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Fact Sheet 24a - Priority Processing for Skilled Migration Visas

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The Minister for Immigration and Border Protection can set priority processing arrangements for certain skilled migration visas. Current arrangements continue to give regional employer sponsored visas the highest processing priority.

The priority processing arrangements enable the department to consider and finalise visa applications in an order of priority that the minister considers appropriate.

The priority processing arrangements apply to applications for the following visas:

  • Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (RSMS)
  • Employer Nomination Scheme (ENS)
  • points-tested skilled migration.

See: Fact Sheet 24Overview of Skilled Migration to Australia

Since 1 July 2013, processing priorities (with highest priority listed first) are:

  1. applications from people who are sponsored under the RSMS programme
  2. applications from people who are sponsored under the ENS programme
  3. applications from people who are nominated by a state or territory government agency
  4. applications from people who have nominated an occupation on the Skilled Occupation List (SOL)—Schedule 1 in effect since 1 July 2013
    See: Skilled Occupation List
  5. all other applications.

Applications for visa subclasses 186, 187, 189, 190, or 489 which are lodged through SkillSelect will be given the highest priority within each priority processing group.

The changes to priority processing arrangements address the needs of industry by targeting skills in demand across a number of sectors, while ensuring that the Skilled Migration Programme is responsive to the current economic climate and the needs of the Australian economy.

Priority processing arrangements are subject to changes in response to Australia’s economic situation and do not change visa eligibility criteria.

Priority processing arrangements apply to current applications, including those in the final stages of processing. Departmental case officers must follow the direction made by the minister about priority processing and cannot process applications outside of the set order.

Refunds of costs incurred during processing are not available for delays in processing. Applicants are not entitled to a refund of their Visa Application Charge (VAC) or compensation for other costs incurred in making an application.

Priority processing groups

RSMS, ENS and state or territory nominated applications—priority groups 1, 2 and 3

Applications from people who are applying under the RSMS are processed as priority group 1. ENS is processed as priority group 2. Applications from people who are nominated by a state or territory government agency under a state migration plan receive the third highest level of priority processing.

Occupations on the SOL—Schedule 1 in effect since 1 July 2013—priority group 4

All skilled migration applicants with a nominated occupation on the SOL—Schedule 1 are included in priority group 4. This includes both independent and family sponsored applications.

Existing applicants with a nominated occupation added to the SOL will be allocated to case officers before more recently lodged applications in this priority group. 

All other applications—priority group 5

Skilled migration applicants with a nominated occupation that is not on the SOL, and who are not nominated by a state or territory government under a state migration plan, will be processed under priority group 5.

Applicants should not contact the department to request that their application be exempt from the priority processing direction. Case officers do not have discretion to exempt applications.

Applicants with a nominated occupation removed from the SOL who have already been allocated a case officer will be contacted directly by their case officer. Applicants with a nominated occupation removed from the SOL who were not allocated to a case officer before 1 July 2013 will only be allocated to a case officer when applications from higher priority groups have been allocated.

Many priority group 5 applicants still face a considerable wait until their application is allocated to a case officer for processing and may wish to consider other options.  

Options available to applicants in priority group 5

Visa applicants currently in priority group 5 may want to:

  • submit an expression of interest (EOI) in SkillSelect—if invited to apply, this would require a new visa application including payment of the relevant visa application charge (VAC)
    See: SkillSelect
  • continue to await a decision on their visa application
  • consider their eligibility for an employer sponsored visa, which would require a new visa application including payment of the relevant VAC
  • consider their eligibility for nomination by a state or territory government under a state migration plan, which may require a new visa application
  • apply for another substantive visa
  • withdraw their application.

Applicants who decide to withdraw their application are not entitled to a refund of the VAC or compensation for other costs incurred in making an application.

Summary of skilled migration visas subject to priority processing directions

The following skilled migration visas are subject to priority processing:

  • Skilled – Independent (subclass 175)
  • Skilled – Sponsored (subclass 176) 
  • Skilled – Independent (subclass 189)
  • Skilled – Nominated (subclass 190)
  • Skilled – Regional Sponsored (subclass 475) 
  • Skilled – Regional Sponsored (subclass 487)
  • Skilled – Regional (Provisional) (subclass 489)
  • Skilled – Independent Regional (Provisional) (subclass 495)
  • Skilled – Designated Area-sponsored (Provisional) (subclass 496)
  • Graduate – Skilled (subclass 497)
  • Skilled – Onshore Independent New Zealand Citizen (subclass 861)
  • Skilled – Onshore Australian–sponsored New Zealand Citizen (subclass 862)
  • Skilled – Onshore Designated Area–sponsored New Zealand Citizen (subclass 863)
  • Skilled – Independent Overseas Student (subclass 880)
  • Skilled – Australian-sponsored Overseas Student (subclass 881)
  • Skilled – Designated Area-sponsored Overseas Student (subclass 882)
  • Skilled – Independent (subclass 885)
  • Skilled – Sponsored (subclass 886)

Summary of skilled migration visas exempt from priority processing directions

The following visa subclasses are exempt from priority processing and are processed in the order in which they are received:

  • Skilled – Recognised Graduate (subclass 476)
  • Skilled – Graduate (subclass 485)
  • Skilled – Regional (subclass 887)

The following applications are also exempt from priority processing and will be processed in the order in which they are received:

  • applications that are remitted to the department by the Migration Review Tribunal (MRT)
  • applications where it is readily apparent the criteria for grant of a visa would not be satisfied
  • applications from the holders of eligible subclass 495, 496, 475 or 487 visas for a Skilled—Sponsored Provisional (subclass 489) visa in the second provisional visa stream
  • applications from subsequent entrant applicants. 

Processing times

Estimates of processing times that may apply to different types of applicants are provided as a guide only. As processing times are dependent on a range of factors, individual processing times may vary considerably from the published estimates. Estimates are subject to change in response to changes in application rates and skilled migration policy.

Information on estimated processing times is available in the Client Services Charter.
See: Skilled Migration Visa Processing Times

Fact Sheet 24a. Produced by the National Communications Branch, Department of Immigration and Border Protection, Canberra.
Last reviewed December 2013.

Last modified Wednesday 27 August 2014