Visa backlogs cleared

Wicki Wickiramasingham says many refugees are still waiting for permanent visas. 235665_04 Picture: GARY SISSONS

By Cam Lucadou-Wells

Bruce MP Julian Hill has welcomed a clearing of a backlog in citizenships, partner visas and humanitarian visas in the past 12 months.

He said the Government was “committed to cleaning up (former Home Affairs Minister) Peter Dutton’s shocking mess”, including 500-plus new staff to clear the visa backlogs.

“After a decade of Liberal decay and dysfunction, Peter Dutton left behind a complete mess, with over 1 million visa and citizenship applications backlogged in his black hole of a department.

“For the first time in more than five years the Australia’s Humanitarian Program has been delivered in full, and wait times for almost every visa have been slashed.”

Temporary partner visa finalisations were up 54 per cent in July-December 2023, compared to the same period in 2022.

Permanent partner visas were up 158 per cent – the largest increase in at least 17 years, Mr Hill said.

Despite a 23 per cent increase in applications, the permanent partner visa waiting list was down from 54,000 in June 2021 to 29,335.

Citizenship approvals had also increased 13 per cent.

“Efficient visa and citizenship processing is not a luxury for people in South East Melbourne – it’s an essential service in a multicultural society,” Mr Hill said.

“Knowing that family members can visit for special occasions, and allowing families to be together.”

Since February 2023, 14,390 Resolution of Status visas have been ‘fast tracked’ for refugees on Temporary Protection Visas or Safe Haven Enterprise Visas across Australia.

As of 31 January, there were about a quarter (5685) of RoS applications remaining.

“Thousands of TPV and SHEV holders lived through years of migration limbo due to the previous Liberal Government’s policies,” Mr Hill said.

“The majority of these visa holders, who have lived in Australia for a decade or more, have now been granted their permanent visa so they can build their lives and businesses with certainty.”

However, refugee advocates say thousands of asylum seekers and refugees are still in wait.

Dandenong-based advocate Wicki Wickeramasingham welcomed the Government’s progress but said long-frustrated RoS holders were still yet to reunite with their overseas families.

He cited the case of a refugee who was granted a RoS and had been estranged from his overseas partner and three adult daughters for 17 years.

Despite paying $22,000 in fees, he has been waiting 12 months for family reunion visas.

Also many asylum-seekers were languishing up to four years in the legal system to appeal against their visa refusals, Mr Wickeramasingham said.

Others were still waiting for an interview after lodging visa applications several years ago.

“People still in the courts are struggling. Some of them don’t have a Medicare card or work rights. They’re forced to work illegally for day-to-day living and to support their families back (in their homeland) – some of them are unable to pay the rent.

“The Government should withdraw the applications from the courts by making a decision on their visas.

“My request to the Labor Party MPs is please look after the Tamils. They are in danger if they return to Sri Lanka. Don’t allow them to go back against their wishes.”