The closure of the Australian border throughout the pandemic provided the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) with the ability to ‘catch up’ on some cases that could be finalised while there was some capacity to do so. Conversely, more complicated cases, such as partner visa or refugee appeals, have been delayed due to the inability for Tribunal Members to conduct an in-person hearing with appeal applicants. This has caused severe stress on a number of appeal applicants who have waited several months, or years, for their cases to be heard by a Tribunal Member.
Recent statistics show that, as at 31 May 2022, the Tribunal had 56,517 cases on hand to be assessed – 22% of these cases Partner Visa-related. This is prospectively set to increase with the Department’s initiative to finalise more applications sooner. While the AAT’s migration caseload has decreased by 21% in the 12 months prior to this report, refugee AAT cases have independently increased by 14%.
As at 31 May 2022, 53% of migration cases were over 18 months old, and 79% of refugee cases were over 9 months old. Many applicants have been waiting several years for their matters to be finalised with the AAT and are unable to have their case prioritised or expedited unless they meet there are compelling reasons for doing so. ‘Compelling reasons’ refers to cases where both of the following situations apply:
- significant adverse circumstances exist in the applicant’s case which are beyond those experienced by other applicants in the same visa subclass facing comparable processing times, and
- prioritising the application is likely to ameliorate the significant adverse circumstances faced.
The lengthy processing of AAT cases result in stress and adversity for many applicant and their families. However, without meeting the above criteria, these appeal applicants will need to wait to be contacted by the AAT Member or Registrar to further their case.
While the AAT continues to make efforts to process applications as soon as possible, the increasing number of Department of Home Affairs (DHA) visa decisions will inevitably result in delayed AAT cases as applications are set to increase alongside the surge of Department decisions.
Further information about the AAT’s processing timelines and caseload statistics can easily be found on their website.
If you have an ongoing matter with the AAT and are concerned about the progress of your application, please do not hesitate to contact a member of our Migration Law team for advice or assistance.