News Flash

ENS /RMS Processing Questions from MIA & Answers from DIAC

09-May-2012

The Migration Institute of Australia 'MIA' has sought clarification from the Department of Immigration & Citizenship 'DIAC' about ENS / RSMS enquiries, processing times, delays in granting Bridging visas, and VEVO.

MIA Question 1
What is the best way to make ENS / RSMS enquiries?

PRE-LODGEMENT enquiries are made by:

  • research through the DIAC website;
  • through the DIAC Service Centres; and

    The processing areas are not funded to respond to pre-lodgement enquiries. So where we do, it impacts on our capacity to process applications.

POST LODGEMENT enquiries:

  • the expectation is that PESE has responsibility for post-lodgement enquiries;
  • once an application has been lodged, it will be either allocated as "decision ready" or placed in our pipeline;
  • where it is allocated under "decision ready" we expect that the case officer will either immediately decide the application, or if this is not possible that they advise the agent that they are the case officer and provide their contact details. At this point any post lodgement enquiries should go to the case officer; and
  • where an application is placed in our pipeline, we would ask that enquiries be addressed to the various PESE processing centre mailboxes:

    Perth Office (PESE WA)
    Parramatta Office (PESE NSW, QLD, ACT)
    Melbourne Office (PESE VIC, TAS, SA, NT)

    The allocation timeframes for pipeline cases can be obtained by sending a message to one of the above mailboxes and the auto response will provide the allocation dates. This information is updated on a fortnightly basis.

    When a case is allocated from the pipeline the expectation of the case officer with respect of presenting themselves as the point for future contact are the same as those outlined for the "decision ready" cases.

MIA Question 2
Why are we experiencing delays in acknowledging applications?

In trying to reduce the amount of enquiries we get about cases, we have provided under the "decision ready" FAQs published on the Agents Gateway a guide to how long agents should expect to wait for their cases to be allocated. As already mentioned we have also sought to provide information on the allocation of pipeline cases.

Where this strategy particularly breaks down is when we experience delays in the initial recording of the case in our systems. Unfortunately, this has happened twice in recent months. We have had significant spikes in applications over narrow periods, immediately before Christmas and leading up to the general Student visa expiry on 15 March. While these peaks are not unexpected, we have not been able to prevent backlogs occurring.

I agree that we should have a communication strategy around these delays. It has been a topic of conversation at our meetings over recent weeks.

MIA Question 3
Related to processing times, the MIA continues to receive enquiries and complaints about the delay in the acknowledgement of ENS / RSMS applications, and the granting of Bridging visas. Can you address those enquiries and complaints?

We are undertaking a range of measures to catch up the initial processing of applications, inclusive of the acknowledgement letter and Bridging visa processing. However, it will still take several weeks for the backlogs to be resolved.

I am advised that we are seeking to identify cases where the urgent processing of Bridging visa applications is critical in terms of the clients' status in Australia and / or a delay will impact the category of Bridging visa the clients will be entitled to (PS: It is not possible to backdate decisions; accordingly, Bridging visas can only be granted when a delegate actually assesses eligibility and makes a decision).

MIA Question 4
Your suggestion 
about lodging applications at DIAC offices is also not without its problems. The MIA has an example of a Subclass 857 application being lodged at a DIAC office and a dated letter of acknowledgment issued. However, when the application was then processed in Parramatta, a further acknowledgement letter was issued, and this is the recorded date of the issue of the Bridging visa.

This can lead to BVCs being issued rather than appropriate BVAs, with related consequences, and seems to be entirely in error and inappropriate. Can you address this issue?

We are aware that some Client Service areas have introduced "drop boxes" and others may only receipt the application without undertaking any further processing.

If agents are lodging at a counter because of concern as to their client's status or eligibility to a particular Bridging visa, they should insist that the application be processed by Client Services, inclusive of the decision being made on the Bridging visa.

MIA Question 5
The problem of the delay in granting Bridging visas or ENS and RSMS applications seems to be exacerbated by the fact that some applications are not picked up from the post office by DIAC contractors and instead sit in the post office for up to six days. Are you aware of this issue?

If agents have evidence of this occurring, we would be interested in the case details so we can take this up with the DIAC contractors.

MIA Question 6
Is there nothing that can be done to get the applications looked at quickly just to get the Bridging visas granted?

As advised above, we have more recently sought to examine the on hand caseload to identify cases where there is an imperative to make the Bridging visa decision. This had not been done initially because of a mistaken belief on behalf of some case officers that Bridging visa decisions could be backdated.

MIA Question 7
If nothing can be done, can we remedy the situation for applicants who are disadvantaged by DIAC’s delay in granting a Bridging visa, and will not be able to meet the requirement for Citizenship (s.22(1)(b) which requires "the person was not present in Australia as an unlawful non-citizen at any time during that four year period")?

Perhaps there is scope for remedy with Ministerial discretion where there has been "administrative error". Under s22(4A), the Minister "may treat a period as one in which the person was not present in Australia as an unlawful non-citizen if the Minister considers the person was present in Australia during that period but, because of an administrative error, was an unlawful non-citizen during that period"?

If agents believe their clients have been impacted in such a way that it may impact their Citizenship eligibility, they should write to the relevant PESE mailbox and ask for written confirmation of the impact of our processing delay. The delegate for Citizenship has the capacity to consider this information in assessing the clients eligibility to Citizenship. We are, however, not in a position to pre-empt that decision.

MIA Question 8
If the delays in granting Bridging visas cannot be overcome, can DIAC provide reassurance that this provision will be exercised where a person becomes unlawful because of DIAC delay in granting a Bridging visa? Perhaps make a note on the client's file if an “administrative error” has been made by a DIAC official or is a result of an inadequacy of the DIAC system so as not to disadvantage any visa applicant’s future applications?

As per the previous response, we will provide confirmation of the impact of our processing delays in response to individual requests, where we have had the opportunity to examine the individual circumstances. A copy of these responses will be kept on the client's file.

MIA Question 9
I am still getting reports of case officers backdating the grant of Bridging visas, and telling agents not worry. While this generosity of spirit is obviously in the best interest of the applicant, and is a victory for commonsense, it is a pity it is unable to be applied consistently. Can you comment on this issue?

Staff have been provided with direction in this regard, so I would be interested in the details of any case where this has happened in the last week or so.

MIA Question 10
A further issue is that we have had examples of where the Visa Entitlement Verification Online (VEVO) system has not been updated at the time of the receipting of RSMS applications. In one case an employer would not allow an employee to return to work as VEVO showed he had no work rights because his visa had expired, but he had in fact applied for an RSMS visa, and VEVO had not been updated. Can this situation be improved?

I am advised with VEVO that it only records visa decisions. Therefore, receipting of an application will not be viewable through VEVO. I would understand on this advice that a Bridging visa would be viewable and the work rights confirmed at this stage. If a client was in the situation you describe above because we had the application on hand and had not processed it, it should be brought to our attention and Bridging visa processing would occur immediately.

The good news: We are anticipating eLodgement of ENS and RSMS applications will be introduced from 1 July 2012. Subject to successful implementation, this will resolve issues with timeliness of initial processing. We understand that eLodgement will be a better product than is currently available in eLodgement for Subclass 457 visas.

The bad news: We have one more peak to get through, the pre-1 July peak. We hope to be better placed staff wise with this peak than the pre-Christmas and Student peaks. However, how narrow (the period over which the applications increase) and big (how many extra applications) that peak is will determine how much of a problem it causes us. As per earlier advice, we hope to do better with our messaging around any processing issues we are having.

Source: MIA