Australia says it has a labor shortage, but some migrants have spent years waiting for their qualified visas

Huang Yiwen has been waiting for his permanent residence visa for a little over two years.

“I have always taken Australia as my home,” she said.

Ms. Huang was a part-time primary school teacher in Adelaide but, after applying for permanent residence, returned to China for vacation in December 2019.

For almost two years, due to the pandemic, the 28-year-old has not been able to return to Australia.

Australia’s international borders have been open to Australian citizens and fully vaccinated permanent residents since November 1, and temporary visa holders and international students since December 15.

But Ms. Huang must wait until her Qualified Applicant visa is granted so that she can work when she returns to Australia.

The Named Qualified Visa, also known as the 190 visa, is a permanent residence visa that requires applicants to be invited by the state government and their skills, such as teaching, to be identified as a profession. wanted by the Ministry of the Interior.

When Ms Huang returned to China for a vacation in 2019, she didn’t think a pandemic would prevent her from returning to Australia.(ABC Adelaide: Brett Williamson)

Ms. Huang’s candidacy includes an invitation from the government of South Australia.

“I am definitely a valuable person who can contribute a lot to the state,” she said.

“I am a qualified teacher and still employed [as a casual] by this school.

“It means I have essential skills that the education sector needs. “

When she wrote to Immigration Minister Alex Hawke, she received a response from the Home Office, saying that they recognized that “you may be worried about the time it takes to process your application”, but that it does not. ‘was “unable to provide a deadline for when your file will be finalized”.

“I don’t know how long I will continue to wait”

Details of Ms Huang’s situation have emerged as Australia grapples with a shortage of skilled migrant workers.

At the same time, the waiting time for the 190 qualified visa has increased.

When Ms. Huang filed her application 25 months ago, 90% of the applications were processed within 10 months.

But now, according to the Home Office website, 90% of applications are processed in 18 months and 75% in six months.

“Most applicants understand that processing time can be affected by the pandemic, and it could take up to 24 months,” she said.

“But my file is extremely long, and it’s past the maximum waiting period.

“I don’t know how long I’m going to keep waiting.”

According to Australian government data, 12,176 people were still awaiting processing of their 190 visas as of August 2021, the most recent data available.

Businesses “demand” skilled workers

Industry groups have called on the federal government to provide pathways during the pandemic to bring skilled workers back from overseas to help alleviate Australia’s worker shortage.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, in August 2021, more than 20% of companies in the construction and manufacturing sectors were reporting vacancies, while just under 10% were in the education sector.

The Home Office said it was looking for migrants who could help create jobs and rebuild Australia’s economy.

Currently, occupations in critical sectors, such as jobs that can help Australia’s medical response to COVID-19, are given priority.

However, a migration officer said the approach does not appear to fill the right gaps.

“Government policies are full of contradictions,” said Kirk Yan, a Melbourne-based migration officer.

“They cannot appeal the long wait process because the ministry has not finalized its decision on their claims.”

He said skilled visa applicants, with an invitation for 190 and 189 visas (qualified self-employed), could be contributing to Australia’s shortage of workers.

A man in a striped shirt uses a computer.
Yan urged the government to speed up the processing of skilled migrant visas to alleviate the worker shortage crisis.(Provided: Kirk Yan)

Government responds to wait times

Zhang Zitong, a mechanical engineering graduate, applied for the subclass 189 qualified independent migrant visa in March 2019.

The 27-year-old has now been waiting for his visa for 33 months.

“Mechanical engineer is also a priority profession,” said Mr. Zhang.

“I have a diploma in this trade, but I am still waiting. The process is arbitrary and lacks transparency.

An Asian man takes a photo in Disney Land.
Mr. Zhang obtained a mechanical engineering degree in Australia and hoped to find a related job in Sydney.(Provided)

Although he obtained a travel exemption and a tourist visa at the end of November, this visa does not allow him to work in Australia.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the Interior Ministry said he did not comment on the individual cases due to privacy.

They said that as of November 2021, about half of the 189 visa applications were finalized within five months, although their website says 90% of the applications were completed within 30 months.

“Processing times vary depending on individual circumstances, including the completeness and quality of applications, and the speed with which applicants respond to requests for additional information, as well as whether a candidate has named a critical profession,” said the spokesperson.

They said the migration planning levels – 6,500 places for the 189 visa and 11,200 for the 190 visa – also played a role.

the sign of the Ministry of the Interior in Canberra
As Australia’s border reopens, skilled migrants hope visa processing times can be shortened. (ABC News: Matt Roberts)

“Qualified (subclass 190) and qualified independent (subclass 189) visas are not sponsored by the employer. These visas are processed in accordance with government policy priorities… Applications in critical areas will receive higher processing priority. “

“The government is prioritizing the migration of people with essential skills to meet skills needs, including to help Australia’s medical response to COVID-19 and to help with job creation and reconstruction of the Australian economy.

Candidates looking for a “clear answer”

Mr. Zhang’s request was further complicated by a change in government policies.

In mid-2019, visa applications from employer-sponsored migrants were prioritized by the Australian government, meaning that skilled migrants like Mr. Zhang who applied independently were pushed to the back of the queue.

The government says critical sectors include specialized medical services, the supply of essential goods, and industries like fintech.(Pexels: Chevanon Photography)

“When I applied for the visa, there were no priority arrangements. So I returned to my hometown in China,” Zhang said.

Mr. Zhang said the experience had an impact – he said he couldn’t make long-term plans without a clearly estimated wait time.

“I wasn’t planning to move to China, so I didn’t look for a well-paying job here,” he said.

“I would like the ministry to give us a clear answer.

Ms. Huang is now focusing on her teaching career in China, but she still misses her life in Adelaide.

“My church is in Adelaide and most of my close friends are there,” she said.

She said some schools she interviewed in Ningbo, a city in eastern China, demanded that teachers “have no religion.”

“I am a Christian. I cannot practice my religion and I do not even have the freedom to speak openly about it,” she said.

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