Skilled workers to be prioritised with backlog of almost one million visas

Australia’s visa backlog is currently close to one million applications, with 961,016 in total waiting to be processed. Of these, approximately 57,906 applications are skilled workers seeking permanent visas, while 560,187 have been lodged by people outside Australia, including 13,806 seeking temporary visas.

The Department of Home Affairs has employed more staff and redirected resources to address this backlog. The Department will first be prioritising 60,000 permanent visa applications lodged by skilled workers who are based overseas, as well as prioritising other offshore workers with a focus on health, education and aged care.

This backlog has been described as “massive” as Australia recovers from COVID-19 border closures. Associate Professor Anna Boucher of the University of Sydney has said “this initial response would only amount to a first step, as we need close to half a million workers as unemployment keeps dropping”.

Before the Pandemic, the permanent migration program was capped at 160,000 per year through the previous Morrison government. The impact of COVID-19 has seen this number fall into negative levels for the first time since World War 2.

The reopening of international borders on 21 December 2021 has resulted in a gradual recovery of migration numbers, however many businesses are still waiting long periods of time to be able to bring staff in to fill staff shortages.

The Australian Chamber of Commerce has requested the number of permanent migrants to be expanded to 200,000 to ensure economic security in Australia, as a pathway out of the pandemic. This will be discussed at the Jobs Summit in September.