Australia Immigration

Waiting times for Australian visas could increase, immigration boss admits

by Ray Clancy on May 23, 2017

in Australia Immigration

Officials in Australia have been promising to make applying for visas and citizenship faster and more efficient but now it appears that people may have to wait longer.

Cutbacks at the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) means fewer staff working on visa and citizenship applications, it has been confirmed.

(Luap Vision/Bigstock.com)

DIBP secretary Michael Pezzullo admitted that he can give no guarantees that waiting times will not rise as more staff are working on counter terrorism. He told a Senate committee that 355 staff have gone from the visa and citizenship section since the beginning of the financial year.

But he added that it was not just staff shortages that could impact the application process as there has also been an increase in the number of visa applications and he reckons this will have a bigger impact than staff cuts.

‘At a human level, you don’t want anyone to wait for a government decision any longer than is absolutely necessary. If some folks have to wait a little bit longer then so be it,’ Pezzullo said.

‘In a circumstances of constrained resources which applies to all Government departments  because the Government’s got a strategy around deficit and debt reduction, all agencies have to then make choices about potentially growing some areas and then cutting other areas,’ he explained.

Pezzullo indicated that combating terrorism is seen as more important than visa processing times and even if more funds were available he was unsure the money would be used to improve visa and citizenship processing times.

He explained that protecting the border is paramount. ‘If requires allocating a disproportionate amount of resources to those functions, even if I get an extra dollar, you shouldn’t assume I would put that into visa processing,’ he added.

Pezzullo also confirmed that his department would need to make nearly $1 billion dollars in savings over the next four years. This comes at a time when it is spending $257 on new headquarters in Canberra.

The DIBP currently leases more than 100,000 square meters of office space spread across 12 buildings and four suburbs in Canberra and leases are due to end progressively between 2017 and 2020. Pezzullo said the move will ultimately save £236 million over 30 years.

The confirmation that applications could be slowed comes just a few weeks after Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said visa processing would become more efficient.

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