The Immigration Minister of Australia, Philip Ruddock, recently announced that priority visa processing arrangements for Information and Communications Technology (ICT) workers would be suspended.
The Government introduced the priority processing arrangements for ICT workers on 1 February 2001 to help address the urgent and growing shortages that were affecting Australian business at that time.
This suspension affects all Skilled migration applicants who have achieved a suitable assessment of their skills by the Australian Computer Society. Even if your visa application has already been lodged with DIMIA, IT Professionals will no longer enjoy priority processing of their visa applications. This means that when it once took about 4-6 months to process a Skilled migration visa for an IT Professional, it will now take about 12 months.
The decision to suspend priority processing may be a result of an announcement by Tony Abbott, the Labour Minister, that employment growth in the ICT industry had stopped increasing and unemployment rates among IT professionals had risen sharply over the past 12 months.
It was thus decided that priority processing for IT Professionals was not needed in the light of the circumstances but could be reactivated if there was a need in the future.
The present visa arrangements will still provide for business needs. Employers are able to sponsor skilled overseas workers where they can not meet these needs from the local labour market. Therefore this shouldn't affect those of our clients who have a job offer in Australia.
The labour market has already responded to the changes in the ICT sector and there was a decline in the number of positions filled by overseas workers on temporary visas in 2001-02.
Minister Ruddock also mentioned he was awaiting the findings of the biannual national survey of ICT skills shortages, produced by the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations, and would then consider whether further initiatives were required in relation to the immigration arrangements for ICT workers.