India urges Australia to clear visa backlog – The Australian Financial Review

India’s foreign minister is urging the government to do more to clear Australia’s crippling visa backlog, as a blowout in waiting times prompts foreign students to consider other destinations and heaps pressure on businesses unable to fill jobs.
External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar was in Canberra this week for talks with his Australian counterpart Penny Wong, as well as Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Richard Marles and Education Minister Jason Clare.
Speaking to the Indian community in Sydney on Tuesday, Mr Jaishankar said he had received assurances from the Australian government that the visa backlog would be cleared.
“We have a particular problem that students are facing,” Mr Jaishankar said, noting there were now 77,000 Indians studying in Australia.
“But you all know that the numbers should be and could be much higher and I was assured that by the end of the year the visa backlog, particularly in respect to students, would be cleared.
“It’s not just students because there’s a community – there are also family reasons for people to travel. I think there’s an appreciation today of the importance of resuming tourism in a big way,” Mr Jaishankar said.
It is understood Mr Jaishankar did not meet with either Immigration Minister Andrew Giles or Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil and no explicit commitment was made to clear the visa backlog by the end of the year.
Indians are the second-largest migrant community in Australia, after people born in the United Kingdom.
There were around 721,000 Indian-born people living in Australia at the end of June 2020, more than double what it was in 2010.
The education industry has warned the unprecedented blowout in visa waiting times is costing thousands of dollars in aborted travel arrangements and forcing students to consider other destinations.
About one in five international students are from India, making them the second-largest cohort after Chinese students.
In the year to June 2021, more than 47,000 people from India were granted student visas, while another 10,000 were given temporary entry for skilled work.
Employers are also urging the Commonwealth to address Australia’s visa backlog, with one in three occupations suffering from a worker shortage, according to the National Skills Commission’s annual skills priority list, released last week.
Immigration Minister Andrew Giles revealed on Thursday the federal government had made progress into reducing the visa backlog, which now stands at 880,000 applications, down from almost 1 million before the federal election.
Delays processing visa applications is contributing to a shortage of tech workers, with Indian skilled migrants a major source of tech workers for local businesses.
The main occupation of temporary skilled workers from India are software and application programmers, according to Home Affairs, followed by ICT support and test engineers, ICT business and systems analysts, and ICT managers.
Mr Giles said there were now 260 more staff processing visas compared to when the election was held, while another 260 are being trained.
The resourcing boost has caused a modest reduction in waiting times for visa approvals.
The median short-term temporary skilled visa currently takes 66 days to finalise, up from 53 days in March but down from the peak of 83 days when Labor came into power.
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