Australian visa applications: international students wait for years

Tanushree Nath and Mohammadhossein Esmaeli live in two different parts of the world – Ms. Nath in Guwahati, India, while Mr. Esmaeli in Tehran, Iran.
But for 18 months, they have both been following the same ritual.
The first thing they do every morning is to visit the Home Office website to find out the outcome of their student visa application.
And every morning, they are greeted with the same words “additional assessment”, indicating that their applications are still being processed.

“I applied for my Australian student visa in January 2021 and [the status of] my application has not been updated since March 2021,” Ms. Nath told SBS News.

As of June 30, over 74,700 overseas student visa applications and over 69,700 overland student visa applications are awaiting processing by the Home Office. Source: AAP / James Ross

“Even after several reminders have been sent… the status displayed there is a ‘further assessment’. It is [been] being evaluated [for] the last 18 months.

In Tehran, Mr. Esmaeli is equally frustrated.
“Waiting is one of the hardest things in the world,” he told SBS News.

“My day starts with checking email – sometimes I wake up at five or six… Then I check again [my email] during the day. And at the end of the day, I say, OK, maybe tomorrow,” he said.

“It’s absolutely outrageous”

Ms. Nath and Mr. Esmaeli are not alone.
As of June 30, over 74,700 overseas student visa applications and over 69,700 overland student visa applications were awaiting processing by the Department.
Of the offshore visa applications, over 650 were filed over 18 months ago.
According to Tasmanian senator and Greens immigration spokesman Nick McKim, it’s “outrageous”.

“It’s absolutely outrageous that people are waiting over 18 months and – in some cases – years for a response from the department,” he said.

Of the offshore visa applications awaiting processing by the Department, approximately 31% are more than two months old.
“We absolutely have to be concerned that about a third of the applications in process are over two months old,” said Senator McKim.

“Two months is a reasonable waiting period for people. But once we start going over two months, it becomes unreasonable.

Reasons for delays

In a statement to SBS News, the Home Office highlighted a number of factors that could cause visa processing delays.
“All non-nationals applying for a visa to enter Australia are considered on an individual basis and in accordance with the legal requirements set out in Australian migration law,” a department spokesperson said.
“This often includes requirements that all applicants undertake and comply (where applicable) with mandatory health, character and national security checks that are carried out by other agencies; and it may take time.”

But Senator McKim said the department’s reasons do not warrant 18-month waiting periods.

If the ministry is going to say no, say no quickly, so people can make plans, move on with their lives, and make other arrangements to study in another country.

Senator Nick McKim

“Visa processing takes some time. But there are far too many examples… where people have been waiting far too long for their visa applications to be processed,” he said.

“If the department is going to say no, say no quickly, so people can make plans, get on with their lives and make other arrangements to study in another country.”

‘It breaks my heart’

India-based Ms Nath, who has been waiting for her visa to be processed for more than 18 months, said the process was having an impact on her mental health.
“It breaks my heart…I went through a breakdown,” she said.
“Most of the time I don’t like going out and meeting people because the only question people care about [asking] that’s when I go to Australia.

“I’m not comfortable talking about it to people, to my relatives, to my friends. I sat at home, I didn’t go anywhere.

“There are days when I have panic attacks, like, where is my career going?

“It’s difficult and not just for me but for my family [too] – they are very stressed.

Is Australia still a top destination for international students?

Visa processing delays also have a negative effect on Australia’s reputation.
Ms Nath said that when mentioning the visa delays to her friends and family in India, “the only answer they gave me was, ‘You shouldn’t have applied there'”.
“And they always tell me that if anyone they know wants to apply in the future, they’ll tell them about my situation and let them know,” she said.
“They tell me that I should have applied either in Europe or [the] United States because it is easier to get visas there. And while it’s not easier, it’s faster.

“Even if the visa is refused or accepted, it says in [a reasonable period of time].”

A talking man.

Nick McKim, Tasmanian Senator and Greens Immigration Spokesman. Source: AAP / love the dick

Senator McKim said Australia’s reputation among international students took a hit in the first two years of the pandemic due to Australian border closures.

“And we need to do everything we can to encourage students to come here to study in other countries and make sure that our reputation is not only damaged even more, but that we start to repair it,” he said. he declares.

So how can the problem be solved?

“First of all, the new minister [for immigration, Andrew Giles] must be very clear in expressing its expectation to the department that it will process these requests not only fairly, but in a timely manner,” said Senator McKim.
“He should set reasonable deadlines and require the department to meet those deadlines.
“Secondly, he must be prepared to allocate more resources, both financial and human, to the visa processing part of his department, because it is simply not enough for students to miss out. [education opportunities in Australia].”

SBS News has contacted Immigration Minister Andrew Giles for comment.

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