Australia changes processing priorities for skilled visas

  • The health and education sectors will receive the highest priority when it comes to visa processing.
  • During the COVID-19 pandemic, PMSOL identified occupations that filled critical skills needs.
  • The Department of Home Affairs will continue to assess skilled visa applications in order of lodgement date.
Recently, the DHA has issued new directions for prioritising skilled visa applications in a bid to improve skilled visa processing times, to clear visa processing backlogs, and to address Australia’s worker shortage.
At least 15 visa categories will be processed under the new directive including Skilled Nominated visa (Subclass 190), Subclass 186 (Employer Nomination Scheme), Subclass 187 (Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme), Subclass 188 (Business Innovation and Investment) (Provisional) and Subclass 189 (Skilled -Independent).
Young Indian Man using a laptop in a classroom.

Labor government has lifted its 2022-2023 skilled migration cap from 160,000 to 195,000 places. Source: Moment RF / Tashdique Mehtaj Ahmed/Getty Images

The latest move came into effect on 28 October 2022 under which education and health sectors have been put on of the top of the list accelerated for visa processing.

The following is the priority order for skilled visa applications:

  1. Visa applications in relation to a healthcare or teaching occupation.
  2. For , visa applications where the applicant is nominated by an Approved sponsor with Accredited Status.
  3. Visa applications in relation to an occupation to be carried out in a designated regional area.
  4. For permanent and provisional visa subclasses, visa applications that count towards the migration program, excluding the Subclass 188 (Business Innovation and Investment (Provisional)) visa.
  5. All other visa applications.
Professionals who will be given priority under health and education include teachers, Health and Welfare Support Workers, Child Care Centre Managers, Medical Scientists, Counsellors, Psychologists, social workers and Medical Technicians, School Principal, Child Care Worker, Aged or Disabled Carer, Support Worker and Personal Care Assistant.
Portrait of confident doctors and nurses

A new Ministerial Direction specifying the priority for processing certain skilled visas including health professionals commenced on 28 October 2022. Credit: Chris Ryan/Getty Images

“Applications with occupations that were on the PMSOL or in critical sectors will continue to be processed efficiently given the improvements in visa processing since the Government committed additional funding and staff to reduce processing times,” the DHA spokesperson told SBS Hindi.

According to the DHA spokesperson, the PMSOL and critical sectors implemented in September 2020 involved time-consuming and complex assessments.
“These were only necessary while travel restrictions were in place and contributed to the backlog of skilled visa applications..The PMSOL was out-dated – recent National Skills Commission labour market analysis has shown that almost a quarter of occupations on the PMSOL are not in national shortage,” the spokesperson added.
Visa 457

A ministerial directive has revoked a list of 44 occupations that gave priority to visas, including several in high demand ICT roles. Credit: Public Domain

“Sectors that had occupations on the PMSOL also had numerous occupations that weren’t on the PMSOL. These occupations will now be able to be processed faster, resulting in a better service overall,” the spokesperson said.

The PMSOL had 44 occupations listed including accountant (General), Civil Engineer, Transport and electrical engineer and Veterinarian, Analyst Programmer, Developer Programmer and Software Engineer.

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The latest move has been welcomed by Melbourne-based migration expert Neha Singh, who hopes it will help reduce processing times.
“The Department will first focus on clearing the priority list, which is teaching and health, and I can see that approvals are already being granted faster,” she said.

“I do not think it will affect any other applicants who are already waiting in the visa queue,” she says, noting that those who applied under the PMSOL, will be processed as usual.

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The department has finalised over 43,000 temporary skilled and 47,000 permanent skilled visa applications since 1 June 2022.
According to the DHA, Temporary skilled visa grants in 2022-23 are up 120 per cent compared to the same time last year and there are 260 more staff working on visa processing than there were at the start of May.
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