Slow visa issues hurts  international ed recovery


 In  February  CMM highlighted a looming issue with visas, “It seems not all of government received the email that Australia is open,” (February 14).

Fast forward to June and it appears industry is increasingly frustrated with Home Affairs and its inability to turn around visa application in a timely manner. Published student visa rates updated 5 May 2022 show:

* Higher Education visas: 25 per cent of visas finalised are completed within 16 days, 50 per cent are finalised within 29 days, 75 per cent with 57 days and all finalised with seven months.

* this blows out for a VET visa. 25 per cent of visas finalised are completed within 33 days, 50 per cent are finalised within 54 days, 75 per cent with 7 months and all finalised with 12 months.

Informed observers suggest the average wait time in India has blown out to 55 days while in the Philippines a visa that normally takes four-six weeks is now at 79 days and that seems to be the norm. Quite simply “we are going to start losing students to other destinations” says one provider who does not want to be named.

University semester two intake is looming and while short term corrections may still impact this, pathway providers and those in trimester mode aren’t as lucky.

Phil Honeywood, CEO of the International Education Association says  there are three key issues.

* that upwards of one third of the national visa processing budget was recently ripped out by the previous Government has huge repercussions.

* the Covid pandemic has also resulted in the temporary and permanent loss of skilled visa processing staff across our embassy network. This has created anomalies such as Colombian student visas being processed at our Embassy in Vietnam.

* with some student source countries, such as India, Home Affairs also identified an upsurge in fraudulent documents. This has played a part in Nepalese students having far more student visas issued compared to Indian student applicants.

Mr Honeywood adds, “Industry stakeholders have requested clarification on all these issues from the Home Affairs Department at this week’s Education Visa Consultative Committee meeting.”

The committee meets on Friday. CMM, along with industry, is interested to see what comes from it… hopefully faster processing times. There was good news Friday, with the Commonwealth committing at National Cabinet to, “address a backlog in processing visa applications in areas of skills shortages, reduce visa processing times and prioritise training and migration.”

Dirk Mulder advises education and business clients on trends in international education. He writes regularly for CMM.