for applicants are difficult whether they are individuals or companies.
Minister Giles told SBS News: “In terms of the extraordinary delays we’ve seen in visa processing, this is a real priority for me and an Albanese Labor government. Whether it relates to humanitarian, family reunion, or skilled visas, we need to do much better.”
How that will happen is difficult to comprehend with a budget cut of $875 million possibly on the cards.