“Countries like the UK process student visas within seven to 14 days, while many students wishing to study in Australia wait longer than five to six weeks,” Mr Foster said.
Data from the Home Affairs website shows that wait times for various business and investor visas can reach over three years.
While half of all higher education student visas are processed within 30 days, the rest take up to seven months.
Students are also forced to rebook flights at substantial personal cost. Among them is Vuma Kumar from Selangor in Malaysia. Ms Kumar applied for a student visa on March 16 and did not get it approved until 12 weeks later on June 1.
Forced to study online during the first semester of her medical science degree at Macquarie University, Ms Kumar said the wait had been incredibly stressful as she had been unable to lock down the basics as the accommodation, travel and university projects.
She must finally arrive with her brother Gova who is studying electrical engineering at Macquarie University and whose plans have also been disrupted.
“If the student visa arrives late, you have to book accommodation and flights last minute and it can get very expensive,” Ms Kumar said.
As The Australian Financial Review The Morrison government’s latest federal budget revealed last week slashed $875 million from the visa processing section of Home Affairs, which will further lengthen wait times and increase pressure on businesses awaiting arrival workers and tourists.
Lara Rowena, a Malaysian citizen who graduated from the University of Sydney in 2016, had to wait six weeks for her tourist visa to be approved.
“The visa approval only came two weeks after my flight. I had to rebook and the additional cost was $1360 more than the cost of my original flight,” Ms Rowena said.
Mr Honeywood said the reasons for the backlog were three-fold: insufficient staff at offshore sites, inexperienced staff approving fraudulent documents that had pushed back the focus on document authentication, and COVID-19 preventing staff from being able to work at the office, which meant visas could not be processed.
“There are also staffing issues in some countries. Currently, staff in Vietnam are processing student visa applications from Colombia. There are all sorts of cultural misunderstandings that come into play,” Mr Honeywood said.