Annual report season: Processing woes; permanent migration places to remain at 190 000

Recently, both the Department of Home Affair (Home Affairs) and the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) released their 2017-18 annual reports.

Home Affairs

With the Department of Immigration and Border Protection being subsumed along with five other organisations into the gargantuan Home Affairs portfolio, the department’s annual report accounts for far more public services than previous years. Luckily, key facts can still be gleaned:

  • Just over $2 billion dollars was collected from visa application charges last year;

  • Despite a ceiling of 190 000 permanent visa places (with few exceptions), only 85 per cent of these visas were granted, 11.5 per cent down from the previous year;

  • 8.7 million temporary visas were granted last year, 1 million more than the 2015-16 year;

  • The number of Subclass 457 – Temporary Work (Skilled) visas granted were down 26.4 per cent, however, this does not account for the number of Subclass 482 – Temporary Skill Shortage visas granted, the successor to 457 visas;

  • Australian citizenships conferred was down an incredible 41.5 per cent, most likely due to the processing freeze and amendments failing to pass.

While there has been plenty of talk about reducing the number of permanent migration places, this program year will remain at 190,000, with the same number of visas per category as last year.


While the AAT deals with many non-migration matters, taxation and social security being two examples, their Migration and Refugee Division is by far the busiest with 65 per cent of total applications lodged in the financial year just passed.

What is clear from their annual report is the increasing backlog of undecided cases within this division. Some key takeaways for non-refugee review applications:

  • On-hand migration cases were up 82 per cent from the previous year (29,991 compared to 16,092);

  • The percentage of finalised migration cases within 12 months is down from 70 to 53 per cent;

  • The median time to finalise migration cases has grown from 39 to 50 weeks;

  • Applications for review of business and work visas, including sponsorship and nominations, increased by 84 per cent from the previous year, with student visa refusals or cancellation applications up 54 per cent.

  • Student visa review applications represented the overwhelmingly greatest number of applications lodged last year at 7,713.

These findings are not altogether surprising. Applications refused based on subjective criteria will invariably lead to visa applicants seeking merits review, if possible. These refusals also would generally take longer to decide, therefore exacerbating the problem the AAT finds itself in.