CANBERRA – The Australian immigration minister has ordered the Department of Home Affairs to fast-track visa applications to address a shortage in skilled workers.

Andrew Giles, the minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs in the new government, on Wednesday declared he has made clearing a backlog of visa applications a priority.

“The extraordinary delay in the processing of visa applications has been raised by the community and with the former government for many years,” he told Nine Entertainment newspapers.

“Processing outstanding visas applications is a priority for the Australian government. I have raised my concerns with the current state of visa processing with the Department of Home Affairs, and we are committed to ensuring that visa applications are processed in a timely manner.”

The previous government did not publish data on the number of applications for skilled worker visas.

However, the total number of skilled temporary visa holders in Australia has fallen from a peak of 195,000 in 2014 to 96,000 in 2022.

Andrew McKellar, chief executive officer of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), said employers were struggling with “protracted” processing times for skilled migrants.

“Greater resourcing is needed to reduce protracted visa processing wait times. The current delays just aren’t good enough when so many businesses are left without staff and therefore can’t afford to stay open,” he said.

“To make the skilled migration system more accessible and responsible, we need to open employer sponsored migration up to all skilled occupations.”

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