The lodgement or submission of a visa application is both a very exciting and nervous occasion. Naturally, visa applicants want to know:
- How long a visa application is going to take?
- Whether they will receive any updates?
- What happens after lodgment?
The below article answers some of these questions to provide clarity on what happens post-lodgement of a visa application.
The processing times for each visa varies, often quite significantly. This makes it very difficult to advise accurately on processing times – particularly as these timeframes can also change during the period from when the visa application is lodged.
The Department of Home Affairs (the Department) publish their processing times on their website here, which is updated sporadically. It outlines the percentiles with which visa applications are finalised (i.e. approved/refused). Meaning, how long it takes the Department to finalise 25%, 50%, 75%, and 90% of visa applications from the date of lodgement.
As a guide, we recommend expecting between the 50-75 percentile of your visa, though this can obviously vary depending on the complexities of your case (for example if you have a health/character issue – you may anticipate some delays).
Unfortunately, there is no formal way to expedite a visa application (i.e. by paying for it), and requests for updates in nearly all situations do not go anywhere unless the stated processing times have been long exceeded.
The most common questions we receive are:
- Have you received any updates on my visa application?
- Have you heard anything?
- When can we expect a response?
While we naturally understand the anxiousness that happens following a visa lodgement, there are two key things to be aware of:
- The Department do not provide any updates on ongoing visa applications – the only time you’ll hear from the Department is if they are requesting further information or if they have made a decision.
- As migration lawyers/agents, we unfortunately do not have special access to the Department – which means we do not receive any special updates, and can only reiterate the processing times per what’s stated on the Department’s website.
This means that if you have not heard from your migration adviser, it’s almost certainly because they also have not heard anything from the Department.
The only way to get an idea as to when you may receive a response would be look at the processing times outlined above, in conjunction with your visa lodgement date.
For visa applications lodged online via ImmiAccount, there are some status updates that can be seen. However, these are limited and very specific, and explained below for clarity.
Once your visa application is lodged in ImmiAccount, the status will show that your visa application is “Received”:
After the application has been lodged, as mentioned above, one of two things can happen. Either the Department make a request further information (RFI), or they finalise the visa application by making a decision. In both instances, you (or your authorised representative) would be notified by email.
If a request for further information is made, the status will change to “Initial Assessment” meaning that a case officer has looked at the matter and made the initial assessment:
If a RFI has been made, and you’ve uploaded the relevant documents and clicked the button which states that you’ve provided all the documents, the status will again change to “Further Assessment”. This means that the application is ready for further assessment (rather than any further assessment having already been made):
Following a response to the RFI, you’re now waiting for the Department to either make another RFI, or proceed to a decision (generally they would be proceeding to a decision). This can sometimes be within a few days, or the Department may wait the entire 28 day response period before re-visiting the visa application. This time frame really varies, and unfortunately is also hard to advise with any accuracy.
If a decision has been made on the visa application (positive or negative), the status will be amended to “Finalised”:
Other than the above, there are no status updates in ImmiAccount or anywhere else. The above mostly reflect where the visa application is rather than any actual insights as to the visa application.
For visa applications that require health examinations, there are also limited status updates that you can see in ImmiAccount.
Once a visa applicant has undertake their health examinations, the panel doctor will review the results and send them to the Department electronically. The results do not go to the migration lawyer / agent, and it typically takes a few days to be “finalised”.
When a visa applicant the person has undertaken the health examinations, but before they’ve been finalised, the status will change to “Examinations in progress”:
Once the health examinations have “cleared”, the status will change to “Health clearance provided – no action required”:
What happens next?
During the processing of your visa application, you continue to have an ongoing obligation to notify the Department of:
- any incorrect answers that you become aware of; or
- any changes in your circumstances such that the answer to a visa application is now incorrect.
This obligation applies:
- if you are outside Australia at time of visa grant – up until you enter Australia; or
- if you are inside Australia at time of visa grant – up until the visa is granted.
Other than the above, often it is a waiting game for the Department to take one of the two steps outlined above.
It is ideal to try to have your visa application as “decision ready” as possible to make the assessment of your visa application as easy as possible for the assessing case officer, and to minimise the possibility of being requested for further documents (or at least making that list as short as possible).
Where requests are only for simple documents like a police clearance, the provision of that police clearance usually means the visa application can be finalised shortly after. Where lengthy requests are made for numerous things, it may take further time to assess the newly provided documents before being able to proceed to a decision.
Other recommendations may be to undertake any required health examinations and/or providing all required police clearances – factoring in the 12 month validity period of these clearances. You should speak with your immigration advisor to ensure that you have an appropriate strategy for this.
As immigration advisors we of course appreciate anxiousness regarding processing times, but it is just worth noting that we’re often as in dark as you are, and greatly appreciate your patience during the processing of your visa. The best way to estimate when you may receive a response is by looking at the stated processing times on the Department’s website, and factoring in your lodgement date.